MELISSA Courtney-Bryant backed the postponement of the Olympic Games until 2021, even though she feels heartbreak at the decision.

The 26-year-old Poole Athletic Club distance runner had achieved the 5,000m qualifying time for Tokyo 2020.

She had been looking forward to battling for a Team GB place in Manchester at the British trials in June, but the COVID-19 pandemic has thrown plans into disarray.

The IOC last month confirmed the Games would officially open on July 23, 2021 – 364 days later than planned.

“It’s heartbreaking to hear the Olympics have been postponed when I know I’m in good shape,” said Courtney-Bryant.

“It is the right and safest decision with everything happening in the world now.

“I’m happy they chose to postpone, rather than cancel the Games altogether.”

Courtney-Bryant had been worried that having come so close to fulfilling the Olympic dream she has pursued since aged 10, it may have been put on hold for another four-year cycle.

In 2016, when she ran very close to the 1,500m qualification time for Rio de Janeiro, she was determined not to miss out on Tokyo.

Just more than one month ago, the Daily Echo reported on two Courtney-Bryant 3,000m indoor victories – a speedy 8:49.78 in Dortmund, followed by topping the podium in Glasgow, where she finally secured her first British Indoor Championship title at her seventh attempt.

Now all athletics in United Kingdom is suspended and the international Diamond League meetings postponed at least until the end of May.

Courtney-Bryant should have spent most of April on a four-week altitude training camp at Flagstaff, Arizona. A 5,000m race on May 8 at Stanford University in California would have closed that phase of training.

Rather than running in the foothills of the San Francisco peaks, coach Rob Denmark’s training group was limited to running out from Team GB’s Loughborough base.

Like everyone else, the athletes are now subject to tighter restrictions. Exercise is limited to members of the same household, so it is fortunate that both Courtney-Bryant and husband Ashley Bryant, a decathlete, are Commonwealth Games medallists.

The groom she married in a fairytale New Forest wedding last October is also seeking Olympic qualification.

Though the couple’s regimes are very different, they can manage a lot of training in each other’s company. He sometimes cycles to accompany her running and they lift weights in the garden.

In this phase of heavy training, Courtney-Bryant would normally clock up 80 to 90 miles per week in around 12 different runs.

Fortunately, her father Mark Courtney, who is also on her coaching team, anticipated the lockdown and drove her treadmill up to Leicestershire from Poole in good time.

This enables the Poole AC star to complete the five weekly runs surplus to guidelines on the running machine, in the safety of her home.

With revised dates for the Olympics now announced and with next year’s World Athletics Championship in Eugene, Oregon, also likely to be displaced a year into 2022, it is an issue that the Games have moved into another Lottery funding period.

But for now, Courtney-Bryant is trying to maintain her schedule, while ensuring she has sufficient sleep and good nutrition with plenty of fruit and vegetables, so her immune system is not compromised.