With the 2020 Olympics postponed to 2021, there is a fear that the delay will destroy many aging athletes' hopes for the gold medal.
AFP Sport looks at six evergreen stars for whom a late game in Tokyo could be a step too far.
The 20-time Grand Slam champion, who will be 40 in August 2021, won Olympic gold when he won Stan Wawrinka as a partner for the men's double title at the 2008 Beijing Games. Federer was a quarter-final individual in China, a silver medalist in London in 2012 before an injury forced him to skip the 2016 Rio games.
Federer reached the semi-finals in 2000 in Sydney, but still fondly remembers Australia since it was the place where he began his romance with Mirka Vavrinec, who is now his wife.
"Overall, it was probably the most incredible Olympic Games I've ever had," said Federer, who was also the flag bearer of Switzerland in Beijing and Athens in 2004, where he dropped out in the second round.
The American will turn 40 in September of next year, although her desire to play in Tokyo may not be as urgent as Federer's.
Williams already has four Olympic gold medals – singles in London in 2012 and women in doubles with sister Venus in 2000, 2008 in Beijing and London four years later.
The sisters lost their opening round game in Rio in 2016 while Serena's individual gold medal defense was ended in round three by Elina Svitolina.
Woods, who will be 46 in December next year, would have had difficulty winning the US team over to the games if they stayed in their 2020 slot. He is currently only the sixth placed American with only the first four guaranteed to form the roster.
Woods, the winner of 15 majors, fought against a new occurrence of a back injury, so that at least the delay until 2021 for the Olympic Games gives him new hope for a golden swan song.
The organizers were keen to play Woods after missing a return to golf at the 2016 Rio Games because of an injury.
The colorful and controversial Chinese badminton superstar will be 37 years old until the next games.
Lin had gold from Beijing in 2008 and four years later from London, which contributed to his five world championship titles.
There is, however, evidence of an unfinished business for Lin, who was defeated in the bronze medal game in Rio in 2016 after beating semi-final rival Lee Chong Wei, the man he beat in 2008 and 2008, the 2012 Olympic final had been defeated
Felix was the only athlete in history to win six Olympic gold medals. For the past two years, she had been preparing for a golden farewell to the Tokyo Olympics.
Felix, who will be 35 at the end of this year, will compete against Father Time as she tries to improve her medal record at her fifth consecutive Olympic appearance.
The American star can console himself that she is by no means the oldest woman who chases Olympic glory at sprint events. Merlene Ottey was 40 years old when she anchored Jamaica's 4x100m relay team with a bronze medal in 2000.
Gatlin had planned to retire in 2020 after taking part in his fourth Olympics at the age of 38. The controversial American star is now planning to extend his career to take part in the newly planned games in Tokyo.
"I think a lot of people think that the time in this situation is against me or against older athletes, and that's far from the truth," said Gatlin, who has been suspended twice for drug-related offenses during his career.
Gatlin, the 2004 Olympic champion, could face a qualifying battle given the depth of the US men's sprint team, with Christian Coleman and Noah Lyles being the favorites at the 100m and 200m.
But a lot of time for this couple
Syrian table tennis player Hend Zaza was to become the youngest athlete at the Tokyo Olympics at just 11 years old.
She would not have been alone in Japan when professional skateboarder Sky Brown – only five months older – hoped to be able to compete for Great Britain.
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