MONTREAL -- After a difficult year, Canadian gymnasts were dealt another blow this week by the decision that they will not take part in next month's Pan-American Championships in Rio de Janeiro.

Gymnastics Canada made the announcement on Friday, citing safety concerns raised by the ongoing pandemic.

“We consulted with a lot of medical experts to try as much as we could but, at the end of the day, Brazil is just not in a great place right now and it's just not safe to send anybody there,” said Amanda Tambakopoulos, program manager for women's artistic gymnastics.

The decision comes as a blue for many athletes for whom Rio would have been their final chance to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics.

“It's within reach but it's still extremely difficult. We were ready to go out there and give it our all,” said gymnast Cory Paterson. “Team Canada was looking very good, so it's a difficult decision to not send a team but... the health of the athletes is the number one priority for the federation. It's understandable, but it's still difficult.”

Other athletes who have already qualified for the Olympics face their own uncertainty as Japan battles a fourth wave of the virus. Olympic diver Vincent Riendeau said athletes are fighting to stay patient.

“We don't even know that it's going to happen, it's not assured,” he said. “I think now, after the last year we've had, we've become good at not getting our hopes up but still being able to work hard.”