SACRAMENTO, Calif. —
After weeks of uncertainty because of the rapid, worldwide spread the coronavirus, the International Olympic Committee has officially postponed the 2020 Summer Olympics.
The games, which were scheduled to take place July 24 in Tokyo, Japan, have been moved to 2021. This is the first time in history the Olympics have been postponed. The last time the games were affected in a similar way was during World War II, when they were canceled altogether.
Despite anxiously awaiting the news, Sacramento athletes are staying hopeful. They know that although COVID-19 has launched a strange new normal, their time will come to step up to the world stage.
"It was a big bummer," said Kelli Vandermoer, a rower with Team USA. "It was definitely a bummer because… I've had people and myself just...'Tokyo 2020' or anything 2020. It's weird to not have it, even being postponed. I don't think it's even set in, to be honest."
Vandermoer says there was a lot of hope for a miracle – perhaps something was going to magically change, and Tokyo 2020 would continue on as planned.
But, in the wake of the postponement, athletes have had to adjust.
It’s a completely new environment, one where a team sport, like Vandermoer’s rowing, is restricted.
"We took rowers home and weights home. We also had to bring another one…a metal type of rower that does not come apart," Vandermoer explained. "And taking that up the stairs – my roommate and I, we live on the third floor. That was after a practice, so instead of cooling down, we just kind of continued to warm up."
Currently training in Oklahoma City with team members, Vandermoer is transitioning from a rigorous training regimen to an at-home gym. She says there's no set schedule, making the whole experience surreal.
Kim Conley, a track and field athlete who has competed in the 2012 and 2016 Olympics and who hopes to return in 2021, is also continuing her training.
She is currently in Flagstaff, Arizona, doing altitude training and trying to keep things as normal as possible.
"It felt like it's what needed to be done," Conley said. "It took them a little longer than I expected to make the announcement, so that was causing me a little bit of stress. Just wondering, you know, am I really gonna have to be ready in June to make the Olympic team?"
Conley points to the fact that athletes from countries that have been particularly hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic, such as Italy and China, would not be able to continue painstaking training necessary for the Olympic-level.
The coronavirus has also made it clear that competing for personal records in athletic events, even a few months down the road, would be a challenge. Though the race season had only just begun, all of Conley's events were cancelled.
"Now, to have [the Olympics] postponed feels like the right thing for the world, and it also relieves some pressure to try and be ready for it in time," Conley said.
With another year to prepare, Olympic athletes have a more manageable timeline.
Even with her "veteran" Olympian status, Conley says it’s been quite a transition.
"Now, it’s like a complete readjustment," Conley said.
However, she's still feeling good about where she is right now.
"I'm thinking about where I am today compared to 15 months out from the Olympics the previous two cycles, and I like where I am for that."
Even though Conley and Vandermoer are taking a positive approach to their new normals, coronavirus concerns still fill their lives as they continue to work hard away from home.
"It's a little harder being here in a new state during this time," Vandermoer said. "It's rough the way everything has panned out. Obviously it's a time that I'd want to be home, with my mom, but [we’re] making sure the team is all just knowing that we're all here for each other and helping each other get through the day, and just going day by day. Seeing what the day brings us."
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