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Olympians Have Another Year to Prepare for Tokyo. It’s a Blessing and a Curse.

Steele Johnson, a diver who gained a silver medal for the United States on the 2016 Rio Games, awakened Tuesday morning to texts from buddies saying they have been so sorry that the Summer Olympics had been postponed. They knew how exhausting it had been for Johnson, 23, and his spouse, Hilary, to make ends meet as he pursued a gold medal in Tokyo.

When he learn the information, Johnson stated, he felt a pit in his abdomen.

“We’ve had a very, very tough year financially,” he stated. “I don’t know if I could keep up a lifestyle like this for another 12 to 15 months of just diving without getting a full-time job. It’s hard to think about making more sacrifices than we already have.”

For days, athletes had been voicing considerations in regards to the 2020 Tokyo Games, worrying that they have been jeopardizing their well being and the well being of others in the event that they continued coaching whereas a lot of their international locations have been locked down and proscribing exercise.

In polls and surveys carried out over the weekend, athletes voted in overwhelming numbers in favor of a postponement.

Yet when the information lastly got here, it was the final word blended blessing: a lifeline for some and a brand new set of challenges which may be insurmountable due to monetary, age or well being points for others.

Like so many Olympians, Johnson, who has a level in movie and video research from Purdue, lives on a good funds that has no place for cuts. He and his spouse don’t purchase new garments. At house in Indiana, their grocery invoice should keep inside $60 per week. He has labored nights as a driver for the meals supply service Grubhub. His spouse is a marriage photographer.

After he gained a silver medal on the Rio Games, Johnson couldn’t safe a sponsor. He receives a small stipend for being on the nationwide staff, however now will search for work that may carry him via to the brand new, unspecified date for the Games in 2021.

“I’m just going to have to be creative,” he stated. “I will do what I can to support my family and pay for our food and our dogs’ food, but it’s going to be a challenge.”

Greg Meehan, the Stanford girls’s swimming coach and the pinnacle of the U.S. girls’s staff, stated the postponement left proficient highschool seniors with a tricky alternative: forgo school for one more yr and prepare completely for the Olympics or juggle coaching and the stresses of freshman yr.

“The timing was perfect: Go to the trials, hopefully make the Olympic team and then there’s that natural transition to college,” he stated.

Meehan’s swimmers embrace Katie Ledecky, a five-time Olympic gold medalist who took the longer, bigger-picture view in a message she posted on Twitter after the postponement was introduced: “As we stand together to meet today’s challenges, we can dream about a wonderful Olympics in a beautiful country. Now is the time to support all those working to heal the sick and keep us all healthy.”

Ledecky, 23, delay her senior yr of faculty to concentrate on the Tokyo Games, and Meehan nonetheless doesn’t anticipate her again within the classroom till after the Olympics.

“I don’t think this summer was going to be the best she was ever going to be,” Meehan stated. “I think she’s going to be better next year.”

For Laurie Hernandez, a gymnast coaching in Costa Mesa, Calif., the postponement was precisely what she wanted.

She took two years off after successful a staff gold medal and a bronze within the stability beam on the Rio Games, working in leisure. She competed on “Dancing With the Stars” — and gained it — and likewise hosted “American Ninja Warriors Junior.”

When she launched into a comeback to the nationwide staff late final yr, many individuals within the sport stated it was too late. Before her fitness center was closed Thursday due to a statewide lockdown, she had been going there six days per week, at the least 5 hours a day, coaching and dashing to fine-tune routines. She was doing all the things and something that might give her the perfect likelihood at making the Olympic staff this summer season.

“Of course, I’d love more time to train,” she stated final week.

For different athletes, a postponement match with what the physician ordered.

Kathleen Baker, 23, who gained a gold and silver medal in swimming on the Rio Olympics, has Crohn’s illness, an autoimmune dysfunction that makes her particularly weak to the novel coronavirus.

Training these days had descended right into a seek for open swimming pools in San Diego, the place she lives. “It’s been everyone fending for themselves, so it is not what the Olympics are all about,” Baker stated not too long ago.

Sandi Morris, a pole-vaulter who gained a silver medal within the 2016 Games, misplaced entry to her common coaching facility, and thus her finely tuned routine, when the University of Arkansas closed its doorways this month in Fayetteville.

This weekend, Morris — alongside along with her two canine and two birds — had deliberate to drive from Arkansas to Greenville, S.C., the place she’s going to lease a home close to the place her mother and father dwell to hold out a makeshift coaching plan at a pole-vaulting pit her father is constructing at a neighborhood soccer subject.

Morris stated she was involved how she would help herself via the pandemic and the postponement, with no alternatives for look charges and prize cash on the horizon.

“What do we do for the rest of the year?” Morris stated. “We need to make money. But that’s what the rest of the world is facing right now.”

Sheryl Shade, a longtime agent for Olympians and Olympic hopefuls, stated her winter athletes started calling her after the postponement was introduced, fearful that their sponsorship {dollars} have been at stake.

“I told them they had to get in line,” Shade stated. “Everybody’s concerned about the funding and the sponsors, who were pretty much finished with their campaigns that they are shipping to Japan. Now those sponsors might have to change them. Will there be enough money for everybody? It’s too early to tell.”

For Allison Schmitt, a swimmer who was pursuing her fourth Olympic berth, the postponement of the Tokyo Games is the second deferment she has confronted in a yr. Schmitt, 29, already placed on maintain her pursuit of a grasp’s diploma in social work at Arizona State after she spent the 2019 spring semester finishing the primary of her required counseling internships, an emotionally and bodily draining expertise that she blames partly for a poor exhibiting in final summer season’s world championships in South Korea.

Tuesday’s announcement left Schmitt in a quandary. Does she pause her ultimate yr of college for 12 extra months? Try to juggle the pursuit of her diploma and one other Olympic berth? Or does she get on along with her life and go away her swimming aspirations considerably unfulfilled?

“The problem is, can we stretch this another year?” her coach, Bob Bowman, stated. “I mean, I can. But I’m not sure she can.”


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