TRACK SHORTS — March

“In the whole grand scheme of things, I have been waiting for something for 23 years; I think I can wait another year,” says 800 star Donavan Brazier. (VICTOR SAILER/PHOTO RUN)

A SELECTIVE SAMPLING of major-player reactions to the postponement of Tokyo to ’21.

Mondo Duplantis, pole vault WR holder
“It’s a bummer that I won’t be able to compete in the Olympics this year, but you have to understand the situation, understand that some things are a little bigger than sport, and I guess we’ll have it next year.”

Reigning Olympic LJ champion Tianna Bartoletta
“How do you redirect, how do you plan? In a normal year, you take the date of the Olympic Games and work backwards and create your training program that way. But we know that’s not going to happen this summer. We don’t know if that means the Diamond League won’t happen. We don’t know any of those things. You can’t really plan for that, so it’s just a worldwide holding pattern for all of us athletes—and non-athletes.”

Sandi Morris, Olympic pole vault silver medalist
“It wasn’t going to be smart to proceed. They could still go to great lengths to get athletes across the world, but it isn’t worth the risk. This is a dire situation. Everybody is just waiting to see what happens with the world.”

World 100 champion Christian Coleman
“Everybody I have talked to has been extremely affected by these drastic times in some way. Tracks are closed. They are having to go to a park and run on the grass. They are not able to be around their coaches and training groups. And that’s just track athletes. What about the swimmers who can’t find a pool that is open and wrestlers when people should not be in contact? This is bigger than sports.”

Chaunté Lowe, 4-time HJ Olympian
“You put your life on hold for the Olympics. Imagine if you’ve ever been on a tough diet, and you’re like, ‘OK, I could hold it for this long, but at this point in time, I’m going to break.’ And now they’re telling you everything that you’ve done to put your life on hold, you have to do it a whole other year—It’s going to be very difficult.”

Donavan Brazier, World 800 champ
“In the whole grand scheme of things, I have been waiting for something for 23 years; I think I can wait another year, especially when something as unprecedented as this is going on. The Olympics are on the back burner of everybody’s minds, including the athletes who are participating. Yeah, it is a little bit of a disappointment that they are going to postpone them for a whole year. But at the end of the day, there are going to be more people worse off than just some runners and athletes. I’m still grateful that they will have them in 2021. It messes up the training cycle a little bit, but there are a lot worse things that could be going on for the athletes.”

Brittney Reese, ’12 Olympic LJ champion
“Honestly, my head is all over the place. It’s unfortunate how everything played out. We all know the right decision was to postpone everything. All we can do is wait and see.”

400 WR holder Wayde van Niekerk
“The announcement was a massive weight off my shoulders. I was in fear because I didn’t want to expose my coach to the virus. It was the constant thought I had and my wife’s sister has a baby as well so it wasn’t easy to go out and train every day knowing I could be exposing them. The chances of me recovering from the virus would be likely, but I was in close contact with my coach every day and she’d be at risk of becoming seriously sick. That scared me more than anything.”

Karissa Schweizer, indoor 3000 AR holder
“It’s difficult once you have momentum building to all of a sudden come to a halt. I knew I had a breakthrough coming, I just didn’t know when it was going to be, so I’m at least grateful for that. Now I’m holding on to that hope and know I’m training for moments like that. I know there’s more to come in the outdoor season, whether it’s this coming season or whether it’s next year’s season.”

3-time Olympic 100 medalist Justin Gatlin
“Our bodies are not getting worn down from running races around the world this year, so you can preserve your energy, rest yourself, fix the knick-knack issues you have on your body and be ready for 2021. And that works for anybody, veterans and rookies. I think who this really affects is the athletes who don’t have independent contracts with a shoe company, so they go around to meets and that’s how they make their money. Essentially, they’re not making any money this year at all.”

Katarina Johnson-Thompson, world heptathlon champ
“Waited 8 years for this, what’s another one in the grand scheme of things? As an athlete, it’s heartbreaking news, but it’s for all the right reasons and the safety of everyone! Stay indoors!”

Kirani James, ’12 Olympic 400 winner
“The way I see it is, for them to postpone it, they’re taking this pandemic very seriously and I’m sure if there was a way where they could keep it for this year, they would have. Obviously, they exhausted all their options. It is what it is. At the end of the day, safety and health trumps the Olympics every time.”

Natasha Hastings, 2-time 4×4 gold medalist
“This year was supposed to be my comeback year, but instead 2020 has been nothing but a year of loss so far. Athletics certainly doesn’t define me, but it’s painful watching everything you’ve worked so hard for seemingly be taken away from you without having any say in it at all. I do believe this is the best decision given the times we’re in facing this global pandemic. That doesn’t take away the sting of it all or quell the uncertainty going forward. Many of us were banking on this being our final lap.”

Grant Holloway, World 110H champion
“It’s something that came out of nowhere. You just have to take it with a grain of salt and roll with the punches. It doesn’t really affect me too much because I had a great year in 2019. I was hoping to top it off well in 2020. I’ll get right for 2021.”

2-time NCAA pole vault champ Olivia Gruver
“Today, we’re taking the time to regroup and see what we’re going to do for training. We’ll probably just be outside on hills. Now that it’s been postponed, we have the time to regroup and figure out what we’re going to do.”

Noah Lyles, World 200 champ
“My first concern was that everybody would be healthy and that everybody would have a fair place to actually compete. So actually seeing it delayed gives me a bit of security that the Olympics is worried about everybody.”

Nia Ali, Doha gold medalist in the 100H
“Obviously, I wanted to build off the momentum I had last season. That’s been my biggest thing to finally be in a position that I’ve grown tremendously without like having a setback beforehand. I can’t question God’s plans. I just got to continue to keep my head down and keep grinding. It doesn’t change things in terms of the Olympic dream and any goals that I have for myself.”

Shelby Houlihan, 13-time USATF champion
“I think it’s the best call given the circumstances with how tough it is to get into the gym. I can do my work outside, which is nice, but we are having a hard time getting on tracks. Many people are dealing with the same things and not getting good training in because of the circumstances. Safety is the No. 1 priority.”

Michael Cherry, WC 4×4 gold medalist
“I feel like I did all this work for nothing. I’ve been training super-hard. Now I have to reset. I can’t show the world what I thought I had. I felt like everything was clicking, but I understand.”

Sydney McLaughlin, WC silver medalist in the 400H
“Personally, I agree with the decision. Although it is unfortunate for all the athletes who have been working so hard up until this point, the safety and well-being of athletes, fans and coaches should be the first priority. This just gives us more time to prepare mentally and physically.”

Ryan Crouser, Olympic shot champ
“It’s a little bit tough because at the end of the day my contract, that’s my salary. That’s where I make the majority of my money. It will hopefully put me in a position where I could throw far and prove myself going into re-signing a contract.”

’17 World steeple champ Emma Coburn
“We train hard, we put our blood, sweat and tears into this. We dream for this. Our dreams are not canceled, they are just postponed. The safety of athletes, our communities and our world is most important. This is the right thing to do.”

Reigning Athlete Of The Year Karsten Warholm
“When it comes to postponing the Olympics and possibly other events, we support that it is the only sensible solution in the situation the world is in. We also understand that sports are secondary now and that many people are much worse off than us.”

Keturah Orji, AR holder in the triple jump
“I think it definitely is sad to hear the news. But because I’m a younger athlete, I’m not too shaken by it. I know some people that are older and planning to retire this year, it kind of was their last year so I think it might have affected them more. For me, I think it was a great decision and I’m looking forward to just getting more time to train and not having to worry about not having facilities.”

Ajee’ Wilson, 2-time WC 800 bronze medalist
“I think about the people who are most important to me—those people are on the list who are at risk. If I don’t think about them and their health, who’s going to share [the Olympics] with me? It’s a dismal, morbid thought, but this situation is more important. Don’t get me wrong, I wanted to compete, but in the big picture, at what cost and how much am I going to enjoy it?”

U.S. javelin champion Michael Shuey
“It’s an unfortunate advantage, just because the circumstances that give us this extra time are life-changing for the rest of the population, but because I’m in a rare situation of being able to be out at the training center and have the opportunity to just focus on one thing in my life.”

Inika McPherson, Olympic high jumper
“I am thankful for this decision, especially when it comes to the health of the athletes and everyone’s family. Although it will be a financial strain on many elite athletes including myself with not many competitions for the remainder of the year, I believe it was the best decision.” ◻︎

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