PRO VAX! One vote in favor of vaccinating athletes before Tokyo comes from Ethiopian superstar Genzebe Dibaba, who says, “I think it’s safe and more comfortable to manage, to meet with the other athletes… Better to take the vaccine. She adds, “It’s hard to feel safe because it’s a virus and you can get it at any minute. But since it’s the Olympics, I know they will do everything they can to protect us.”
Norwegian phenom Jakob Ingebrigtsen opined to Britain’s Athletics Weekly that the most painful event is the 1500: “It’s difficult to describe but the 1500m is probably the most painful race because you are going out at such a high speed and after 500m you are really hitting a wall. But then, when you continue you don’t slow down, you just run faster and faster.
“Or at least that’s my experience. If you are really well prepared and you do what you need to do going into that race it’s going to end up pretty good and you’re not going to feel that much pain after all. But I know, going into my next race, I get really nervous because of the pain.”
Comebacking long jumper Marquis Dendy confesses that he prefers training to competing, saying “I’m a meathead. I love to train. I pretty much go into that Zero-Dark-30 where I just train, really focus. I don’t have to go out and worry about traveling, booking flights, and now with COVID, I definitely don’t want to catch anything at airports, so training for me is super-important. I get more work done training than competing back-to-back-to-back.”
Caster Semenya, forced to move up or down in events to stay clear of WA’s DSD rule, has chosen the 5000 over the 200, saying, “I’m getting old‚ I’m scared to tear my muscles. We had to sit down and make sure that the decision that we make makes sense. Distance makes sense. I am 30 years old and if I were to do sprints it would be a risk to my muscles. In distance, there is more time to find consistency.”
Her first attempt to hit the 5000 standard of 15:10.00 fell markedly short at 15:52.28 in winning the South African title; she ran it in the 1333m altitude of Pretoria, however.
Semenya says that she will never take hormone-suppressing drugs which might let her return to the 800. “It’s taking the soul out of my body,” she says. “They want me to take my own system down. I’m not sick. I don’t need drugs. I will never do that.”
German putter David Storl is concerned that unscrupulous athletes may be using C19 quarantines to avoid drug testers. He contracted the virus himself and had to be in isolation for two weeks, during which time he had to refuse entry to German testers.
“I realized during my quarantine that we certainly won’t have a level playing field at the Olympic Games, if they take place,” says the former world champ. “My skepticism has risen a lot, because there are no doping tests for athletes in quarantine.
“At that moment I became really aware of how far a quarantine can open the door for cheating. At home and in total isolation there are all the possibilities in the world to improve certain capabilities with forbidden substances. “I don’t want to suspect anyone in the world, but I can well imagine that there are some who use the quarantine as a loophole.”
Shamier Little tried something new in April: her first 800 race. The 400H ace won her 2-lap debut at the McDonnell Invitational in 2:04.39. An entertaining social-media presence, she explained on Twitter, “Coach and I are on a mission, and every move made thus far has a purpose. I’m so pleased with the direction that things are going. 2:04 in an off-event with competitive effort, and I’m actually crazy enough to wanna do it again and go faster.”
She added, “Also the 400 hurdles [is] more brutal than the 800. I will happily settle that debate for y’all. And if you still want to talk, go debate your mother.”
She followed up by tweeting, “I just wanted to hush the people in the back with 800/400 career change talk. The hurdles is my bread and butter. Next time is dropping very SOOOOON.”
Meanwhile, on the catwalk, both U.S. and Canadian outfits for the Tokyo Opening and Closing have come under fire from critics. Said one writer, “There is something deeply funny about dressing the fittest folks on the planet in the least flattering looks possible.” One tweet aimed at the U.S. outfit in particular: “Our athletes deserve better than low-rise jeans.”
World heptathlon champ Katarina Johnson-Thompson has said that should she win a medal in Tokyo, she is open to taking a knee on the podium. “From a very young age. I was one of the only people of color in both my primary and secondary schools and you realize you are the odd-one-out. It doesn’t have to be attacks or murder to be racism. It can affect people’s self-worth and how they see themselves. It’s important for me to shine a light on it. I never get used to it but I feel I have to do it on certain subjects. I’m proud to be in a position where I am able to do that.”
Tokyo will be the final Olympics for Allyson Felix. As for retirement, we’ll see. “I don’t know for how much longer than this year I will run,” she says at age 35. “I’m just going to take it as it comes as far as that goes. I don’t see myself doing another Olympics, but I haven’t laid out an end date.”
She added that she is planning on entering both the 200 and 400 at the Trials, even though an Olympic double is impossible, explaining, “I’m just going to see how training unfolds. I would like to participate in both at the Trials and see the outcome of that. If I need to focus on one or the other, we will make that decision.”
UCLA thrower Alyssa Wilson is back in training after battling C19 for three weeks. “It was rough. I was totally alone in my room. I couldn’t leave at all. People would come and drop off three meals a day, knock on my door and leave. I lost my sense of smell, I had headaches and I was super tired. All I wanted to do was sleep, and that’s so unlike me. I definitely lost my appetite. I lost some weight because I wasn’t able to eat like I normally would. I’m struggling right now. Slowly, I’m starting to feel a little bit better.”
Auburn’s Joyce Kimeli successfully doubled at the SEC Indoor despite losing over a month of training when she traveled back to Kenya in December after the death of her father to C19. “Even if it’s painful, I’m tough,” she says. The word ‘tough’ means a lot to me because my late dad used to tell me, ‘Joyce, are you not tough?’
“Even if it’s the middle of the race, I remind myself of that word. I flash back to how much work my coach has been giving me. I don’t want to take anything for granted but I always try my best to produce the best.”
Washington miler Sam Tanner is understandably excited to be selected to New Zealand’s Tokyo team: “I don’t have any real expectations on myself. Any result coming out of the Olympics will be sweet. Going, alone, is like ‘wow,’ Not many people ever get to experience anything like that so I am very stoked.”
Donald Scott was thrilled with his consistency en route to the win in the USATF GP triple jump in Eugene. One thing that didn’t get him rattled was the cold, rainy weather: “Where I’m from, I’m in Michigan. It’s pretty cold. It actually snowed when I just left, so this weather is nothing to me. The rain kind of bothered me, but I just threw it out the window because everybody’s jumping in the same weather.”
Brooke Andersen on her wet ring experience in the Eugene hammer: “The meet started out a little rough with a fall and hitting my head on the ring when I fell… but I luckily was able to battle back and shake it off to throw the second-best series of my career!”
Most elite athletes have struggled to deal with the pandemic while preparing for the Olympics. Chaunté Lowe had to deal with that on top of her recovery from breast cancer and a double mastectomy in ’19. “When I faced my own health challenge, I got to the point where my fitness level was back to where it was when I was a freshman in high school,” the 4-time Olympian told Fansided. “It was horrifying to me to be at a great sense of fitness and then overnight to feel like it was all gone.”
British miler Jake Smith has paced some marathons before; in fact, he has run 60:31 for the half-marathon, but at the recent Cheshire Elite Marathon in Wales, he was taken by a whim when his pacing duties were done: “Looked down at the watch at mile 17 and thought ‘sod it,’ let’s try to run the Olympic time.” He did just that, finishing his debut in 2:11:00 for the win. “I swear I’m doing a 1500m track season,” he insisted.