The 2020 Tokyo Olympics Are Officially Postponed – Here Are Athletes' Reactions
Due to the continuous spread of the coronavirus worldwide, the International Olympic Committee (IOC), led by President Thomas Bach, and the Tokyo Olympic organizers, led by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, have officially decided to postpone the Summer Olympics. The news came on March 24, the day after an Olympic committee member said the postponement had been decided. The Olympics will be postponed until July 23, 2021, making this the first time in history that the start of an Olympic Games has been delayed. The Paralympics will be postponed until August 24, 2021.
A joint statement read, “The leaders agreed that the Olympic Games in Tokyo could stand as a beacon of hope to the world during these troubled times and that the Olympic flame could become the light at the end of the tunnel in which the world finds itself at present.” So, the flame will remain in Japan for the time being, and the 2020 Games will keep the name “Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020.”
This decision was made, of course, with the safety of the athletes, those involved in organizing the Olympics, and the rest of the world in mind. There’s still a lot we don’t know about how exactly this unprecedented move will play out. Some athletes already qualified – like Carissa Moore and Caroline Marks for surfing – while others were set to attend (or attempt to qualify for) Olympic trials this coming June in sports like gymnastics, track and field, swimming, and others. Ahead, check out reactions from over 25 Team USA Olympic hopefuls or Olympic-bound American athletes.
Carli Lloyd, Soccer
Lloyd, a two-time World Cup and Olympic champion, was awaiting to hear if she’d make the final Olympic roster this June. She told Action News, “This is bigger than sports. It’s bigger than an Olympics, and I think it was definitely the right call. Disappointed . . . you obviously are looking forward to this, as all the other athletes are around the world, but I think for the safety of everybody, it’s definitely the best thing.” She also tweeted that the silver lining is having more time to prepare.
Sakura Kokumai, Karate
Kokumai, the first American to qualify for karate in the Olympics, wrote via Instagram on March 23 about her long journey to get to where she is today and noted, “Many uncertainties now, but we will get through this. Just need to focus on what we can control and keep working towards our dreams.” She added on March 24, “2021? No problem. I’ll be ready.”
Emma Coburn, Track and Field (Steeplechase)
Coburn, a two-time Olympian in the steeplechase and pro runner for New Balance, tweeted the following: “Our dreams aren’t cancelled, they are just postponed. Looking forward to dreams coming true for athletes everywhere in 2021 Red heart #Tokyo2021.”
Morgan Hurd, Gymnastics
Hurd, the 2017 World all-around champion and a contender for the four-person Olympic gymnastics team, wrote on Twitter on March 23, “although i am upset that the olympics will not be happening this year, i agree that this is the best decision in order to keep the athletes and spectators healthy and to prevent the virus from spreading further.”
Breanna Stewart, Basketball
Stewart, a forward for Seattle Storm, 2018 WNBA Most Valuable Player, and a member of the USA women’s national basketball team, tweeted a simple message: “Tokyo 2020 (2021).”
Karissa Schweizer, Track and Field (Middle and Long Distance)
Schweizer, a six-time NCAA champion and pro runner for Nike, wrote on Twitter, “Welp…I guess I’ve never really had perfect vision anyway #2020vision #2021vision? However, in all seriousness, this is a really hard subject to talk about right now.” She continued, “Nevertheless, the Olympics brings the world together and even if that doesn’t happen this year, I have hope that when it does happen, it will just make it all even more special. As for now, the work continues and even though there’s many obstacles, I’m still going to work just as hard to shoot for more moments like this in the future.” She posted a similar message to Instagram.
Joe Kovacs, Track and Field (Shot Put)
Kovacs, who won a silver at the Rio Olympics and is coached by his wife, Ashley, wrote on Twitter, “I want to to [sic] compete against the best when their [sic] at their best, not when they have been training under unsuitable circumstances. Smart decision by the IOC to postpone The Olympic Games. For now, let’s focus on reestablishing the worlds [sic] health and safety.”
Oksana Masters, Para-Cycling
“2021, lets do this,” Masters, an eight-time Paralympic medalist aiming for a spot on the para-cycling Olympic team, wrote on Twitter. She finished off the podium for cycling in the 2016 Paralympics and took home five combined Nordic and biathlon medals from the 2018 Winter Games in PyeongChang. Masters explained that training for her winter competitions as well as the Olympics will be a challenge (hence, coffee). “I’ll be honest, training between @Tokyo2020 &!@ParaSnowSports [sic] Nordic/Biathlon’s world champs my coffee game is REALLY going to have to step up. You can only achieve big goals if you are healthy and safe. Control what you can #PlayInside #playfortheworld.”
Katie Ledecky, Swimming
Ledecky, a five-time Olympic gold medalist and the most decorated woman athlete of Rio 2016, posted on Twitter, “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 further said on NBC that she hopes the Olympics will be a celebration of overcoming the “medical adversity” that we’re all going through as a global community.
Lex Gillette, Para Track and Field
“If you message me or text my phone from here on, I ask that it not be words of apology, let it be words of affirmation,” a statement posted on Twitter on behalf of Gillete, a four-time Paralympic medalist and three-time long jump world champion, read. “‘You getting that [gold].’ There’s an additional year to train. Bring it!”
Sunisa Lee, Gymnastics
Lee, who won silver on floor and bronze on bars at 2019 Worlds, wrote on Instagram that she’s “upset to say the least.” She continued, “I agree this is the best decision to be made for everyone that has been affected by the virus. Looking forward to what 2021 has in store for myself and everyone else . . . times like this are hard but we will all get through it together, hope everyone is staying safe and healthy!”
Shalaya Kipp, Track and Field (Steeplechase)
Kipp, an Olympian in the steeplechase in 2012, wrote a long message on Instagram. She quoted teammate Emma Coburn and wrote, “Right now the focus needs to be on our communities. Do your part, stay home. Run alone. Run early (I’m trying to cut down forest foot traffic by running at 7am). Minimize the times you need to go to the grocery store (yep that means planning out meals in advance). Offer a helping hand (from a distance) if you can. Our landlord is in her mid 70s. We’ve let her know we’re happy to run to the store for her if she needs. The Olympics are a symbol for peace and togetherness. The Olympics will bring us all back together next year.” Kipp also posted a message on Twitter.
Cat Osterman, Softball
Osterman, a pitcher for the US women’s softball team, said on NBC Sports, “Softball has been waiting 12 years, so now it’s going to be 13. But at the same time, when you have this dream at your fingertips, I think you’ll do anything to make sure it happens, so I know we’re all going to come together and devote our time and our training to make sure we’re in the top shape, and whenever the date’s announced we’ll put that as our target date . . .”
Emily Infeld, Track and Field (Long Distance)
Infeld, a 2016 Olympian and member of Bowerman Track Club, wrote on Twitter and Instagram, “Postponed, not cancelled. Thankful for the decisions made. Global health and safety are what is most important right now.”
Jacob Riley, Marathon
Riley is a member of the US Olympian marathon team, having qualified in February at the Olympic trials. This is his first time qualifying, and he posted a lengthy message on Instagram that read, in part, “Even though I’ve been mentally preparing myself for Olympic postponement for the past couple weeks, it’s still pretty gutting to see it made official. Not because of the decision, I think it’s the right call, but because the decision had to be made at all, that there’s do [sic] much danger and disruption for so many people.”
Kate Courtney, Mountain Biking
In Fall 2019, Courtney became the first American woman to win the World Cup series for cross-country mountain biking in 17 years. She’s also already qualified for the Olympics, and she posted on Instagram the following message: “Thinking of all the Olympians today and of everyone who is struggling to balance hope and heart break in a time of uncertainty that goes far beyond any athletic competition. Keep moving and keep believing.” Courtney wrote a piece about the postponement for The Wall Street Journal, which you can read in full here. The final line is a great one: “Hope and heartbreak can live side-by-side.”
Jade Carey, Gymnastics
Carey, who specializes in floor and vault and was on her way to qualifying as an individual – separate from the four-person gymnastics team – at Tokyo 2020, wrote on Instagram of the postponement, “I 100% understand it had to be done for our health and safety. Sending all of my love to every single athlete affected by this. We will get through this.”
Delaney Spaulding, Softball
Spaulding, who plays infield for the US women’s softball team, tweeted, “We are a resilient group. This is just a hiccup in our journey. We will be ready to go for #Tokyo2021.”
Lilly King, Swimming
King, a Rio Olympic champion in the 100m breaststroke and the 4x100m medley, wrote on Instagram, “Just one more year to get better #Tokyo2021.” She further told 44News that she’s happy input from the athletes was taken into account and that she’s embracing this as “an opportunity to spend the next year on getting better. My hope is that this short delay will result in an Olympics that will be the pinnacle of sport.”
Simone Manuel, Swimming
Manuel, the first Black woman to win an individual Olympic medal in swimming, started out by saying in an Instagram post that, while she supports the decision to postpone the Olympics, she hasn’t been fully able to process everything. For her, there are a lot of emotions like stress, sadness, confusion, and exhaustion. Manuel wrote later on, “To my fellow athletes, it goes without saying to take care of your physical health during these uncertain times, but as we continue to prepare for ‘Tokyo 2020’ in 2021, I encourage all of you to take some time to allow yourself to mentally process how you are feeling. I believe it is an important part in the healing process to move forward. We work together. We move forward together. We heal together. Sending love and light to everyone.”
Kara Eaker, Gymnastics
Eaker, a member of the 2019 World Gymnastics Championships team for the US, posted on Instagram that she was “devastated to hear the Olympics has been postponed, but it’s what’s safest for everyone which is the most important thing right now.” She continued, “can’t wait to see the opportunities 2021 has in store for everyone! times like these are hard, but together we can make it through. we just gotta stay positive and strong. hope everyone is staying safe and healthy.”
Alex Morgan, Soccer
Morgan, a two-time World Cup champion and Olympic gold medalist who is expecting a baby girl this April, said in Glamour‘s cover story for its Goals Issue that she believes postponing the Olympics until the summer of 2021 was the right decision. “I tried to look at it more from a team perspective, but I couldn’t help but think of myself with all of the stress that’s going on from the coronavirus on top of trying to get back in shape in such a short amount of time,” she stated. Morgan, a USWNT forward, now has more time to train – she had originally made it her goal to get on the Tokyo 2020 roster just a few months after giving birth.
Simone Biles, Gymnastics
Biles, the most decorated gymnast in World Gymnastics Championship history and a five-time Olympic medalist, said on the Today show that she cried when she found out, but that it’s ultimately the right decision. “We need to make sure that everyone in the US and around the world is healthy and safe,” she said. “It was hard, but it’s OK.” Biles said the key is to keep herself in shape both mentally and physically in the next year to come.
Allyson Felix, Track and Field (Sprinter)
Felix, a nine-time Olympic medalist who surpassed Usain Bolt’s record for most IAAF World Championship gold medals only 10 months after giving birth, wrote for Time about the Olympics being postponed. She said, “At a time like this, it is hard not to focus on the loss, to not think about what could have been. That is something that can be hard about having audacious dreams. . . . This has been a sobering reminder that we are not owed our dreams, those dreams do not come free and you do not accomplish them alone.” She went on to discuss the sacrifices she’s made, especially in the last two years and wrote, “I still hope to experience the feeling of standing on that podium in 2021 and I hope my journey to try to get back there will inspire you to keep moving forward.”
Caroline Marks, Surfing
Marks was one of two American female surfers who qualified to compete at Tokyo 2020. She told POPSUGAR of the postponement, “I can’t say I was surprised. I definitely support their decision. It’s cool that they’re putting the athletes and the staff first and making sure we’re all safe.” Surfing was set to make its Olympic debut, and Marks said that it’ll be just as exciting next year.