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Tokyo Olympics Postponed: What San Diego Athletes Are Saying

Like world-class, focused athletes, many are choosing to see this delay as a chance to train even harder

NBCUniversal, Inc.

The International Olympic Committee postponed the 2020 Tokyo Olympics Tuesday amid the novel coronavirus pandemic, but how do San Diego’s Olympic hopefuls feel about the big decision? After all, they’ve dedicated their entire lives to training for this very moment.

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said the Olympics will be held next year, by the summer of 2021, at the latest. In what has been the largest sporting postponement yet due to the coronavirus pandemic, organizers have been adamant about this being a postponement and not a cancellation.

U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee CEO Sarah Hirshland notified athletes, dozens who live and train in San Diego county, about the postponement.

“This summer was supposed to be a culmination of your hard work and life’s dream but taking a step back from competition to care for our communities and each other is the right thing to do. Your moment will wait until we can gather again safely,” Hirshland said.

While it’s still a shock for local hopefuls, many had become increasingly more vocal about their concerns involving the 2020 Olympics in light of COVID-19.

Abe said a full and complete Olympics and Paralympics will be held as “proof of victory over coronavirus.”

San Diego’s Olympians and Olympic hopefuls are sharing similar thoughts.

NBC 7 spoke with some of the Olympians connected to San Diego, and here are their thoughts on this:

Connor Fields: BMX Olympian, 2016 Gold Medalist

“For me personally I'm bummed, right. I just dedicated a big chunk of time, bunch of work, bunch of efforts, everything was building towards 2020,” Fields told NBC 7. “I was in great shape, racing going well, everything clicking. At same time, I have to keep it in perspective and this is sports going on, this is very small in the grand scheme of things, when talking about people who are sick and dying."

“My fiancée has an auto-immune disease, so she's considered a high-risk person for this stuff, so I have to be extra careful on her behalf,” Fields explained. “My stepbrother has it – he’s pretty sick, at the moment – doing OK, but not feeling well. I'm doing my part trying to stay at home as much I as I can. Not hanging out with friends, not going out doing my part."

"Hoping we can get through this sooner rather than later, and maybe better than normal cause we'll have more appreciation for day to day life, seeing we were all taking it for granted," he added.

BMX athlete Connor Fields talks about clinching a spot on TeamUSA and how he feels about heading to London 2012.

Nicole Ahsinger: Trampoline Gymnastics Olympian

"I wanted the postponement of the Olympics, just cause even though I am still able to train once a day, it's not like I'm training super hard,” said Nicole Ahsinger. “ And then also knowing, ‘Will there be an Olympics? Will there not?’ was kind of hard mentally for me."

"It's hard to find out it's going to be in 2021. Also, it's just another year I get to train harder. Even though it's another year, it's still just a year," she added.

It's just another year I get to train harder.

Nicole Ahsinger
NBC 7's Steven Luke introduces a local gymnast trying to make history for Team USA in Tokyo 2020.

Jesse Smith: 4X Water Polo Olympian, 2008 Silver Medalist

"I've read being negative lowers your immune system. We're going to make it through this, and all the different Team USA members are going to be ready when they hold the Olympics – whenever that is," said Jesse Smith.

"I personally know a lot of the Italians as former teammates, so my heart goes out to everyone who is sick,” Smith said. “So, hearing Olympics is postponed, I have confidence everyone at the US Olympics Committee, they're working super hard to make sure all the athletes and wellbeing of everyone is of utmost concern."

NBC 7's Steven Luke introduces us to Team USA's seasoned veteran.

Brittney Reese: 3X Olympic Long Jumper, 2012 Gold Medalist; 2016 Silver Medalist

"I'm only taking the positives out of this situation,” Olympian Brittney Reese said on her Instagram feed. “More time in the lab = a stronger and faster BEAST!!!”

Darrell Hill: Olympic Shot Putter

"Delay is NOT Denial. An additional 365+ days to prepare? This one must be special,” Darrell Hill posted on Instagram. “Take care of yourselves in the meantime. Lord please place a healing hand over our world.”

Al Joyner: Olympian, 1984 Triple Jump Gold Medalist, USA Track & Field Coach

"See you in the summer 2021 Tokyo... SAME PLACE, SAME DREAM, SAME DESIRES, JUST A YEAR LATER. But a year GREATER," said Olympian-turned-coach Al Joyner on social media.

Lex Gillette: 4X Paralympic Long Jumper, 2004, 2008, 2012, 2016 Silver Medalist

"I know that this news causes different reactions from athlete to athlete and it's tough news, but for me, the vision still burns brighter than ever and that's what keeps me going,” Lex Gillette tweeted.

Sakura Kokumai: Team USA Karate Athlete

"Relieved but at the same time disappointed, too, obviously," Kokumai said is how she felt after learning the news. "Just knowing that it is actually going to happen next year, for me, it made it -- its better for us athletes because we can actually train for it now.

"Before the unknown of whether it was going to happen this year -- this year during the summer or whether it might happen in two years -- just the unknown part has been bothering me a lot, but now that I know that its going to be postponed to 2021, all I have to do is just adjust to it, try to find a way to kind of change the route."

"More time for me to train. More time for me to get better. More time to work on my craft and that's how I'm trying to switch my mindset so I can be at my best next year."

Kokumai, a first-generation Japanese-American, became the first U.S. Olympic qualifier in the new sport of Karate, which was set to make its debut at Tokyo 2020. She trains at the Optimum Training and Performance in San Diego.

Athletes dedicate their lives for a chance to participate in the Olympic Games but the coronavirus has thrown a wrench into everyone's lives, including Olympic athletes. Team USA Karate athlete Sakura Kokumai shares her feelings after the International Olympic Committee made the decision to postpone the 2020 Tokyo Olympics until 2021.
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