Colorado fans hoping for another opportunity to cheer Emma Coburn and Jenny Simpson to further Olympic glory will have to practice some patience.
On Monday, the USA Today reported the 2020 Olympic Games, scheduled to start July 24 in Tokyo, will be postponed one year. The move continues the far-reaching impact worldwide fears over the spread of the new coronavirus is having upon the sports world.
With the NCAA men’s and women’s basketball tournaments canceled, and all major sports leagues on indefinite hiatus, the cancellation of the Olympics is another jarring hit, yet perhaps not an unexpected one.
Though as of Monday afternoon no official announcement had arrived from the International Olympic Committee, influential IOC member Dick Pound told USA Today: “On the basis of the information the IOC has, postponement has been decided. The parameters going forward have not been determined, but the Games are not going to start on July 24, that much I know.”
Pressure has been mounting on the IOC to rethink its stance on proceeding with business as usual for the Tokyo Games. On Sunday, Canada and Australia announced they would not compete in the 2020 Games even if they continued as scheduled. On Saturday, USA Swimming urged the IOC to postpone the games, and on Monday track and field athletes from across the globe followed suit.
Coburn — a two-time national champion at CU in the steeplechase, seven time world champion, and the 2016 Olympic bronze medalist — serves as the vice president of The Athletics Association, an advocacy group for professional track and field athletes. On Monday, the group released a survey saying 78 percent of 4,000-plus respondents backed the postponing of the Tokyo Games.
“I think it’s very important for all of us to listen to the collective voice of athletes. And if this is what athletes are feeling globally, the Olympics are about athletes,” Coburn said. “And if the athletes aren’t feeling comfortable training or competing, we need to respect that.
“There’s so much unknown right now. Everyone in the world has different restrictions right now, either by their government or by their own personal ways of dealing with this. I just think globally it’s so hard to set a standard that by July 24th you have to be in the best shape of your life to compete in the Olympics. I just think it’s too risky and it’s not a responsible measure at this point.”
Like Coburn, Simpson became the first American woman to earn a medal in her event in 2016, taking bronze in the 1,500 meter run in Rio. With the Games on hold, both CU alums will attempt to maintain a holding pattern on their fitness, instead of eyeing a peak for the US Track and Field Olympic Trials, which had been scheduled to begin June 19 in Eugene, Ore.
“I believe USATF has made a sincere effort to gauge the collective feelings of athletes and their ability to train at an Olympic level through this global crisis,” Simpson told BuffZone via text message. “It looks like they have come to the conclusion that a postponement of the Games would be the most appropriate move in the interest of people’s wellness and fair play. I trust their leadership in this as they have far more information than I do on the current situations of USA athletes across the country.
“I see my job and goals of 2020 as being currently unchanged: I want to make that USA Olympic team whenever and however the USA Olympic Trial takes place.”