Elite Michigan athletes hit by Olympics postponement

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Capital News Service

LANSING — The Olympic dream will be postponed for competitors training across Michigan.

On March 24, the International Olympic Committee and Shinzo Abe, the prime minister of Japan, delayed the Tokyo summer games due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The postponement was a major blow to Olympic athletes who were hard at work training.

One of them is Amanda Chidester, a 29-year-old Team USA softball player from Allen Park, who has been training for years to compete in Tokyo for her first Olympics.

“Considering all the circumstances going on in the world, it makes sense,” Chidester said of the delay. “There’s a global pandemic that’s happening. 

“For me personally, when everything was happening, it’s like ‘When are we going to get our training in?’ and all those worries you have as an elite athlete,” she said.

“I’m stuck at home, I’m in lockdown at home — what can I do? It was stressful for a couple of weeks. Things kept getting worse, and I’m just happy they didn’t cancel it.”
The delay was ordered to safeguard the health and safety of athletes and the international community, according to the organizers.

Hannah Roberts, an 18-year-old Team USA BMX cyclist from Buchanan, said this would have  been her first Olympics too, but “I’m grateful that the health of athletes is getting taken so seriously and that this virus is getting taken so seriously.

 “I’m happy that everything is based on our safety as athletes because a lot of times it doesn’t get looked at as a priority,” she said.

With the Olympics now a blocked  goal for this year, many athletes are at a loss at what to do next.

Chidester said, “We don’t really know what the next steps are. That puts a huge twist on all the actions that we need to do to move forward. As an athlete, you know what you’re going for and what you’re striving for. Now, our hands are tied.”

Roberts said she’ll continue training as normal.

“I’m just going to keep riding and not let this slow me down,” Roberts said. “The Olympics weren’t my only goal — I have the rest of this season and next season in mind.

The COVID-19 pandemic has increased rates of stress, anxiety and depression, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and a recent study in the American Medical Association’s JAMA Network Open journal. 

That can be true for Olympians.

Roberts said. “It’s a very stressful time and we all try to keep this good mindset. “If you need help, reach out and talk to somebody about it. Don’t try to handle everything yourself because this is one of the harder ones.”

Chidester said she’s confident that she and her fellow Olympians plan to participate in 2021.

Chidester said, “I’ve been embracing all of it and, eventually, getting right mentally. It helps knowing it’s not over for us and that we’re going to have another shot.”

Even though the games will be delayed, the Olympic torch will continue burning in Japan.

“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,” the International Olympic Committee said. “Therefore, it was agreed that the Olympic flame will stay in Japan.”

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