Dalilah Muhammad celebrates winning gold at the IAAF World Athletics Championships Doha 2019 on Oct. 04, 2019 in Doha, Qatar.
Five months after a global pandemic brought the world to a screeching halt — and delayed the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 one year — things are slowly starting back up again. And that goes for Team USA athletes as well.
While there is still a lot of uncertainty about how the next 12 months are going to look, athletes are beginning to take competition opportunities as they become safely available.
And even with events still to come, 2016 Olympic gold medalist hurdler Dalilah Muhammad already has a jam-packed schedule. Her crazy timeline is nothing like it would have been had COVID-19 not occurred, but she admitted that “having that downtime and getting things refocused” has her looking forward to Tokyo 2021.
“I think it will be a good year,” she said.
Here is what the first American woman to win gold at the Olympics in the 400-meter hurdles has on her schedule the year leading up to the Tokyo Games.
The Next Few Months
Training, training and more training.
No surprise here – the next few months are packed full of training and preparing for competitions.
For months the 400-meter hurdles world recorder holder has been unable to train on a track near her home in Los Angeles.
“When quarantine hit, I got everything I would need for a home gym,” the world championship gold medalist said.
The USATF instituted a stipend allowing elite athletes to purchase training equipment to use at home while stay-at-home orders were in place.
But “just this past week a high school invited us to train on their track,” she said, allowing her to resume the running program her coach puts together.
With the pandemic throwing a wrench in many athlete’s schedule, Muhammad is taking the time to enjoy some much needed family time that normally wouldn’t be possible.
“Normally I would run until September, but because this year is so different we’re going to take the month of August off and get back to it in September,” she said about her plans to spend the break visiting family in New York.
“We will start hitting it hard in November, but now it’s just about getting my body ready,” she said. “November is when we’ll start getting ready to run some races in January.”
Because of that, her training schedule will be fairly consistent going forward.
“My day will start around 7 or 7:30am at the gym until 9, followed by the track from 9am-1pm Monday to Friday, and sometimes Saturday. The gym I will do two to three times a week,” said Muhammad. "It starts by running longer distances."
“A good staple workout for us in the fall is 8-10 300s with anywhere from 45-90 second rests. Or we’ll do 3-peat 300s, or 4-peat 400s. Since we used to train at a university, we’re unsure what that will look like going forward, but come November — when we start picking up the pace — we might have to make some adjustments or changes.”
It’s A New Year – Goodbye, 2020!
Even without any races lined up for 2021 yet, Muhammad says she’ll be ready no matter what.
Her first event of the year will likely be the NYRR Millrose Games at the Armory, the world’s longest-running indoor track and field competition, in February.
Following the Millrose Games, Muhammad will start competing at larger indoor events like the 2021 Toyota USATF Indoor Championships and the World Athletics Indoor Championships.
As the seasons change, so do the races. Come April Muhammad will transition from indoor competitions to outdoor.
“By late April I will start racing my first outdoor races,” she said. “We will be running faster and training less. Quality will be more, and quantity will be less.”
The Final Countdown – One Month Until The Games
“One month before Tokyo will determine if we’re going [to the Games] or not,” Muhammad said. “And then literally — right after your race — you’ll do national team processing for Tokyo. It’s when we’ll get some of our gear for the Games, they’ll take all our sizing and have us fill out medical forms, and we’ll give them our diet so they can make sure to have everything we need in Tokyo,” she said.
The U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials will take place June 18-27 in Eugene, Oregon.
Following the team selection and prior to every Games, Team USA athletes are flown to a location (not usually in the host country) where in less than two days they are whisked through team processing.
“This is when we do the full Olympic team processing,” she said, “where we get the rest of our gear and meet athletes from the other sports who also qualified for Tokyo.”
Before the start of the Games, the track and field national team gets together one last time for a one-week training camp.
"Typically,” she said, “it wouldn’t be held in the same country as the Olympics, but since Japan is so far, it will most likely be where training camp is as well — just probably not in Tokyo.”
The only requirements for the location are it needs to be similar climate and time zone as the Games.
It’s Game Time
The Opening Ceremony of the Olympic Games Tokyo 2021 kicks off on July 23 with track and field events planned for the last 10 days of the Games.
Muhammad made her Olympic debut at the Olympic Games Rio 2016 where she won gold in the 400-meter hurdles. Next year she hopes to defend her title as the best 400-meter hurdler in the world.
Since her debut, Muhammad has gone on to win the gold medal in the 400 hurdles at the 2019 World Championships, setting the current world record with a time of 52.16 seconds.