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U.S. Elite Triathletes React to Postponement of Olympic and Paralympic Games

By Nick Hehemann, USA Triathlon | March 25, 2020, 4:52 p.m. (ET)

The International Olympic and Paralympic Committees announced Tuesday that the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games will be postponed to 2021, due to the ongoing logistical and public health concerns surrounding the COVID-19 global pandemic.

We at USA Triathlon believe this was the right decision to protect the health and safety of athletes, spectators and communities around the world. Still, we recognize the challenges this decision creates for our U.S. Olympic and Paralympic hopefuls who have been preparing for years for the Tokyo 2020 Games.

Despite the shared disappointment, our elite U.S. triathletes and paratriathletes have maintained a positive perspective, as the shift now turns to training and preparing for 2021.

Here was some of the reaction to the news on social media.

Katie Zaferes

World Champion Katie Zaferes knows the 2021 Games will take on even more meaning, as she says that it “will be the first time the world is reuniting and coming together after overcoming such a challenging time together.”


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This was the picture I planned to use to say I’m getting ready for the Olympics. Instead, it’s announcing the postponement. It’s been officially announced that the Olympics will be postponed, but to what date we are not sure (“beyond 2020 but not later than summer 2021”). My feelings now are hard to describe as I think it might take a while for it to really hit me. As people asked me during the early stages of this pandemic if I thought the Olympics would happen my response was, “Well if they don’t then the world has much bigger problems than just the Olympics being canceled.” Which it seems we do. Right now in the state of the world it is neither safe nor sensible for the Olympics to go on as planned. I would much prefer for the Olympics to be rescheduled for a time when everyone is safe, comfortable, happy and able to focus on training and racing; rather than the current state of feeling the need to prioritize sport over being in a place with a feeling of security with the people you love and care about. I thank the IOC, USOPC and all the NGBs for putting everybody’s wellbeing first. So my new hope and dream is that the Tokyo Olympics will happen, I’ll get to be at them, and it will be the first time the world is reuniting and coming together after overcoming such a challenging time together.

A post shared by Katie Zaferes (@kzaferes6) on

Summer Rappaport

Summer Rappaport — the only U.S. triathlete who has qualified for the Games so far — knows the world will use the celebration to “be inspired after the tough times we face now.”

Ben Kanute

Ben Kanute — a 2016 U.S. Olympian and Tokyo Olympic hopeful — has already shifted his focus. “Timelines change, but goals don’t,” Kanute said in an Instagram post.

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Timelines Change, but goals don't. @coachjimvance put it best when describing how we are going to handle the Olympic postponement and coronavirus. It is definitely the right call to postpone for the health and safety of everyone, but there is still disappointment as I was fully prepared to race for an Olympic spot and Olympic medal this year. That disappointment fades pretty quickly as I embrace another year of training and improvement. I still have big goals, and now there is extra time to make sure I am the most prepared I have ever been. For now, it is about the health and safety of the entire world, and getting the spread of the Coronavirus under control. It is encouraging to see people come together virtually to support each other in limiting the impact this virus can have. Humans are remarkable and resilient, and together we will be able to overcome this. #triathlon #tokyo2020 #tokyo2021 #training #coronavirus #swim #bike #run #goals #timeline #overcome #workhard #stayinside #olympics #olympics2020 📸: @tzaferes

A post shared by Ben Kanute (@benkanute) on

Taylor Spivey

Taylor Spivey, who finished fourth in the 2019 ITU World Triathlon Series rankings, knows it’s important to take a step back and realize what’s really important. On Instagram, she said that the “gravity of what’s going on currently far outweighs sport. We can wait, but the situation cannot.”

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The world has been a bit of a blur as of late. . There’s a light at the end of this tunnel.. I’m sure of it.. but we just can’t see it yet. However distant or dim it appears, we press on and do our best to be better than the day before. ✨ If you haven’t heard, the Olympic Games have been postponed. Date TBD “before summer 2021”. This is good news for global health and for athletes with training restrictions right now. . The gravity of what’s going on currently, far out weighs sport. We can wait, but the situation cannot. Postponing the games will alleviate athlete stress and prevent athletes from breaking rules that safeguard public health. Moving the games back will allow for a more fair playing field globally, and a healthier environment for those involved in the Olympic pursuit. . Take care everyone. Our light will come soon enough. 🤍

A post shared by Taylor Spivey (@tkspivey) on

Hailey Danz

Hailey Danz, a 2016 Paralympic Silver Medalist, recognizes that this global crisis is “an opportunity for Olympic and Paralympic athletes to be leaders in doing the right thing.” On Instagram, she shared the following perspective. “When we look back on our lives, I think we’ll be more proud to say that we stood on the right side of history than we will be of anything we accomplished athletically,” Danz said.

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It’s amazing how much perspective can change in just a couple short weeks.⁣ ⁣ Two weeks ago, if you would have told me that the 2020 Paralympics would be postponed or canceled, I would have been devastated. I was on a solid trajectory to have the best performance of my life in Tokyo. After 3.5 years of patience, sacrifice, and meticulous planning, I truly believed that August 29, 2020 was going to be my day. ⁣ ⁣ But as quickly as the landscape of COVID-19 evolved, so too did my mindset. I see now that it would be socially irresponsible to hold the Games as planned, as doing so would surely put the lives of athletes, staff, volunteers and spectators at risk. The Olympics are about uniting the world through sport, and in this case, there is no better way to show that we are united than by agreeing that the health and safety of our global community takes precedent over individual ambition.⁣ ⁣ (To be clear, the news about the postponement of the Games that came out today was an opinion of an IOC member — not an official announcement. That said, postponement is looking more and more likely, and the details of that should be finalized in the next month.)⁣ ⁣ I believe this is an opportunity for Olympic and Paralympic athletes to be leaders in doing the right thing. And when we look back on our lives, I think we’ll be more proud to say that we stood on the right side of history than we will be of anything we accomplished athletically.

A post shared by Hailey Danz (@hailstormusa) on

Aaron Scheidies

Aaron Scheidies — a 2016 Paralympian in cycling and Tokyo paratriathlon hopeful — urged the world to unite in overcoming the COVID-19 pandemic.

Kirsten Kasper

Nine-time Triathlon ITU World Cup medalist Kirsten Kasper expressed gratitude for the decision that was made, thankful that the IOC was “putting the focus on global health and safety.”

Matt McElroy

Rising star Matt McElroy said what year the Olympics takes place doesn’t affect his process and his goals.

Read USA Triathlon’s statement on the postponement of the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games here.