KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – Over 4,000 American athletes who are Olympic hopefuls will have to wait another year for the summer games to begin in Tokyo.
On Tuesday, Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach agreed to postpone the Tokyo 2020 Olympics as the coronavirus pandemic continues.
When the games finally arrive, softball will make its long awaited Olympic return. Former Lady Vols pitcher Monica Abbott, who still holds the NCAA records for career strikeouts (2,440), innings pitched (1,448.0), victories (189) and starts (206), waited 12 years to pitch in an Olympic game. Abbott is not concerned about having to wait one more.
“I think it’s a good thing,” Abbott said on her Instagram stories on Tuesday. “As a global citizen, as someone that’s invested in people not only in my own inner circle and in my own community but also in the world and in a sport that is global like softball, it’s important that everyone has the opportunity to train and to be healthy and to put on the best show possible. This sport has grown tremendously since 2008 and the last Olympics and it’s only going to get even better if they give us one more year, six more months, whenever it is.”
Team USA is one of six teams that will play in the Tokyo Olympics. While Abbott won a silver medal in the Beijing Olympics in 2008, Tennessee senior swimmer Erika Brown was on pace to make her Olympics debut this summer.
“I was kind of relieved because I think that we’ve been, as athletes, stressed and feeling like we need to go out and train,” Brown said in an interview with WKRN sports reporter Emily Proud. “It’s not easy to find pools to train in when all of them are starting to shut down so it was kind of a relief because I think at this point the health and safety of everyone is the most important thing. But then my heart does go out to people that maybe this was their last opportunity. Maybe they can’t train for another year so it’s kind of a mix of emotions.”
Brown is swimming better now than ever before, winning her third-consecutive SEC title in the 50 free, 100 free and 100 fly at the SEC Championships in February. Brown’s 50 free (21.03) and 100 free (45.83) broke the SEC records while her 100 fly (49.38) broke the American record. The Charlotte, N.C. native was hoping to make a splash at the NCAA Championships that were scheduled to start March 18 before the event was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“It was very upsetting just because of this amazing season we’ve had,” Brown said. “It’s more than just going to a meet with your team. We really are a family and we had been training for that moment and planning and working towards that moment for the whole entire year so that being taken away hurt.”
Since the NCAA Championships were canceled, Brown and several of her teammates had been working towards a run at the Olympics but it was getting increasingly more difficult to find a pool to train in.
“We had found a pool in Alcoa so it was about 30 minutes away and we were training once a day and I was just grateful for that but Monday morning, Knox county shut down pretty much every pool so we really haven’t been able to train and that’s another reason why I was just so thankful to find out that the Olympics was postponed because if we are going to be out of the water, there’s no way you can be as good as you would be if you were training. I was ready, I was really excited and I was ready but as soon as that training was taken away and I was really unsure about what was to come, even tomorrow, I’m not sure what training is going to look like. I can do my best to plan but it was definitely a relief.”
If Brown does reach the global spotlight in Tokyo, the Summer Olympics will still be called the Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 even if they take place in 2021.