Aspiring Olympians at least now know that the Tokyo Games are postponed until sometime in the coming year.
The decision announced Tuesday by the International Olympic Committee and Japanese organizers to postpone the Summer Games is the first step for athletes and their coaches to figure out how to move forward. The action is expected to impact tens of thousands of athletes worldwide who hope to eventually represent their countries in Tokyo in the 33 sports.
Here is what it looks like for a few of the Bay Area’s top Olympic prospects:
Kerri Walsh Jennings / Beach Volleyball
Walsh Jennings of Saratoga has been pushing to make her sixth Olympic team. But now she would be close to 43-years-old by the time the Tokyo Games are held in 2021. The three-time gold medal winner in beach volleyball will get an extra year to compete with new partner Brooke Sweat, which could help in her pursuit. The team is currently ranked fifth in the provisional international Olympic rankings. Two U.S. teams will compete in Tokyo. As of now, two-time Olympian April Ross and Stanford graduate Alix Klineman are ranked second. Walsh Jennings and Sweat are being chased by two other American teams ranked sixth and seventh.
Katie Ledecky / Swimming
Ledecky had lined up major sponsors Visa and Panasonic, and others yet to be announced, for the buildup to Tokyo. As one of the world’s biggest names in swimming, the Stanford student hoped to capitalize on her fame in her third Olympics. Presumably, nothing will change although Ledecky took a year’s leave from Stanford to focus on swimming and her sponsorship projects. She had hoped to earn a degree in psychology in 2021, Ledecky said. A five-time Olympic champion, Ledecky probably would have to request another leave now. That was not on her mind Tuesday when she tweeted, “As we stand together to meet today’s challenges, we can dream about a wonderful Olympics in a beautiful country. Now is the time to support all those working to heal the sick and keep us all healthy.”
Reagan Smith / Swimming
Smith, a Minnesota teen, was planning to enter Stanford in the fall quarter as a freshman. But now Smith, who broke world records in 100-meter and 200-meter backstroke events at the 2018 swimming World Championships, probably needs to defer enrollment for a year. It would be difficult to navigate being a Stanford freshman, compete on the school swim team and prepare for the Olympics. It also might lead Smith to forgo college eligibility and turn professional a year before the 2024 Games in Paris.
Kathleen Baker / Swimming
Baker, 23, a two-time Olympic medalist, turned professional in 2018 and did not complete her final year of collegiate eligibility at Cal. Part of the reason to not swim for the Golden Bears was to help manage stress levels from Crohn’s disease, an inflammatory bowel disorder.
While she might lose sponsorship opportunities postponing the Games for about a year could protect Baker because Crohn’s puts her in a higher-risk group to contract COVID-19.
Jackson Yueill and JT Marcinkowski / Men’s soccer
The Earthquakes Yueill and Marcinkowski were preparing for Olympic qualifying in men’s soccer in Guadalajara, Mexico when CONCACAF officials canceled the tournament a week ago. For Yueill, a midfielder for the U.S. senior national team, the postponement leaves a lot of uncertainty. The men’s Olympic tournament is essentially an under-23 competition. Yueill will turn 24 in 2021. Marcinkowski, a goalkeeper from Alamo, is in better shape because he won’t turn 23 until May 2021.
Yueill told this new organization Tuesday that he hopes soccer officials allow the current age-eligible athletes to compete whenever the Tokyo Games are held.
“That being said, we as players who might miss out on the event understand the priorities of safety for all participants, families, spectators, staff and people of the world,” he said. “Unfortunately, at the moment it is out of our hands and we just have to wait to see what happens next.”
Megan Rapinoe /Women’s soccer
The world champion U.S. team already has qualified for the Tokyo Games. But the competition to make the 18-roster has been fierce for veterans such as Rapinoe, who will turn 36 in July 2021. Rapinoe, who grew up in Redding, has said she is not ready to quit. “I want to play at the highest level I can play at,” she told this news organization and the Los Angeles Times last month. “If I’m not there that’s not going to feel good for me and I’m not going to want to even play if I am sort of half-assing it and not perform at the level I want to.”
Alexander Massialas and Gerek Meinhardt /Fencing
Massialas, a two-time Olympic medalist in foil, is better off than many of the athletes. He lives at home in San Francisco with his father and coach, Greg Massialas. So does sister Sabrina Massialas, who as of now would qualify for the Olympic women’s foil team. The fencers will continue training on the desk, Greg Massialas said.
Gerek Meinhardt of San Francisco also is part of the U.S. men’s foil that is ranked No. 1 in the world but he is living in Kentucky where he planned to enter medical school at the University of Kentucky after the Tokyo Games. Greg Massialas said his fencer will defer for another year to prepare for the Summer Olympics. His new wife, Lee Kiefer, one of the world’s top female fencers, had planned to graduate from Kentucky’s school of medicine next year but probably also will need to hold off to make her third Olympic team.