The first and most vivid memory that jumps into Laurie Corbelli’s mind regarding her participation in the 1984 Olympic Games was the walk down the tunnel of the Los Angeles Coliseum during the opening ceremonies.
“The minute we came down the ramp and we knew our flag had just entered the stadium, that place went ballistic,” Corbelli said. “Ninety-thousand people stood up screaming and yelling.”
“I’ll never forget that moment,” the former Texas A&M volleyball head coach continued. “That’s probably the best moment I have.”
Citing Olympic committee member Dick Pound, USA Today reported Monday that the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games will be postponed due to the worldwide spread of COVID-19, most likely to the summer of 2021. While the change in schedule is disappointing on the surface, it provides a chance for athletes to experience that opening-night rush along with a proper amount of time to train.
Last week, former Aggie javelin thrower and 2016 Team USA Olympian Maggie Malone participated in a 300-plus American athlete conference call, of which an overwhelming majority said they would not want the games played behind closed doors.
“Everybody was like, ‘Absolutely not,’” Malone said. “This is the biggest moment of an athlete’s life, and it’s just not worth it.”
Malone added the group of athletes also strongly acknowledged the importance of social distancing until the threat of the novel coronavirus subsides, which would be impossible as athletes and crowds from around the world would descend on Japan.
As the general populations of most countries have taken to self-isolation policies, so too have Olympic hopefuls in America, limiting their ability to properly train.
Since graduating from A&M, Malone has moved to Auburn, Alabama, after helping found a group called the USA Javelin Project. The training group consists of Malone and six other former Southeastern Conference athletes, coached by two-time Olympian and six-time U.S javelin champion Tom Pukstys.
To help prevent the spread of the coronavirus, Malone has been forced to make do in creative ways.
“[Training] looks like training in the front yard of my boyfriend’s parents’ house, as well as sneaking on to high school tracks so I can throw javelin,” Malone said. “Javelin throwers are different than other sports. Runners, you can go run. We have an implement that we need space and grass.”
The cycle of training that most Olympic track athletes follow has been broken because of the need for isolation and will take time to ramp back up. Hypothetically, if athletes were allowed to begin their training cycle again during the first week of April, they would not be back to full speed until July, Malone said.
So, she is in favor of a move at least to the summer of 2021, if not all the way to 2022.
“I personally am in favor of two years,” Malone said. “I think one year is great too. I’m glad they decided to postpone. I think we needed to make a decision. Nothing is set in stone yet, so we’ll see what we come up with, but I think two years makes sense, and I think it would be fantastic to link back up with the Winter Olympics.”
The one-year buffer would give American athletes a chance to set qualifying standards during NCAA meets, including those who have already used up their eligibility. It would then give USA Track & Field enough time to put together a standard qualifying meet.
“There will be a bunch of people that have qualifying standards, but there will be a whole bunch of people that could possibly make our Olympic team and more than likely will make our Olympic team that won’t have a qualifying standard, because there won’t be any meets leading up to the U.S. Championships,” A&M track and field coach Pat Henry said. “The whole thing would have to change. If they do it real quickly right now, it really doesn’t help.”
Henry also is in favor of pushing the Olympics back two years, as to not interfere with the World Athletics Championships in August of 2021.
However, no matter the delay, Henry praised the resilience of all athletes wanting to compete at that level.
“It really doesn’t make any difference right now, if they delay it a year, people would be ready to go.”