Unlike other sporting events, Olympic dreams can only be realized once every four years.
If an athlete misses making his or her country’s team or comes up short of winning a medal in the Games, the wait can be excruciatingly long.
But in the case of about a dozen LSU track and field athletes who continue to chase those dreams in their post-collegiate years by training year-round at the school, waiting another year won’t hurt.
In this case, it was welcomed when the International Olympic Committee announced Tuesday it was postponing the 2020 Games for a year as opposed to the many events that have been canceled outright because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Pole vaulter Mondo Duplantis, who likely would have been favored to win gold in Tokyo after setting the world indoor record Feb. 18, is among those who agree health and safety are worth delaying Olympic glory another year.
“It’s a bummer that I won't be able to compete in the Olympics this year, but you have to understand the situation. Understand that some things are a little bigger than sport,” Duplantis, 20, told Reuters via Skype.
The 20-year-old Duplantis is one of a large group of former and current track and field athletes who train under LSU coach Dennis Shaver at Bernie Moore Track Stadium and in the adjacent Carl Maddox Field House — facilities that have been locked tight since the school was shuttered almost two weeks ago.
When the NCAA canceled all winter and spring championships March 12, Shaver’s attention immediately turned to the athletes — both present and past — he works with.
Because the U.S. Olympic Trials were scheduled to be held June 19-28 in Eugene, Oregon, Shaver knew there wouldn’t be a lot of time to train properly even if the worldwide concerns were to subside by April or May.
While the IOC initially dragged its feet on making a decision about the Games, it had become increasingly clear something would have to happen soon.
“We needed this to happen in a big way for our athletes. … It was the right thing to do,” Shaver said of the IOC postponing the Games rather than canceling them.
“To be honest, I was hoping for at least one (a one-year postponement),” he said, “but I was praying for two because there are still some concerns about whether we’ll have a vaccine for this by next year.”
But, at least for now anyway, there is something to look forward to next year that protects the athletes, officials and spectators.
“I was already expecting it to be pushed back,” said former LSU quartermiler Vernon Norwood, a veteran of two indoor and two outdoor World Championship meets. “This virus is pretty serious; it’s very overwhelming to a lot of people.
“Everything is canceled, but you have to look at everybody’s safety. It was the best thing to do with all this going on, so I’m satisfied the way they handled it.”
Cassandra Tate, Lolo Jones, Kimberlyn Duncan, Mikiah Brisco, Aleia Hobbs and Quincy Downing are among the other former LSU stars training under Shaver.
Like Norwood, Tate said safety is the highest priority.
Yet, not knowing what would happen with the Olympics was becoming a major concern for her and her local training partners.
“It was the best decision for the health of everybody,” Tate said. “But we were playing the waiting game for so long. We were just trying to find ways to train because LSU, the high schools and parks are all shut down.”
Tate, an intermediate hurdler, found it extremely difficult training for that event in the streets of her neighborhood off Burbank Drive.
“We couldn’t properly train for something that could be happening in a few months,” she said.
Even though the Olympics have been officially pushed back, Shaver said no decision has been made yet on the Trials. He said if the situation improves, USA Track & Field could still have the national championships held in non-Olympic years later this summer.
“The (European) summer circuit hasn’t been canceled yet. … If things go well, competition wouldn’t start until June 20,” Shaver said.
“That may be impossible, but they’ve got to be prepared. They’re professionals, that’s how they make their living — by competing.”