The postponement of the Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo due to the global coronavirus pandemic might cost American pole vaulter Jenn Suhr, who will be 39 in 2021, a shot at another gold medal.
But after experiencing a life-threatening respiratory illness at the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro, more Olympic glory is last on the minds of Suhr and her coach/husband Rick.
"Not always do I find myself unable to put thoughts into words," Jenn Suhr said in a Facebook post. "The current situation our world is facing is bigger than the Olympic Games. I am not ignoring the media request but I feel extremely selfish talking about sports with the heartache, hardship, and sadness this country and world are facing and going to face."
Suhr was among the athletes reacting to a USA TODAY story Monday in which IOC member Dick Pound said a decision had been made to postpone the 2020 Summer Games, which were to start in late July. These athletes spoke prior to Tuesday's official announcement from Japan that the Games would be delayed and "held by the summer of 2021."
To many athletes, the news was not unexpected.
“Of course every single athlete was looking forward to competing in the 2020 Olympic Games this summer,” soccer star Carli Lloyd said Monday. “As the world has dealt with an unprecedented virus that continues to escalate, postponement seemed inevitable.
“I do believe this is the right thing to do to ensure the health of spectators, workers, healthcare systems and athletes around the world.”
For now, Lloyd is left to continue training until she can compete again.
“I have a great gym in our basement with a treadmill and all the body weight equipment I need to work out with,” she said. “I also have some grass around our house to be able to do some running and ball work. At the moment, I have been going to empty fields to run and get my workouts in.”
Lloyd last played on March 11 in the finale of the SheBelieves Cup against Japan in Frisco, Texas.
With colleges campuses shut down (not to mention two Olympic training centers), it had become impossible for elite track and field athletes to train, since most use their facilities.
"As for now, the work continues and even though there’s many obstacles, I’m still going to work just as hard to shoot for more moments like this in the future," American distance runner Karissa Schweizer said on Twitter. "Nevertheless, the Olympics brings the world together and even if that doesn’t happen this year, I have hope that when it does happen, it will just make it all even more special."
Bradley Adkins, a former Texas Tech high jumper, represented the U.S. in Rio. He said a delay is the right thing and is “surprised that the news came as late as it did.”
But he sympathizes with others like him who have been training for something that can be realized only once every four years.
“Absolutely, for a lot of people this is what they live for,” Adkins said. “There’s definitely a lot of hurt and heartbreak that comes with it, and I understand that.”
WNBA basketball player Angel McCoughtry, who played in college at Louisville, said when she first heard the news the Games would be postponed, she was "shocked ... but I’m also happy at the same time because of the certain circumstances. I had just saw that Canada and Australia were probably taking out their athletes. It’s just no fun if people are dropping out like flies. I think it’s a great move from the Olympics to move it back.
"We don’t need any spread. It’s just different times. "
Swimmer Madisyn Cox is ranked sixth in the world and fourth in the U.S. in the 200-meter individual medley and 11th in the world and third in the U.S. in the 400 individual medley. She turns 25 in May, and her high school coach in Lubbock, Texas, Trey Hayes, said a delay could derail what might be her last chance to make an Olympic team.
“Her plan was to start medical school in August after the Olympics,” Hayes said. “I don’t know what that’s going to do to her. I don’t know if she’s going to continue to swim or not.”
Jenn Suhr's future is unclear as well. Some of that stems from her experience with the life-threatening effects of viral respiratory illnesses.
Doctors never determined what exactly Suhr contracted at the Rio Games where she struggled to a seventh-place finish after being favored to defend her gold medal won in 2012 in London.
But after a few more days in Brazil, the Fredonia, New York native returned to the United States and was bed-ridden for five weeks.
To this day, Suhr, 38, feels the effects of her illness whenever attempting to run long distances, making her believe she has scarring on her lungs, leading to reduced cardio vascular endurance, Rick Suhr said.
“She’s compromised in that way and she just won’t recover (a next time),’’ he said in an earlier interview with the Rochester (New York) Democrat and Chronicle. “This is hard on us because of what she went through in 2016 and this is her comeback, her shot, and she’s jumping extremely well right now. We’ve relocated our lives to train for this thing, living six months in Texas. ... Maybe it’s time to move on with our lives and do something else."
Leo Roth writes for the Rochester (New York) Democrat and Chronicle; Tom Rimback writes for the Burlington County (New Jersey) Times
Contributing: Don Williams, the Lubbock (Texas) Avalanche-Journal; Louisville Courier Journal