CHULA VISTA, Calif. — As the COVID-19 pandemic has forced a total stoppage of sports around the globe, the 2020 Olympic Games seem to be the next shoe to fall.
Though the International Olympic Committee has not reached an official decision yet, IOC member Dick Pound told USA Today on Monday that the games have been postponed until 2021.
Even with the crossed wires, though, one thing is clear: This year’s Summer Olympics, set to begin in Tokyo in late July, are headed for a delay one way or another.
For Johnsonburg native and world-class javelin thrower Michael Shuey, who was working toward qualifying for the games, the likely deferment comes as no surprise.
“When you look back on the whole spread of the virus and everything, it’s understandable,” Shuey said. “When you look at the sports involved in the Olympics, it makes sense. Right now, some of the places you need to train, like a pool, are closed, and with team sports, athletes are at home and trying to stay in shape and not playing together.”
With the event’s fate all but decided, Shuey is taking an upbeat approach to the situation, and is looking at the delay as an opportunity to continue getting better.
The 2012 graduate of Johnsonburg High has resided at the Chula Vista (Calif.) Elite Athlete Center, located just outside of San Diego, since September of 2018, and has steadily risen through the world javelin ranks in that span. Currently slotted as the No. 27 javelin hurler in the world and No. 1 in the United States, Shuey was on pace to qualify for this year’s games.
With another year of training, though, Shuey says his prospects could get even better, and he’ll continue to work as hard as he can.
“It doesn’t impact my training at all, and I’m excited for the opportunity to get another year of training to improve how I would’ve done in the Olympics, if I were to make it,” he said. “I’m just trying to have a positive mindset. Every year of training, I get a little better in my technique, so I’m excited to get a whole year of more training under my belt.”
And, he added, if the Olympics are moved back a year, 2021 shapes up to be one full of excitement for track athletes, as the World Championships are slated to be held in Eugene, Oregon in August of that year.
“That would be a really exciting year for major competitions if everything goes to plan for my career,” Shuey said. “It would be fun to do the Olympics and then the World Championships later in the year.”
In the meantime, the former Penn Stater says his day-to-day life at the Elite Athlete Center, which houses about 70 athletes, hasn’t changed much, though there are some new restrictions. Shuey still practices each day, still resides at the facility and can even still lift weights — though only in an outdoor setting.
The biggest changes were the cancelation of group camps, like those for youth U.S. Soccer teams, and now the Center is only able to be accessed by athletes and personnel. In addition, athletes can only use sports medicine rooms in emergency situations.
“At the beginning (of the outbreak), there were a lot of camps here, but when the virus started spreading quickly, they pulled everything except for resident athletes who have been living here,” Shuey said. “After a couple days, they closed the weight room, but we have one outside we can use since it’s open-air. Other than that, most of the facilities are still okay to use. We just get our meals to go, since we’re not allowed to sit in a confined cafeteria space.”
Currently, the campus is home to the U.S. archery, rugby and track and field teams, as well as the Czech Republic’s rowing team and the Chinese track and field throwing team. Shuey says the staff on site has done an “amazing” job of keeping conditions sanitary and that the athletes themselves are adapting to the situation.
With all of that in mind, Shuey feels safe even as the virus spreads.
“I don’t feel at risk. The group of people here, we don’t do anything else; nobody really has a job,” he said. “Everybody trains and lives here, and everyone has an understanding that we don’t go to downtown (San Diego) or to populated areas right now. Everybody is very conscious about whatever they do affects everyone else, so we’re on the same page.”
And that makes it easier to just focus on training for events, even if it isn’t clear when those will be held again.
“For the rest of the season, we’ll just have to wait and see how the virus spreads and whether or not the country can get it under control to have some sort of track season later in the summer,” Shuey said. “I’ll be excited to open up, though. Practices have gone well, and (the Elite Athlete Center) is capable of holding meets. So if things clear up, we’ll probably have some track meets here in Chula Vista.”