DMT Beauty Transformation: 7 Would-Be 2020 Olympians On What They’re Doing Now
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7 Would-Be 2020 Olympians On What They’re Doing Now

April 15, 2020DMT Beauty

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Every four years, we get to watch the magic that is the Olympic Games, where the most talented athletes in the world gather to compete in their sport and represent their country. This June would have been the 29th summer Olympic Games. That is, until coronavirus began sweeping the world in December of last year. As early as February, rumors began to circulate that the 2020 Olympic Games would be suspended due to COVID-19. Then it was made official: The event would be delayed to 2021.

This has been unanimously hailed as the right and responsible decision. But for the athletes who were prepared to compete in the 2020 Games, the story is a little more complicated. Some have put their lives on hold in anticipation of participating in a June event, and may struggle to do that for another year. Others have training plans that are seriously affected by shelter in place and social distancing rules.

Refinery29 has spoken to seven athletes about their journey to the Olympics and what it feels like to have to postpone competing this year.

Tati Weston-Webb, 23, Surfing


Refinery29: How have you been preparing for the upcoming Olympics?
Tati Weston-Webb: "I was training tons during the off season getting ready for the start of the championship tour. I surf and physical train as well. I was gearing up mentally as well because I wasn't only training for the Olympics. We would've been chasing a World Title at the same time! It’s a marathon of a year, so we really have to be ready mentally."

When did you realize that the games may be postponed because of COVID-19?
"I never actually thought the games would be postponed because everyone made it seem like they weren't going to postpone anything.

"I talked to the Brazilian Olympic committee almost every day after the World Surf League events were canceled to stay updated on if they were making any specific decisions about the Olympics."

How do you feel about the decision to postpone the games?
"I'm truly grateful, because I haven't competed since December, and I was looking forward to competing and practicing during my WSL events, and then they were all canceled/postponed. So just knowing that I wasn't going to compete until May was a strange feeling. It’s so strange though! I'm still trying to process everything that's going on just like everyone else."

What are you planning on doing this summer instead? Will you continue training or take a break?
"Well, I guess May is when we find out if we will be competing again or not for the WSL... that being said I will probably wait until this pandemic is over and if we won't compete, I would love to go on some surf trips and get some amazing waves.

"I will continue training for sure! I love training, and surfing is my passion, I do it every day if I can. It’s more of a lifestyle, but at the same time, I want to maintain a healthy lifestyle by training in and out of the water and doing things I love the most."

Has this changed the way you’re preparing for the games?
"I don't think so, I haven't quite put much thought into it other than I have more time to work on things that I can get better at in my surfing, which is great!"

Kate Nye, 21, Weightlifting


Refinery29: How have you been preparing for the upcoming Olympics?
Kate Nye: "I train six days a week. For me, I haven't changed my training routine at all because I train in my garage at home. I've been training like usual recently, the only thing that has really changed is the access to recovery modalities like going to the sauna or physical therapy or massage, that sort of thing."

When did you realize that the games may be postponed because of COVID-19?
"There was a time I kind of realized it was inevitable. When the NCAA canceled the rest of their seasons, I thought that was pretty telling of the severity that was going on and that's when I finally went from complete denial to this is definitely a possibility that I have to accept. It was such a big deal.

"When the pro leagues were shutting down it was different. There's usually nothing special about any given year, most people are going to come back the next year and make millions of dollars anyway. But for the NCAA, there are seniors there. They'll never get to do that again, similar to the Olympics in some ways. That's when I thought it was for real."

How do you feel about the decision?
"To be clear, I do think it is the right decision that needed to be made. I thought it was the best thing for the sake of public health, and I don't think it would be a safe situation if it would have gone on as planned.

"It wouldn't have been a normal Olympic experience anyway: having to worry about a virus or not having spectators, or things getting canceled leading up to it like media summits and galas. Not that that's the most important thing in the world, but you work so hard for these opportunities. At the end of it, I was like, maybe next year is a good idea for health in general and so we can all get the experiences we deserve after working so hard.

"Obviously I was disappointed and it took a few days to come around to accepting it but even in the beginning I was like, that needed to happen."

What are you planning on doing this summer instead?
"I'm in the middle of a training block right now that will probably finish and then after me and my coach will sit down and re-evalutate my plan for the next year. I'll probably have to take a long break, two weeks to a month off, just to give my body a break. I have a German shepherd puppy, and we're actually getting another one soon. My family and I also love going up north in Michigan and spend some time in Traverse City to enjoy the lake."

Will you continue training or take a break?
"We have a full extra year that we weren't planning on training in. My guess is sometime this summer, even fall, I'll be dialing it back a lot and taking a breather."

Has this changed the way you’re preparing for the games for 2021?
"I'm pretty young in my sport I've only been weight lifting for four years. I was a contender for a bronze or silver medal this year, where gold was completely out of reach. I'm kind of excited about it because it gives me an opportunity to possibly work into gold medal contention. A whole year is a lot, and I don't know how much I can progress, but I feel like I have it in me to at least give that potential a shot."

Brighton Zeuner, 15, Skateboarding


Refinery29: How have you been preparing for the upcoming Olympics? What was your normal routine prior to the games being postponed?
Brighton Zeuner: "Up until the COVID-19 outbreak I mostly had just been skating and filming with RedBull and other sponsors regularly.  I was also working out about three times a week at home with my parents, with lots of stretching and walks outside, which we’re continuing to do."

When did you realize that the games may be postponed because of COVID-19?
"I’d watch the news with my family and see more reports of travel bans and/or restrictions… It made us realize that the final qualifying season was prob not going to happen, then my mom got an email from Team USA saying it had been officially suspended."

How do you feel about the decision?
"I had so many different things going on all at the same time leading up to the qualifying events… filming an official skate part for RedBull, my own line with Vans and the Olympic promos that although I
 was sad to see it suspended, a part of me welcomed slowing down a little and catching my breath and spending more quiet time with the family. It also made me think that when NBC and other media are ready to promote it all again, that I’ll know more of how those things work and I’ll be even more excited.  It also means that with the break, I can just be skateboarder like before and remember why I loved it from the beginning."

What are you planning on doing this summer instead? Will you continue training or take a break?
"Hopefully the stay-at home order is lifted soon so I can finish filming my part with RedBull, skate a bunch with my friends, and get in some family travel. I’m having a pretty big break now, so I’m sure there will be lots of skateboarding and working to stay fit and healthy, as soon as the parks open up again."

Has this changed the way you’re preparing for the games for 2021?
"Not at all. I’ll just keep spending time on my board and working on some of the harder tricks so I can put on a good show with the other skaters."

Melissa Stockwell, 40, Paralympic triathlete


Refinery29: How have you been preparing for the upcoming Olympics?
Melissa Stockwell: "I train at the Olympic training center in Colorado Springs pretty much all day. I'd start out at the pool at 7:30 a.m., then go biking or running outside the complex, and then finish up with strength at 3 p.m. Those facilities closed about a week before they announced the postponement. Up until then, it was business as usual."

When did you realize that the games may be postponed because of COVID-19?
"I mean, we knew things weren't good when those facilities closed and then a few of our races were canceled. Once races started to be canceled through April and May, we kind of maybe thought that they could potentially be postponed. Even though we thought it could happen, it still came as a shock to a lot of us."

How do you feel about the decision?
"We're all thankful that they were postponed and not canceled. It was the right decision, health comes first absolutely. I would think any athlete would say that, that the health and safety of the world [is important]. The Olympics and Paralympics are exactly that, the celebration of sport and coming together.

"At the same time, while a year can seem like nothing to some athletes it can seem like an eternity to others. Some athletes live paycheck to paycheck or they wait for the Games to get out and get another job, some wait for the Games to start a family, personally we moved out to Colorado Springs and my husband and I started a business. We were thinking after the Games, I would be more involved in the business and would do more speaking to bring in more income. Those thoughts creep into your mind but at the end of the day, you want to see a dream through to completion."

What are you planning on doing this summer instead? Will you continue training or take a break?
"I typically travel around the country and give motivational-type speeches to companies and organizations and obviously that's not happening right now. I've been giving some virtual speeches through Zoom where I'm able to tell my story and hopefully inspire employees right now. I have a book coming out in early July of this year called The Power of Choice, and two small children. My summer looks a little different than it did a few months ago but it'll still be busy."

Has this changed the way you’re preparing for the games for 2021?
"It's definitely changed. Before now, we were training with the hopes of peaking within the next couple of months. It was all speed focused, and how fast we can get, and shorter intensity, and now because we have so much time it's kind of back to those baseline miles you could say. Longer distances, it's more about endurance right now. I'm backing off a little bit but still training."

Sakura Kokumai, 27, Karate


Refinery29: How have you been preparing for the upcoming Olympics?
Sakura Kokumai: "For karate, the qualifier process took two years. It started from middle of 2018 and went all the way through to just a few weeks ago. I competed in almost 21 international events and each one of them was a qualifier event. These past two years were really about traveling out of my suitcase, training s I traveled, and trying to get as many points as possible because the first phase of athletes were by world ranking.

"I do a lot of balance, core, and stability training. My discipline, Kata, is a performance-based event. Most of the time I wear my karate gi, the uniform we wear, and practice my technique. In between I work on strength and conditioning."

When did you realize that the games may be postponed because of COVID-19?
"I kind of knew that it was going to happen but I didn't think that way a month ago. I was nervous and a little bit anxious just to know what they were going to do because everything was still so uncertain. At the time, I still had my spot because I already qualified. So there was also the question of, if they postpone will I still keep my spot? There were so many questions. But when they announced it, I was really relieved. It was the right choice."

How do you feel about the decision?
"Now that I know it's next year and I know the timeline, it took a lot of weight off my shoulders because now I can actually train for next year. I'm not too worried about my physical performance, obviously I was really looking forward to competing this year and physically I was going to peak this summer. When they announced it I was disappointed because now I have to reset everything and the logistics and training and the timing of it all. When I think about it, it is a year postponed, but a year to get faster and stronger in my particular sport and discipline. Considering my age, I think my performance next year will be better. In that sense, I'm really excited. I'm looking forward to brainstorming how I can train for next year."

What are you planning on doing this summer instead? Will you continue training or take a break?
"I think these past few weeks, I've been taking a break because everything was unknown and I didn't know what to do. I've already started training, I have a pretty good set up at home where I'm staying. Slowly, I'm taking time to recover mentally and physically but I've gotten back to training. I guess I just have to wait and see how the rest of the events will be this year because for karate we have world championships at the end of the year."

Has this changed the way you’re preparing for the games for 2021?
"I think I have to be very flexible. I think I need to adapt to certain situations. I'm sure it's not going to be the same environment, it's not the same for all of us. Hopefully this quarantine ends soon, and I just have to see where the world is and go from there. There will be a lot of adjustments that need to be made."

Kate Courtney, 24, Mountain Biking

Refinery29: How have you been preparing for the upcoming Olympics?
Kate Courtney: "Typically, I spend a lot of time training at home but I also have training camps throughout the year. The main difference right now in terms of my training is that we're typically in the middle of competition season. A lot of the training right now involves actual racing."

When did you realize that the games may be postponed because of COVID-19?
"Things started to change in my season the first and second weeks of March. We had some competitions canceled and that's when the California lockdown started. Then it seemed likely that our spring campaign would fall off the calendar. We were still holding out hope that the Olympics would be on the calendar and they'd find a way to do it.

"I think over the course of the first two weeks in isolation things evolved so rapidly, it became clear that there was no way to do it where everyone would be safe. As an athlete of course, having an equal playing field is so important. And while cyclists can still train, there are a lot of sports that aren't able to practice or prepare the way they need to."

How do you feel about the decision?
"It was really disappointing, but for me I think it also was a bit of relief to know. The week from when I came home to when they actually canceled the Games was really challenging and I spent a lot of time trying to be motivated and focused with the idea that the Olympics might happen, and that's a really difficult position to be in for athletes. One thing I always say is athletes are really good at dealing with adversity, but we struggle with uncertainty. Now that we have a date on the calendar, we can adjust our plans, we can reset our focus and train with that in mind."

What are you planning on doing this summer instead? Will you continue training or take a break?
"For me right now, it's a bit unknown. We're waiting to find out what's going to happen with the last half of the World Cup season. I'm hoping to switch my target for the season and focus on those World Cups and World Championships at the end of the year, but it's absolutely a possibility that none of those races happen. If that's the case, I think this year is really going to be about resetting and doing everything I can to be physically fit and in the right place to hit the ground running when we do have a visible competition coming up. Also to be able to be mentally and physically recovered so that when the Olympic cycle begins I can really be committed to preparing 100% for 2021."

Has this changed the way you’re preparing for the games for 2021?
"In a lot of ways, what I did to prepare this year has worked really well. It's important to recognize the things that went well in my training and that we want to repeat, but there's also some unique opportunities in terms of acclimation training and altitude training. There are a few things we wanted to test before the Olympics and now we have months and months to try different protocols and be able to study how they work for me."

Brooke Raboutou, 19, Climbing


Refinery29: How have you been preparing for the upcoming Olympics?
Brooke Raboutou: "I was training with my brother a lot actually, he's kind of coaching me. The plan was to gain strength and power and then compete at some of the World Cups to gain experience and get in the competition flow. Obviously all of that has changed has the whole competition season is canceled, the Olympics are postponed, and all of the climbing gyms are closed."

When did you realize that the games may be postponed because of COVID-19?
"I heard about it at the beginning. i'd say but at that point nothing had been canceled so I thought they weren't going to postpone or cancel. Of course it became a much bigger deal and people's lives were at risk as the whole world went into lockdown. That's when it became pretty obvious that something had changed. I was just praying they'd make it work and not cancel it."

How do you feel about the decision?
"It was obvious that it needed to happen. It's frustrating, but I couldn't imagine them leaving those dates because of what's going on in the world right now. It wouldn't be right. I think it's great that they made the decision, and obviously that was a lot of pressure for them as well as the athletes. It was kind of relieving that we could take deep breaths and focus on what we needed to do during this time to help our community. It's changed every single one of my future plans, for me the biggest thing was school. I'm a sophomore at the University of San Diego and I took the semester off to train. Now I'm going to have to take another semester off next year which is hard for me because I really want to go back to school."

What are you planning on doing this summer instead? Will you continue training or take a break?
"I'm always training, even right now at home I have a climbing wall in my basement. My whole family is made up of climbers and athletes so we're all kind of constantly working out and training together. It's fun. It's hard to say what I'm doing this summer because everything is kind of unknown, but I'd love to travel if that's on the table. If things brighten up, I'd say outdoor climbing trips would be my ideal summer."

Has this changed the way you’re preparing for the games for 2021?
"I'm going to take a similar approach, but now I have more time to think about it which is nice. I'll probably change some things, but more or less keep what I've been doing."

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