Karissa Schweizer’s coach told her to be ready for anything, so Tuesday’s postponement of the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo wasn’t so much of a shock.
Her coaches from Bowerman Track Club in Portland, Oregon, let her know Monday that it was likely the Games for which she has been training were going to move to another date.
Schweizer, the former University of Missouri middle- and long-distance track and field star, was in the midst of a breakout professional season highlighted by becoming an American record-holder when the IOC and Japan announced the postponement due to COVID-19. Now, that season comes to a screeching halt.
A statement by the IOC on Tuesday said the Games will be moved to “an unspecified date beyond 2020 but no later than the summer of 2021.” The Games are being delayed for the first time in Olympics history, though they were canceled altogether in 1916, 1940 and 1944 due to World War I and World War II.
“I think there was just a lot of uncertainty in the air and we didn’t know what that meant for training,” Schweizer said Tuesday evening. “Honestly, we were all just hoping that they weren’t just going to cancel it. So there is a bright side in it. Although we have to wait another year, I think it’s way better than having to wait four more years.”
The decision is bittersweet for Schweizer. She won’t have to wait for the 2024 Summer Games in Paris, but she won’t get a chance to continue a season where she has already reached new heights.
She became the indoor 3,000-meter American record-holder at the Boston University Last Chance Invitational only a month ago. She left behind her Bowerman TC teammates in the homestretch and crossed the finish line with a time of 8:25.70 blinking on the scoreboard at the Boston University Track Center on Feb. 27.
“I definitely didn’t expect it,” she said. “Going into it I knew I was in really good shape and I knew that it’s been a time coming for me to kind of put it all together ... Honestly, crossing the finish line it was just so exciting and seeing the time, it was just unbelievable.”
In October, she finished ninth in the 5,000-meter run at the IAAF Championships in Doha, Qatar. Her time of 14:45.18 made her the fifth-fastest American woman in history at that distance. Schweizer was turning the corner as one of the top distance runners in the world just in time for what was to be her first Olympic appearance.
“It definitely stung because I know I’m in really good shape right now, and it would be fun to showcase that more,” Schweizer said. “But I’m also looking back and I’m grateful that I was able to do that this indoor season before everything went crazy.”
Now, Schweizer is focusing on training for a season with an indefinite start date. A week ago, she was meeting her teammates for core training and had in-person communication with coaches for workouts preparing for the Olympic Trials in Eugene, Oregon, in late June. That changed to email and phone communication, with core and individual work being done at home while Schweizer and other athletes practice social distancing.
Schweizer rearranged her home to fit a new gym into her bedroom, complete with yoga mats and dumbbells to give her space for core workouts that include doing drills through her apartment halls.
She has met with teammates a couple of times to complete running workouts, but said that likely will change and become solo work — just herself and her upbeat running playlist.
“I feel like each week has just escalated (to more individual workouts) so much of what we’re doing now, so hopefully in like three of four weeks we will see that go down. But for now it’s not looking that way,” Schweizer said.
Without the Olympic Trials for which to prepare, Schweizer’s training is switching to longer mileage runs that will set her up for next season. Now, at least, the pressure of qualifying for an Olympic team is gone for the next year.
”I just wanted to get on that team so bad,” Schweizer said. “So I think now in a way, it’s kind of relieving. It takes back the nerves a little bit and gives me more time to just build that base and regain focus, because I know that I’ve been consistently there so I have faith that I can get back to this fitness and come back even better for the next year.”