For the first time in the history of the event, the Olympic Games have been postponed.
The International Olympic Committee announced on Monday that the 2020 Tokyo Olympics would be postponed “to a date beyond 2020, but not later than summer 2021” due to COVID-19. According to the Associated Press, the Games have been canceled only three times in their history — 1916, 1940 and 1944 — and all cancellations were because of war.
Texas A&M athletes, both past and present, have been pursuing qualification for the now-postponed games, and according to the athletics department, over 60 Aggies are affected by the postponement. In 2016, 27 Aggies represented A&M at the Rio Olympics.
Men’s swimming and diving head coach Jay Holmes said although the decision is heartbreaking for the athletes, it is also in their best interests.
“At this point, the postponement was the best decision,” Holmes told 12thman.com. “The world’s countries, in most cases, hadn’t had the chance to choose their best athletes yet. If the Games had gone on as planned, it would not be each country’s best against each other. While it’s not a perfect decision, there was nothing that would work better than the postponement of one year.”
While he said he agrees the decision to push back the Olympics is the right one, track and field coach Pat Henry recognizes the challenges that come with it.
"It's been expected, I think the severity of this virus is evident and we have little options,” Henry told 12thman.com. “I think everybody will have to adjust…between now and the Olympic Games some people will have a hard time financially keeping themselves going. It's a huge challenge.”
Track and field junior Tyra Gittens said she is focusing on the positives of the situation.
"I have to change my mindset because we were in-season and my mind was go, go, go,” Gittens told 12thman.com. “Now I have to change my mindset back to training mode. I see it as a blessing in disguise. I'm a big believer in focusing on controlling what you can control; I can control my mentality and how I adapt to the situation."
For former A&M softball player and current infielder for the Mexico Olympic team Tori Vidales, the postponement of the Olympics hits close to home.
“The news is devastating. 2020 meant a lot to our team, finally reaching our peak after fighting an uphill battle,” Vidales told 12thman.com. “Although the Olympics are being pushed back to 2021, I think most athletes are relieved that the games are not being canceled all together. All of the athletes and hopefuls will have another year to train and prepare for one of the most important competitions of our careers.”
For the former athletes who had stayed around Aggieland to train on campus, Holmes said they are now faced with a difficult decision.
“[The athletes] represented Texas A&M at an elite level during their undergraduate days,” Holmes said. “They have stayed around training toward their Olympic dream. Do they keep training for another year, or since they’ve graduated, do they get a real job, move on with their lives, and start earning their own keep?”
With the decision to postpone the Tokyo Games rather than cancel them, the IOC said its goal is for the Olympics to continue to serve as a “beacon of hope” even in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.
For Vidales and the rest of the athletes who are holding onto their Olympic dreams for at least another year, the return of the Games will be even sweeter.
“What a beautiful celebration 2021 will be when all of the countries come together as one to compete after fighting through a situation as devastating as COVID-19,” Vidales told 12thman.com.