September 20th, 2020

Olympics can wait a year: Hat’s top track athletes glad to be home, now looking at Tokyo Games in 2021

By Medicine Hat News on April 2, 2020.

The Canadian Press/HO, COC, Vincent Ethier - Sage Watson wins gold in women's 400m hurdles at the Lima 2019 Pan American Games on Aug. 8, 2019.

Medicine Hat’s two prospective Olympians had their plans delayed by a year and returned home in the middle of their training schedules.

But Sage Watson and Sarah Mickey are pushing ahead regardless, glad to at least be safe and sound in the midst of the global pandemic.

The Tokyo Summer Games were officially postponed until 2021 on Sunday, with new start dates of July 23 for the Olympics and Aug. 24 for the Paralympics.

“It was dealt with the best possible way it could be dealt with,” said Watson, the national 400 metre hurdles champion whose two-week quarantine is up. “Right now with the Olympics finally being postponed and the dates being set, it’s allowed a lot of athletes to relax, reset their training schedules.”

“It made me a bit relieved,” said Mickey, a Paralympic hopeful in seated discus who still has a week left in isolation. “It’s basically just changing the mindset of it’s another year later.”

When North America began placing restrictions to combat the pandemic two weeks ago, Watson was at her home in Arizona and Mickey was on a training trip to Australia. Watson got back to the family ranch in Seven Persons by the weekend, while Mickey had a much different experience. Her mom’s passport was stolen and they needed help from the Canadian consulate getting home.

“Air Canada’s site kept crashing, but I was finally able to get a flight home,” said Mickey, who finally got back to her parent’s home in Redcliff March 21. “It was crazy busy, everyone who didn’t have a Canadian passport wasn’t allowed to board the flight, so they were constantly removing people and adding people from other flights.”

With gyms set up at home the two athletes are figuring out how to go forward with their training. Watson, who turned pro three years ago, needs to be ready whenever the track and field season resumes. The veteran of the 2016 Olympics in Rio says there’s no need to change her strategy since there are big meets every year.

“It doesn’t affect me because every year we’re trying to peak for summertime, no matter if it’s the Olympics or not,” said Watson, 25. “For track and field there’s always something going on, be it the Diamond League, world championships, Pan American Games.”

Watson will at least be able to do time trials even if no meets take place.

Mickey’s situation is a little different. She’s looking to reach the Paralympics for the first time, and big events for para-sports are fewer and further between. There’s a lot less pressure to be ready to peak in 2020 and she can gear up for next year instead.

“A lot of competitions for myself anyway have already been cancelled for the year, so I don’t know if I’m going to get any real competitions this year,” said the 21-year-old, adding that she can practice throws pretty much anywhere outdoors. “Training-wise it definitely changes what my focus is. I’ll be switching more just to strength training and overall technique.”

There had been talk about Japan’s games being moved to next spring, but the logistics were too much to overcome. Watson notes it’ll still be called the 2020 Olympics, in part because the medals were already made with that year marked on them.

Watson’s only real disappointment through the whole process was the Canadian Olympic Committee springing a decision to keep its athletes home from the games – prior to the IOC’s decision to postpone – without informing athletes first.

“Canada didn’t give our athletes a heads-up at all. That’s not something you want to read on social media,” said Watson. “It all worked out in the end, so I’m happy with the decision and I think it’s best we keep our Canadian athletes home this summer.”

Both athletes agree postponing was ultimately the right decision.

“It’s basically just changing everything by a full year. The fact they were able to keep the dates almost identical to what they were was a huge thing, I think,” said Mickey.

Watson figures sports should be the last thing on anyone’s mind these days anyhow.

“It’s kind of sad, I think it got too much attention,” she said of the Olympic changes. “The Olympics is a huge deal, but what’s going on in the world right now is way bigger than athletics. I think the attention needs to be on the first responders, the health industries and organizations and what’s going on with that.

“At the same time I know people’s jobs, their lives revolve around these games. So it’s hard to realize there’s bigger things going on, but your life has been completely shifted.”

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