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Evan Jager goes through challenging workouts with his Bowerman Track Club teammates each day, preparing as they normally would for the U.S. Olympic Trials in June.
There are questions regarding the trials, and about the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo about a month later. For Jager, at least the questions no longer are about his left foot, which is healed and constantly feels better.
The issues revolve around the health risks of COVID-19, which has shut down nearly all athletics at this point as people around the world try to keep from gathering in large groups to curtail the spread of the virus.
It remains to be seen if the threat will affect the Olympic Trials and the Games themselves. At this point, there is still time if some definite progress is made in slowing down the current health problems.
“A lot’s up in the air right now, we’re just trying to keep moving forward, basically,” said Jager, a 2007 Jacobs graduate who lives in Portland, Oregon. “Obviously there’s going to be a lot of things develop as things go on. Just sitting here waiting for more information and hoping for the best, basically.”
Jager, who just turned 31 this month, feels much better about his body, mainly his left foot. The best steeplechaser in U.S. history suffered a slight fracture that nagged him through the 2019 season.
Jager, the 2016 Olympic silver medalist, passed on the 2019 World Track and Field Championships because of the injury and had not raced since August 2018.
The 3,000-meter steeplechase is a challenging race with 28 barrier jumps and seven water barrier jumps. All that hurdling and landing was tough on Jager’s foot. In early January, he finally was able to start hurdle training again and felt better.
“I’m feeling good. My body feels really good,” he said. “I feel better every two or three weeks running. It’s fun feeling good running again. I’ve had a lot of fun this indoor season getting back into working really hard without having to worry too much about my body. All I really have to think about is pushing myself hard. It’s been really nice.”
Jager ran a 1,500-meters race in Seattle, then ran two 3K events (1.86 miles) during the indoor season. Bowerman coach Jerry Schumacher wanted Jager to have some competition to get back into racing mode.
“Every race went really well,” Jager said. “I ran an indoor (personal best) in the 3K in Boston and ran close to the fastest I’ve run for the (1,500) indoors in Seattle. I’m feeling pretty good.”
The outdoor season has been put on hold since the Bowerman runners often run in open races attached to college meets. Since the college spring sports season was suspended, there are no places to compete.
Jager said athletes have not heard a lot from the U.S. National Olympic Committee, but that could be because the NOC does not know a firm timeline yet. If professional leagues can return by June, Jager thinks the Olympic Trials and Games can go as scheduled.
“We’re kind of in a little bit of limbo right now, waiting for more information and for things to get better,” Jager said. “For us, we’re going to continue training as if everything is full go and mentally prepare for the Olympics to happen.
“If they pushed (the Olympics) back to later in the year, that wouldn’t make much of a difference to me. If they push it to next year, somehow, and the World Championships (held in off-numbered years) are a year later, that wouldn’t be the end of the world. But if they completely canceled the Olympics, that would be pretty devastating. A lot is up in the air right now. Everything’s so new.”