Evan Jager returned from a training run Monday in Portland, Oregon, picked up his phone and read a teammate’s entry into a group text thread with news that was not surprising.
The Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games were going to be postponed, likely until 2021.
USA Today first reported that International Olympic Committee member Dick Pound said that the games, scheduled to start July 24, would be postponed. Pound indicated it likely would be 2021 before the games would take place.
Other IOC members said no decision had been made, although they agreed that all signs pointed toward a year's postponement because of COVID-19. IOC member Craig Reedie told The Associated Press that “conditions in Japan and the COVID-19’s effect on the rest of the world clearly indicates the likelihood of postponement. The length of postponement is the major challenge for the IOC.”
Jager, a 2007 Jacobs graduate from Algonquin, won the silver medal in the 3,000-meter steeplechase at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. He competes for Nike’s Bowerman Track Club in Portland, and this summer’s games would have been his third Olympics.
“We kind of knew that it was an option or a possibility,” Jager said. “We had been talking about it amongst ourselves over the last week. The more we talked about it, we kind of all just felt like the decision to postpone it a full year rather than to the fall, or canceling it for a year made the most sense.
“I kind of wasn’t surprised, especially with how much is still coming to light as far as the coronavirus goes, constantly learning more and now knowing what the timetable’s looking like. It’s just weird.”
Jager, 31, missed the World Athletics Championships last summer with a slight fracture in his left foot that nagged him most of the year. He had not competed since August 2018 until three recent indoor races.
Jager said his foot felt great, although he had not run the steeplechase, a grueling race with 28 barrier hurdles and seven water jumps. He felt as though he was on track to have a productive summer and make another trip to the Olympics.
If, as expected, the Olympics are pushed back to 2021, next year’s world championships, which would take place at the University of Oregon in Eugene probably will be pushed back to 2022. In a normal cycle, track and field athletes have world meets in odd-numbered years and Olympics in every other even-numbered year.
The World Athletics Championships could be in Eugene in 2022 and again in Budapest, Hungary, in 2023, followed by the 2024 Olympics in Paris, then another world meet in 2025.
On Sunday, some countries told the IOC they would not bring their delegations to the Olympics at the scheduled date. As that list grew, Jager said, the athletes could see what was coming.
“That was kind of a really strong message with a lot of other federations jumping in, saying they would prefer for it to be postponed,” Jager said. “It kind of made the decision easy of the IOC to postpone it. It’s going to take a lot of work figuring out logistics for absolutely everything, what it’s going to look like for Tokyo, pushing it back a year. There’s going to be a lot of groundwork and planning that goes into making it run smoothly for next year. The way things are going right now, it’s absolutely necessary.”