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Blessing and a Curse

The 2020 Summer Olympics was just another casualty of the global pandemic, and the world-class athletes who trained their entire lives for their moment in the sun had to put their dreams on hold for at least a year after it was announced the games were to be postponed.

Most of the athletes, and runners specifically, looked at this as an opportunity to hone their skills even more while older athletes, and those with pursuits outside of the Olympic arena, viewed it as the death knell for their athletic careers.

And so, it is that the 2020 Tokyo Olympics have been postponed but major books have lines up already on the 2021 rescheduled event for those who like to put a few bucks on their favorite Olympians. The issue at hand is whether this extra year of training will yield better results and cause more records to fall or will it be a case of diminishing returns and, ultimately, training fatigue?

Justin Gatlin, a five-time Olympic medalist and the reigning world champion in the 100 meters, was crestfallen to learn that the Games were canceled as he is in the twilight of a historic Olympic career and planned on retiring after Tokyo.

Below is Gatlin’s response to Sports Illustrated’s, Michael McKnight, when he was asked, “How do you recalibrate all of your physical training now that the Games are postponed?”

Gatlin replied, “It’s bittersweet. The way our season is set up is: the fall and winter is when we get our tempo in, our endurance training. Then spring is when we do our speed endurance and our sprint work. We were a week away from our first trip, to get our season kicked off. We were pretty much in race shape. To know that everything was canceled and you watch [other competitions] fall apart, day by day, week by week… I was in maybe the best shape of my life getting ready for this season. But I know how to get back to it in 2021.”

When McKnight asked Gatlin if he had considered running 2021 before the postponement of the Olympic Games, the Brooklyn, New York native stated, “It was a possibility. I was riding the fence on it, depending on how my 2020 campaign went and where I was emotionally at the end of the season. Now I’m not on the fence. I’m ready to get started and prepare for 2021.”

Dalilah Muhammad, the 2016 Olympic gold medalist hurdler from Jamaica, New York, had her entire world turned upside down with the postponement, but at age 30, she still has plenty of tread left on her sneakers. She explained her regimen going forward in order to be at her peak when the Games begin on July 30th of 2021.

“My day will start around 7 or 7:30 am at the gym until 9, followed by the track from 9 am-1 pm Monday to Friday, and sometimes Saturday. The gym I will do two to three times a week,” said Muhammad. “It starts by running longer distances.”

“A good staple workout for us in the fall is 8-10 300s with anywhere from 45-90 second rests. Or we’ll do 3-peat 300s or 4-peat 400s. Since we used to train at a university, we’re unsure what that will look like going forward, but come November — when we start picking up the pace — we might have to make some adjustments or changes.”

But the athletes already chosen will have to earn their spots again as the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials will occur on June 18th through the 27th in Eugene, Oregon.

“One month before Tokyo will determine if we’re going [to the Games] or not,” Muhammad said. “And then literally — right after your race — you’ll do national team processing for Tokyo. It’s when we’ll get some of our gear for the Games, they’ll take all our sizing and have us fill out medical forms, and we’ll give them our diet so they can make sure to have everything we need in Tokyo.”

Runners from all over the world will be adjusting their schedules and training techniques to cope with the one-year delay and while that extra time will prove fortuitous for some, it will be the end of a dream for others.

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