Olympic Games Postponed to 2021

USP OLYMPICS: S OLY BRA

Mixed emotions, because postponing the Olympics is the right thing to do, but we can still be bummed. Also, just give me any excuse to use this photo of Aly Raisman winning all-around silver in Rio and I’LL DO IT.

After weeks of speculating how the 2020 Olympic Games could be affected by the coronavirus pandemic currently sweeping the globe, the IOC has made the difficult decision to postpone the Games for “about one year.”

Just over two weeks ago, I was at the American Cup, where gymnasts from all over the world traveled to compete at this qualifier for one of several individual Olympic berths, and everything in the sport seemed to be continuing on without much of a hiccup. Events in Italy, where the outbreak has hit especially hard, were being canceled, and maybe this could affect some of the individuals hoping to qualify, but for the most part it looked like everything was going to carry on as usual, and I didn’t really anticipate the world coming to a halt just a few days later.

Now the American Cup feels like it was about 200 years ago. Just days later, as more and more countries started closing their borders to restrict the movement of the virus, we saw cancellations or postponements of nearly every meet through early May (national championships in Japan are the only meet not yet officially called-off during this time period), and a couple of competitions already in progress for that weekend – including the Baku World Cup and a U.S. elite qualifier – were shut down mid-competition so athletes could safely return home.

Part of me still held out hope for the Games to continue this summer, especially as the virus began to slow in countries like China and South Korea, but with shelter-in-place mandates throughout the world, it quickly became clear that most gymnasts would be unable to train.

Even if we’re able to flatten the curve and eliminate any public health risks in advance of the Games, there’s no way the athletes would be in the competitive shape required to compete at the highest level after missing months of training. Due to this and the lingering public health concerns, several national Olympic committees – Canada, Australia, Great Britain – announced they would not send athletes to the Olympic Games if held this summer, which put pressure on the IOC and ultimately kickstarted the postponement process.

It seriously took me about a week to go from optimistically believing the Games would still take place to practically demanding they be postponed, but I think it’s the best decision both for the health and safety of the athletes as they prepare for competition, and for the general public, especially in Japan.

According to USA Gymnastics, 62% of athletes in contention for the Olympic Games agree that the Games should be postponed, so it’s clear that postponing is a decisive issue for those who hope to compete, especially for those who can’t train or get competitive experience going into the Games.

But there are also many who were planning on competing this summer and may not be physically or mentally able to hold on another year, so as “correct” as the decision to postpone may be, for many gymnasts both in the U.S. and around the world, it’s still heartbreaking to see so many in a prime position to make the team this year have something go wrong in the next year that could lead to them missing out on making a dream come true. And then on the other side, this postponement also opens the door for gymnasts who were injured this year – like Asuka Teramoto, expected to lead the Japanese team this summer until an Achilles injury happened in training, and Courtney McGregor, who hoped to qualify to her second Games at the Oceanic Championships until she ruptured her Achilles at an NCAA meet – to get back in the game.

“For younger athletes like myself who have not peaked yet, the postponement is fine, almost an advantage,” Australia’s Heath Thorpe said on Twitter. “But I really feel for those athletes who were ready to move on from the sport in a few months and start their lives, especially in countries that have no funding.” I think this perfectly captures the mixed feelings so many athletes around the world are going to have right now, and while “more time” can be a blessing to so many, it’s also going to hold others back. It’s for the right reasons, but it’s still rough to take in.

In addition to the pros and cons, the ups and downs, the revamped training plans, there are also about a million questions that come with the decision, especially in gymnastics. With the Games shifted to 2021, will 2005-born gymnasts now be eligible? Will the FIG switch to the updated code of points? What will happen with the remaining individual qualifying competitions? Will 2021 world championships exist alongside the Games?

Most of these can’t be answered until the FIG weighs in. I’m sure they’re working on a backup plan for qualifying the remaining berths…and I hope it’s one that is more simplified than the original plan, given how shattered this year’s plans were with the multiple qualifiers all over the world getting shut down one-by-one. The FIG got lucky that the Games were postponed and that they were given a year to figure everything out, but if something similar happens to cancel multiple qualifiers next year and the Games aren’t affected, it became incredibly evident that there really is no transparent backup plan in place and hopefully some modifications for the future can clear things up.

That said, the eight-part apparatus qualifier is essentially over, with six meets fully completed, one partially completed, and one left to go, as Doha has bee postponed until June. I would hope that with all of the sacrifices gymnasts made to build points over an 18-month period, their points will hold steady and those who are looking likely to take these series titles and earn these Olympic berths will remain in a position to earn these spots.

As for the 2005-born gymnasts being age-eligible, I see both sides of the argument – that it’s “not fair” to the current Tokyo hopefuls to have more competition for these spots, and that it’s “not fair” to the 2005-born gymnasts to not be included – so until the FIG makes a decision, I’m not too bothered by this question.

I personally am more on the side that anyone who is age-eligible to compete as a senior in 2021 should be allowed to compete at all senior-level competitions, including the Olympic Games, because it would be less “fair” to restrict an age-eligible competitor than it would be to add more challenges to those who reached the senior level prior to 2021. The best gymnasts should be allowed to compete, period, and with the 2005-born gymnasts not really planning or preparing to be in Olympic condition until 2024, if anything they’re at a disadvantage compared to those who have been planning to peak in 2020. Moving up your Olympic preparations by three years is a lot harder than hanging on for one more year in most cases, and while there are a few 2005-born gymnasts who could throw a wrench into team situations – most notably Viktoria Listunova for the Russian team – I don’t see most being able to have much of an affect and am not at all against 2005-born gymnasts entering the mix for the 2021 Games.

With the code of points issue, though most of the anticipated code changes are minor (nothing like getting rid of an entire composition requirement!), I don’t think it would be appropriate to change any part of the code just months before the Olympic Games, and would hope the FIG feels the same way. I see them postponing the new code for the 2022-2024 “quad” (triad?) and leaving the current code in place through to the end of 2021 in order to keep everything simplified.

There’s also no word from the FIG so far in terms of what will happen to world championships in 2021, which were slated to take place in late October, but according to Scott Russell, an Olympics reporter for the CBC, he thinks most international governing bodies for various sports will be willing to forgo any 2021 world championship meets in order to “get the Olympics off the ground.”

However, while athlete attendance would likely be pretty low for a world championships held just two months after the Olympic Games, since the Danish federation is already preparing to host a large-scale meet, it would be cool to see something happen along the lines of a wide-scale friendly or Goodwill Games-esque kind of competition, which could provide opportunities for gymnasts who weren’t part of the Olympic conversation, but who are gearing up for the remainder of the quad as they look toward 2024.

We’ll of course be monitoring any Olympics-related news in the coming weeks and months as logistics are worked out. In the meantime, we hope you’re all staying safe and healthy and AT HOME, if you can. It’s tough for everyone right now, and I know the lack of gymnastics is really hard for so many of us who find an escape from the sport. I’m going to try to bring as many You Asked, The Gymternet Answered posts to this blog as humanly possible in the coming days and weeks, and will also be introducing a new series that introduces you to all of the individual athletes – MAG and WAG – who have already qualified to the Olympic Games.

Article by Lauren Hopkins

46 thoughts on “Olympic Games Postponed to 2021

  1. As many posts of “You Asked, The Gymternet Answered” as humanly possible will be the greatest gift for all gymnerds around the world!

    Thank you in advance 🙏 😊

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Great summary–thanks. I’m totally disappointed personally and really upset for the athletes who will be most impacted by this but don’t see how the IOC decision could have been different. Strange times we live in. Looking forward to the “You Asked, The Gymternet Answered”!

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    • Thank you! And yes, it’s the right decision overall even if it’s going to be tough for so many. I think the athletes who were truly in a pinch for 2020 are seeing this as a blessing to get more preparation, but there are plenty, especially in WAG, who are on limited time here with their careers and I think there are several we see as frontrunners right now who might not be in the mix any longer if they have to wait a year.

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  3. I’m wondering how this will affect NCAA bound gymnasts, since most with the exception of Morgan Hurd were planning on deferring NCAA until 2021. So I don’t know whether most will choose to retire from elite without trying for the Olympics, go to NCAA and continue to train elite, or defer another year. Those choices could affect with many teams, especially UCLA (Brooklyn Moors, Ana Padurariu, Jordan Chiles, Frida Ezparza, and Emma Malabuyo are all trying for the Olympics the last I heard) and Florida (Riley McCusker and Shilese Jones)

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    • I think many would get the go-ahead to defer, especially since they’d be deferring to the 2021-2022 season, which only has verbals right now and no signed commits. UCLA has a lot of gymnasts who could potentially defer, but the only two scholarship commits for 2021-2022 right now are Emma Malabuyo and Emily Lee, so that would only leave Brooklyn, Ana, Jordan, and Frida to defer from 2021, in which case UCLA likely wouldn’t bring in anyone new aside from who’s already signed for 2021, and then hold those scholarship spots for the deferrals. It might mean a weaker year for their 2021 season, but they have so much depth from walk-ons, it could be good for them to use some of that back-up depth.

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      • I think this Is good news for Laurie Hernández, who will have more time to prepare. I also see Leanne Wong adding more difficulty with the extra time…come on Amanar. Also, I think they should keep the World Championships and anyone who wants to compete can show up, just like figure skating.

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        • Yeah, in Olympic years in figure skating worlds are held literally one month after the Olympics (Olympics in mid-late February, worlds in mid March), so I can see them doing the same thing for next year. If they do decide to keep 05s out of the Olympics I wonder how they’ll decide both teams, or how they’ll manage the olympians’ bodies that want to try for worlds as well.

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    • Yeah…they were already planning on having a junior world championships next year, but I don’t think they’ve announced the city yet? I’m sure Copenhagen could just take that over!

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  4. Since the name of the games are remaining Tokyo 2020 (not Tokyo 2021), I would keep all the same rules, age requirements, etc. If you are not eligible to compete at Tokyo 2020 now, you shouldn’t become eligible simply because a massive world issue forced the games to be held on a different date. All the incoming age eligible seniors can stick to their current plans for the 2024 games.

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    • Yeah, that’s another good way to think about it, and it’s definitely the easiest way to handle everything…regardless of the actual date, it’s still technically 2020 and should be treated as such. I’d be behind that 100%.

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    • I 100% agree. Just because it’s bumped a year doesn’t mean it now includes next-year’s seniors.
      They’re saying we literally cannot do it right now and have to push it to later… but it’s still the “same” Olympics, which isn’t the Olympics for the 2005-babies to participate in.

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    • I’m on team “let them compete” too. How is it more unfair for the current seniors to have more competitors for the team than to deprive the 2005 babies a year of senior international competition?

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      • Yeah, that’s my opinion. I think if they made a blanket rule like “even though the competition is happening in 2021, we’re handling literally everything as if it’s 2020” across every sport, then that’s the only way I would agree that 2005s shouldn’t participate. But since that’s NOT the case, I’m pro-2005s competing. It looks like the FIG hasn’t officially decided about this yet, according to a Wall Street Journal report.

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  5. I definitely see both sides of the age issue. On one hand, as you pointed out, other athletes who would be knocked out of the 2020 Games by other circumstances will have the chance to participate (i.e. someone who was out with an injury in 2020). On the other hand, it does mean that 2005-born athletes get a sort of special dispensation that’s unlikely to reoccur, because they WOULDN’T be competing in these Olympics if not for the delay. From a practical standpoint, I’d also worry about the sudden training pressures on a gymnast who was training under the assumption that she wouldn’t be trying for the Olympics for another three years and all of a sudden she’s eligible for next year. It might not be as huge a thing in the US this year with so many talented seniors, but there have been Olympic years where some of the juniors were seen as “if only they were old enough, they’d practically be locks” (2012, anyone?) who would suddenly be under a ton of pressure to train up to Olympic shape in a year.

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    • Yeah, I see both sides as well. And with the ‘suddenly eligible’ issue it can lead to lots of overtraining concerns if coaches are pushing 2005-born girls to push for bigger skills and routines to be competitive against the girls who have tons of senior international experience. Everyone says Konnor would be a lock for 2020 if she were a senior this year, but that’s not really the case, because she’s one of about 10 girls who can score a 55-56 in the all-around on a good day. Yet if they really wanted to push for her to get a spot on the 2021 Olympic team, it can mean pushing her too soon to get beyond that 55-56 range the other U.S. girls all seem to be in, and that’s not going to be healthy for her in the long run. Same goes for Skye Blakely. Yes, these girls could be contenders against current seniors, but they haven’t been preparing to push for the Olympics in the next year, and they shouldn’t start pushing for that now.

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      • Agreed. The US is so deep, I don’t see anyone that is a current junior that is a “lock” if they are eligible, unlike say Nastia in 2004 or Ohashi in 2012.

        There may be other countries that would really benefit from allowing 05 babies compete, since they don’t have the depth. The US has the luxury of not needing them.

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        • Yeah, like Konnor and Skye are awesome as juniors, but I don’t know where people are getting that they’d “take” current senior spots. They are more or less at the same level as basically every senior competing in the U.S. right now, aside from Simone, and then I also think Suni is a step above in terms of what she’s capable of. Konnor and Skye would add depth, for sure, and that could honestly be a good thing if the U.S. loses a few current seniors who can’t hang on for another year (just look at how many seniors dropped off in the months going into Rio…with an extra year added on before Tokyo we’re going to see quite a few have to pull out of contention).

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  6. I wonder how long until FIG releases the changes?

    Personally, I’d love to see nothing change for Tokyo – qualifications, rules, beyond the delay and have Worlds go on as planned with new COP in Copenhagen.

    However, the same argument can be said of senior athletes overworking to have routines for both competitions as new seniors overworking for Tokyo if they’re allowed to participate.

    As others have said, I’m fine with whatever FIG decides because I see both sides, but if Copenhagen is cancelled, then new seniors would be losing opportunities and if kept out of Tokyo as well it would be for questionable rationale.

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  7. How do you think this would effect 2022? There isn’t a year now where gymnastics programs have time to rebuild their olympic depletions. Will there be enough time for orgs to rebuild?

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    • I would hope that in 2021 organizations are focusing 75% of their energy on the Olympics but holding the other 25% on preparing for the future…usually orgs are doing this anyway with juniors in the Olympic year, so like, the Olympics are always the priority but the next generation isn’t forgotten. They’re still competing and going to camps and stuff, so while they’re not the focus, they’re still planning and preparing. I don’t think programs necessarily need to rebuild, but if some programs have multiple top athletes that need at least a year off after the Olympics, then they’re going to be in a pinch coming into 2022 worlds. I don’t think this will affect the U.S. much, or Russia or China, but top gymnasts from smaller programs without a ton of depth will have to kind of plan for this early on so they know how much time they can take off.

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  8. The Olympics postponment raises so many questions and uncertainties…will MyKayla Skinner stay in elite one more year (she was planning on returning to Utah after the Olympics for her senior Utah)? Will Riley defer Florida for one year? How will individual qualifications look like for 2021? But one thing we all know for sure: Laurie Hernandez must be thrilled about 2021. She now has the time to bring her big skills back and get competition experience before the next Olympics. Now I believe she can make the team!

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    • MyKayla will absolutely stay in elite for one more year. I’m hoping she can get an additional year to defer at Utah since this is a special circumstance, but if not, she said she’s returning to finish her degree either way even if she doesn’t end up competing (like if she goes to Tokyo and decides to go pro, she said she’ll still ultimately return to Utah at some point). I think Riley will defer for sure. And yes, this is a HUGE advantage for Laurie!

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  9. My guess is that they will allow also the new sr. almost certain they will keep the current COP. worlds 2021 will be canceled as there’s really no point and just too much to have two worlds competitions in one year.

    Since NCAA are also canceled, i am guessing that people like riley and skinner will stick around for another year unless their priority is graduate college in 2024 (unlikely that most would be so inflexible). It sucks for those that don’t have the stamina to able to go for another year but most should be able to make it through another year with a little more water down training for the rest of this year siince they don’t have to peak for the olympics.

    Hopefully simone will now show more new skill? 😉

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    • If you google ‘Olympic fallout: postponement will upend other major events’, there’s an article stating Copenhagen for gymnastics will not be effected, it’s still a go.

      If you google ‘Tokyo Olympic Hopefuls Remain in Qualifying Limbo’, that’s an article stating that the IOC probably will not alter date of birth requirements to allow new seniors to qualify at Tokyo. For women, FIG rules state born on or before December 31, 2004, instead of sixteen the year of the Olympics.

      None of it is official enough for me, but it makes you wonder. It really makes no sense to have two world championships, per say, the same year for artistic gymnastics since they haven’t done it in over 20 years, but who knows. Also, who knows if things will be any different with the virus next spring/summer?

      Experts have said numerous times that a vaccine or effective treatment is unlikely for about a year.

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    • It depends, a lot of gymnastics centers are closing down and Texas is dealing with an outbreak, this isn’t going to be a grind year where gymnasts come in next summer debuting crazy difficulty, the only gymnasts that are going to truly benefit are the new seniors whose potential will likely be higher due to age, gymnasts who got injured within the last year and Laurie, who came back too late for 2020 but just might have a chance with another year of conditioning. Gymnasts like Simone who are already at their peaks aren’t going to change much with postponement.

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  10. Thank you Lauren! I will very much look forward to your “You Asked” and Olympic update posts while we are on lockdown in NZ! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Whatever happened with the third book in your series, I really enjoyed the first 2 and it would be a nice distraction,especially living in new York city where the situation is getting scary. I don’t think other states get what we are going through

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      • Idea for your patrons can you self publish I ended up not renewing the patron because my credit card got compromised. Are you in new York too, I think must other states will reopen before us. I’m starting to go crazy, my work which I do from home is on hold until st least April 5th. I’m an Amazon seller but they are only taking essential items. Hopefully by then they will open up more warehouses but I have way too much free time. Any recommendations for good books to read. Stay safe.

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  12. This will be great for Russia, with Listunova participating and Mustafina having more time for her comeback.

    Hopefullly Biles will decide not to take another year and retires. If so Russia will definitely get the gold.

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      • They did an interview with Aliya recently where she said she now wants to get back into competition. She hasn’t trained seriously since October, so is out of elite shape but I mean she had a baby and was back the next year, and its Aliya she always manages to make it when everyone doubts her.

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  13. I still have to work (impossible to work from home, ) but am staying firmly at home for my days off. So I look forward to whatever content you deliver!
    Hoping that this madness is soon over – and we’re back to arguing over ring leaps and split positions.

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  14. I can see both sides of the argument for 2005s competing in tokyo, but if they don’t compete could they still compete in other international competitions? For example would Konnor be allowed to compete at American cup 2021 but not the olympics? It is more complicated than just the one competition…

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    • I believe they would as they would be senior age for 2021 competitions, just not for 2020 competitions. Since the Olympics would essentially be a hold over competition from 2020 that 2005 babies were not eligible for to begin with I would assume it should be only that competition that they wouldn’t be allowed in. And I would assume it would probably be Skye Blakely who would probably get the American Cup spot next year as the new rising senior . It’s usually the junior champ, so I guess we will have to wait to see who wins junior nationals this year .

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  15. One argument I haven’t seen many people mention against allowing the 2005s to compete is that if they keep the qualifying spots for individuals as they currently stand, only 2005 born gymnasts from countries who have a team qualified could compete because there would be no other way for 2005s from non-team qualified countries to qualify. I think that it would be unfair to have eligibility for only some 2005s to compete and not the same opportunity for everyone born in that year.

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    • I agree the issue of fairness for the gymnasts not on teams is an issue, but that’s not limited to 2005 babies and the postponement. Both the 2020 qualifying procedures and the previous ones limited the opportunities for gymnasts born in the Olympic year to qualify individually, and it was worse for the 2020 procedures iirc. Younger gymnasts who compete for countries that haven’t qualified a team already have that disadvantage, it’s not a new one introduced by moving the Olympics. That’s as much a qualification procedures issue that needs to be addressed as a postponement issue.

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      • To be a little more succinct and clear, the rules you’re talking about apply equally for 2004s and 2005s. Outside of the 2019 World Championships, the world cups and continental championships are the only ways for individuals to qualify. That basically disadvantages 2004s who compete for countries that didn’t qualify a team as much as 2005s. As such, I don’t think those rules have any role in this debate.

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  16. Pingback: Olympic Games Postponed to 2021 – SportUpdates

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