COLUMBUS (WCMH) — When your Olympic sport is hurling a 16-pound shot as far as possible, that’s pretty hard to practice during pandemic isolation.
“We’ve just had to adapt to all of this,” said Rio silver medalist Joe Kovacs from his home in Powell, Ohio. “I do think it’s proper precautions. I do think this is a big deal. People should be treating it as such, but because of that it’s definitely throwing a wrench into all of our training.”
Kovacs has been doing as much training as possible in his basement where he can do about 90 percent of his weightlifting and conditioning exercises. But the actual shot put practice is a bigger issue even trying some throwing drills in his driveway.
“I will find a way under any circumstances to be at my best, but would that be at my best if I had all the training and tools, in the the right training environment?” Kovacs asked.
Kovacs won a silver medal in the shot put at the Rio games four years ago, and he was trending in the right direction heading into this year’s Tokyo games. At the track and field World Championships last October, Kovacs brought home a gold medal and recorded the third-longest throw in history.
Now, Kovacs will have to wait a year to throw for Olympic gold.
“I’m not disappointed because I think it’s the right decision,” he said. “I mean, that’s the honest truth, but I will tell you there’s a part of you that feels a little bit of that hunger. You feel off today.”
On Tuesday morning, the International Olympic Committee and the Japanese Prime Minister made it official — the 2020 Olympics will now take place in 2021.
It’s not a surprising move as in the last few days many countries, including the United States, voiced their support to postpone the games. Kovacs said the U.S. Olympic Committee took the time to hear the athletes’ opinions before speaking out.
“This past week they’ve been writing emails, taking these quick surveys, asking us our current situation, our thoughts of what to do, and I think because of that they listened to the athletes,” Kovacs said.
He added if the Olympics had stayed on course, he would’ve been ready. But Kovacs said he would also want an even playing field and right now that’s just not possible.
“I feel for countries like Italy right now. I have friends who they can’t even go outside,” he said. “When you go into a fight, you want to make sure it’s a fair fight. You want to make sure your opponent is ready. I want to make sure I’m ready and if they’re not ready to do that I don’t think you should have that contest.”
The announcement has given many athletes relief as they no longer feel like they’re in limbo wondering if or when the games will happen in the next few months.
Kovacs explained that in the United States, a lot of the stress didn’t come from an unknown Olympic timeline, but instead preparing for trials, which is something most countries don’t have to face.
“The U.S. is so good at all of our sports, you gotta make the team first,” Kovacs said. “If I was from any other country in the world, I would have made the Olympic team already, but because we are here in the U.S. we have to fight for that trials system. We have guys who probably should go 1-2-3 in the Olympics so you can tell that it’s going to be almost as hard, if not harder, than the Olympics to make the team.”
With that pressure off, Kovacs said it’s time to take a breath and shift focus toward what really matters right now.
“It takes a little bit of that stress away of having to make those questionable decisions of trying to practice in an environment like this or trying to rig something up at the house to be as close as possible,” he said. “I think this was a good decision. I think it’ll be nice to focus on the family right now and really get the priorities straight.”
Kovacs then turned around and looked at the medals lined behind him.
“There’s the silver from Rio, so hopefully we can turn that into a gold whenever this does happen in Tokyo.”