COLUMBUS (WCMH) — It’s been hard finding competitions for Olympic hopefuls during this pandemic. But some sports have done better than others.
Joe Kovacs is the reigning Olympic silver medalist in shotput and was craving competition during quarantine.
“For me, the Olympic Trials and the Olympics are the big ones,” said Kovacs. “Everything else around that is more of an exhibition and the way to get some income and also a way to kind of help me prepare.”
So when Kovacs got two weeks notice about shotput events in Croatia and Serbia back in September, he and his wife, Ashley decided to travel.
“I found out, I think it was 14 days before these competitions overseas and honestly, I really wasn’t in throwing shape to go do it but I think it was the best decision I could have made,” said Kovacs. “It put me back into the competitive mindset and it got me excited to train this fall.”
The overseas travel and competitions meant COVID testing. Lots of it.
“Before we left, we had two COVID tests. When we got there, we had one. When we left Croatia to head to Serbia, we had another. And when we went back to Croatia, we had another so we had quite the bit of COVID tests so our noses were not too happy with us after,” said Kovacs.
In both countries, the shotput events provided a showcase for the sport and gave people a rare sporting event they could watch in person safely.
“The cool thing about the shotput is we only need about 100 feet of area to take up so they actually put us in the center of their city square and we call it a street meet so everybody can come,” said Kovacs. “It’s this giant festival. Normally, there’s 4 to 5 thousand people standing around. This year was a little bit more limited with seating.”
Kovacs finished second to fellow American Ryan Crouser in both competitions, but that was inconsequential. His big takeaway from the European events is that they were able to be done successfully and safely, just as the Tokyo Olympics hope to do in July 2021.
“Definitely think it’s a preview of it and definitely think it’s good for our sport that we showed that it could be done,” said Kovacs. “And the more and more competitions we can pull off with doing it correctly, wearing the mask, socially distance and doing it right, we have more opportunity to do more like that in the future.”