Before the United States moved step by step toward a shutdown, before the International Olympic Committee announced the Tokyo Olympics would be delayed by a year, before the scope and reach of the novel coronavirus was understood widely in this county, Olympic athletes felt the impact as their meticulous training routines were disrupted.
Gyms and pools closed, and social distancing guidelines kept athletes from interacting with coaches and trainers. Each has had to find his or her own way. The finish line has moved, but the goal remains the same.
Here are some examples of how U.S. athletes are adapting with their normal training routines disrupted and their Olympic dreams deferred for a year.
Sandi Morris, pole vaulter
When her usual training space at the University of Arkansas was no longer an option, Morris headed to her parents’ house in South Carolina. With her dad and some neighbors, she embarked on an ambitious project: building a 120-foot runway and a pole vaulting setup fit for an Olympian. Read more here
Minna Stess, skateboarder
The 14-year-old California skateboarder’s family is looking to expand its backyard skatepark to allow her to practice more tricks, even if there’s a tree and some plants poking through an opening in the middle of the bowl. Read more here
Haley Anderson, open water swimmer
Accustomed to swimming about eight miles per day, the 28-year-old, two-time Olympian has had to improvise without a pool, so she turned to beer and wine — using full bottles as weights. “Nothing too heavy, but that was the best I could think of,” she said. Read more here
Noah Lyles, sprinter
As someone who has suffered from asthma since childhood, the 22-year-old understands the importance of social distancing during this pandemic. But as someone who loves being center stage, perhaps no member of Team USA misses the spotlight more. “Now we’re just randomly lifting weights in a park,” Lyles said. Read more here
Casey Eichfeld, canoeist
Eichfeld still manages to get out on the water in North Carolina, albeit not at the U.S. National Whitewater Center, which has been closed. The other 20 or so hours a day are when the pandemic hits home. “I’m getting a little peek at what it’s going to be like after I retire,” he said. Read more here
Steele Johnson, diver
Without a pool since Purdue closed its facility, Johnson leans heavily on weight training to build core strength, stretching to maintain flexibility and rehab exercises to help his shoulders and surgically repaired feet. He’s doing so with rudimentary equipment, primarily resistance bands and a 40-pound dumbbell he shares with his wife. The biggest challenge? The two Australian Labradoodles who also reside in their small apartment. Read more here
Morgan Hurd, gymnast
With her training site since fifth grade closed its doors, the only equipment Hurd had access to was a modified balanced beam that skims the ground and is roughly half the regulation length. She has no living-room springboard for launching her 4-foot-9 frame over a vault, but she has found a way to make use of her favorite hobby. Read more here.
Phoebe Bacon, swimmer
Elite swimmers will tell you that 25-meter short-course pools are pale substitutes for the 50-meter Olympic-size models, but they’ll do. But when suddenly neither is available, even a neighbor’s covered 15-meter pool seems like a good option. “It just needs to be something,” the 17-year-old from Maryland said. Read more here
Melissa Stockwell, paratriathlete
As a triathlete, Stockwell, a former Army first lieutenant who was awarded a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart in the Iraq War, typically would swim every morning, then bike or run in the afternoon. Now, an uninterrupted hour on a backyard stationary bike is the biggest challenge — with a dog and two children younger than 5 nearby. Read more here
Colin Duffy, sport climber
Duffy had a multitude of indoor and outdoor training options in Boulder, Colo., and then all at once, he was making the best of the climbing wall in his basement. One of the youngest athletes to qualify for Team USA, the 16-year-old is also finishing his sophomore year of high school under unusual circumstances. “I think I’ll look back at March, and just the craziness of it all will really stick out,” he said. Read more here
Mattie Rogers, weightlifter
Rogers had the weights and bar she needed to keep training but nothing to replace lifting blocks or to take the grade out of her garage floor — nothing, that is, except creativity. She also has competing concerns on the calendar: a September wedding date that’s no longer a month after Olympic competition but 10 months before instead. Read more here
When a sport’s main objective is coordinated movement through water, it’s tough to practice when team members are scattered … and without water. Accustomed to being in the pool for up to six hours per day, Lindi Schroeder has stopped counting the days since she last swam. Read more here
Carlin Isles, rugby
A gym rat without a gym, Isles is gearing up for his second Olympics by treating everything around him as training equipment: He’s jumping over chairs, pushing his car uphill, using laundry detergent as weights, and running up and down the stairs at his mom’s house — a lot. “I was always self-motivated,” he said. “So this isn’t foreign to me. I’m used to it.” Read more here
Laura Wilkinson, diver
At 42 years olds, the last U.S. woman to win an Olympic individual diving medal is working to qualify for her fourth Games without her usual 10-meter platform and diving well but with four new training partners: her three daughters and her son, all of whom are under 9. Read more here
David Brown, Paralympic sprinter
Social distancing guidelines are difficult for the fastest blind sprinter on the planet, who is accustomed to running while tethered to his training partner, Jerome Avery, by a string that is less than a foot long. Read more here