Elite Swimmers on Olympics Move to 2021: Reaction From Around the World

Maggie MacNeil (right) and Sarah Sjostrom at the 2019 world championships. Photo Courtesy: Swimming Canada/Ian MacNicol

The coronavirus cloud has hovered over the 2020 Tokyo Olympics since the virus started to spread between countries.

Those weeks led to an anxiety filled month for sports across the globe, culminating with the postponement of the games until 2021, officially declared on Tuesday.

It is a time of disappointment, as well as relief, for a lot of athletes who were aiming for the Olympics this summer. Most athletes agree it is the best decision that could be made for the health and safety of all involved.

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“Thinking about 2021, it is definitely crazy, but it is definitely the right decision,” 2016 Canadian Olympian Taylor Ruck told Swimming World. “It lessens the mental stress being put on all of the athletes right now. No one can really train, so that would impact the games. But it is still a hard decision.

“Just seeing it from a few weeks ago to today, it is insane how things have changed. I feel like you see movies like this, but it is real life. I am just glad everyone is hanging in there and holding on to hope. That is really important.”


Taylor Ruck. Photo Courtesy: Ian MacNicol

Most of the countries with earlier Olympic trial meets had already postponed those qualifying meets because of the virus, leaving a lot of uncertainty for athletes around the world, especially those in a sport like swimming where taper is a pivotal factor on the results.

“I am actually quite relieved,” 2019 world champion Maggie MacNeil of Canada told Swimming World. “Canada did what needed to be done and the other dominoes started to fall after that. It was only a matter of time before the IOC was forced to make a decision. It has been stressful. We found out the NCAAs were canceled, then it has been uncertainty every since. I got one day of training with my club team before they had to shut down.”

These situations, not only in Canada and the U.S., but around the globe. Because of the spread of the virus, most pools and gyms are closed to stave off the spread of the virus. It makes training difficult, and at times, impossible.


Maggie MacNeil. Photo Courtesy: Joseph Kleindl

“I haven’t left my house in a week-and-a-half,” MacNeil said from her home in Ontario. My mom is a family physician, so she is on the front lines of it. It gets scarier every night on the news. Everyone has to realize it is a big enough issue and they have to stay smart. It has been hard training. I have a backyard pool that we are opening up. It will be good to have something. Right now, I have some weights in my basement, but that is about it.”

Ruck is home in Arizona, where conditions are similar.

“I thought training was going pretty good. I was excited to see what trials would hold. Having to reassess has been difficult, but moving forward, once everything gets back to normal it will be easier,” Ruck said. “Just a few things are open, and no pools or gyms. I connected with my first coach Kim Courtney who taught me how to swim. She has a two-lane 25-yard pool in her back yard. That has been interesting to say the least. It has been great for her to let me come by and keep my technique work going.

“I have been hiking a bit. I tried running once, but that took me out for a couple days. Yoga online has been fun.”

With that kind of training, the Olympics would not have seen athletes in their prime.

Athletes around the world are banding together, and Ruck is encouraging everyone to take this situation on with that mindset.

“Keeping connected online with people has been great. Hard times bring humanity together,” she said. “I just want everyone to hold on to hope. Staying connected is all we can do for now.”

Other reactions on Olympic postponement:


Ryan Murphy. Photo Courtesy: Becca Wyant

“Postponing the Olympics is the right decision. The world is dealing with an unprecedented health emergency and right now, we have to do everything in our power to keep our family, friends and community safe. While the news is heartbreaking for many athletes, coaches and support staff, it doesn’t compare to what so many others are suffering because of this pandemic. I look forward to the world coming together in 2021. I feel extremely fortunate in that I can make the push for 2021 and will have another year of training, knowledge and ability. In the meantime, keep lifting up our medical community and first responders, stay safe and keep pushing forward.” — U.S. Olympian Ryan Murphy

“Obviously it is disappointing that the Olympics isn’t going to happen but I am in full support of it. I know with all the stuff going on there’s more important things going on in the world than sport. I think it is important for everyone to be safe and healthy and on those same lines, it is important for it to be fair next year. And with the current situation, a lot of the countries around the world would not be able to provide a fair opportunity for a competition that comes around only every four years.” — U.S. national team member Carson Foster


Erica Sullivan. Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

“I think we all saw it coming after yesterday. It was looming over our heads for so long. It’s for the best but you can’t help but be a little disappointed when news like that breaks. It was really really stressful trying to find training time and trying to get pool space with no pools open but after the news dropped, the dire need for water time has gone down significantly. Now I am just trying to focus on dryland and a good weight regimen that I can do in my own house so I can stay safe.” — U.S. distance/open water swimmer Erica Sullivan


Hali Flickinger. Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

“I think it was the right decision not just for athletes but for the public as a whole. Heath comes first, and they did the right thing.” — U.S. Olympian Hali Flickinger

“Part of what is celebrated alongside pushing the boundaries of athletic performance is fairness. If the Olympics were to continue as planned, fairness would be completely tossed out the door. Competition and whatever economic benefit produced by it should definitely step aside for the sake of the world’s overall health.” — U.S. national champion Reece Whitley


Reece Whitley. Photo Courtesy: Connor Trimble

I’ve been a swimmer a long time now. What is one more year? I was hoping to continue on after 2020 anyway so it’ll just be a twist on season goals. As far as current training goes, I will have to get crafty. Starting tomorrow, Indiana goes on lockdown for two weeks. I’ve already been out of the water a week, too. I don’t mind taking a break from swimming but I’d really not like to be out of the water for more than a month. I’ll be doing calisthenics, yoga, abs, body weight circuits, and running to stay in shape the best I can. I’m not alone though. The swimming community is an amazing group and we will all be coming together (not physically #socialdistancing) to help each other out. I’m ready for this adventure and for doing my part for our country to heal.” – U.S. Worlds team member Zane Grothe

“I feel that deep down I knew this was coming; however, now that it is here it feels so surreal. I am happy that the IOC took their time to gather the information they needed to make an educated decision. I am glad we are prioritizing the health of the greater masses while still trying to give athletes and spectators an Olympic Games, even if it is later. However, as an athlete who put her life ‘on hold’ to chase this dream I feel slightly defeated and like this is another road block. Regardless, I do not feel as though I can complain because I have my health, my family is healthy, and right now that is the most important thing in my life. This has shaken up the world for everyone and I just hope we can get it under control. Even though some may not be able to empathize or even sympathize with athletes’ current situations, I there needs to be space given to the athletes to truly comprehend what is happening, re-evaluate their plans, and focus on the positive of this being a postponement and not a cancellation.” — U.S. national champion Amy Bilquist

Social Media Reaction:

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More fuel to the fire #tokyo2021

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2021 it is 🇯🇵 Hungry as ever 👀🔥

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1 comment

  1. Leslie Cichocki

    I’m happy to see the same result for the Paralympics. I believe postponement of both the Olympics and Paralympics was the right call. Athlete health and safety should be priority.