Which Athletes Might Benefit From the Olympics Postponement?

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Nathan Adrian; Photo Courtesy: Becca Wyant

Who could really benefit from the Olympic Games postponement to 2021?

When the Olympic Games got pushed back a year, there was a huge sigh of relief for many athletes who were struggling to find adequate training locations to be at their best this year. So with the Games moved to 2021, that leaves a lot of athletes an extra year to grow mentally and physically to be at their best next summer. Although mostly everyone has been out of the water for the better part of two months, many have used this time to re-evaluate their goals and perhaps recover mentally from the last block of training.

As of this writing, there are 420 days until the Tokyo Olympics, and Swimming World wanted to look at which swimmers might benefit from an extra year of preparations after having various obstacles come their way in 2019.

Nathan Adrian – USA

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Photo Courtesy: Becca Wyant

Nathan Adrian had spent the majority of 2019 battling cancer, and still managed to anchor the US to gold in the 4×100 free relay at the World Championships last summer. Adrian has been consistently one of the best sprinters in the world, winning the bronze in the 100 free at the 2016 Olympics and silver at the 2017 Worlds. What could he look like with a year of training without medical concerns? Adrian still won two silver medals at the Pan American Games in the 50 and 100 free and was ranked 16th in the world in the 50 and 18th in the 100.

Even with the crowded sprint freestyle field in the United States, Adrian has proved time and time again not to count him out.

Kathleen Baker – USA

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Kathleen Baker; Photo Courtesy: Becca Wyant

Kathleen Baker had some injuries derail her in 2019 after having a spectacular 2018 where she set her first world record in the 100 backstroke. At the World Championships, she finished sixth in the 100 back final and ninth in the 200, missing the final. Baker had also qualified for the 200 IM but dropped it from her line-up. In March of this year before everything was cancelled, Baker had seen glimpses of her 2018 self, putting herself second in the world in both the 100 and 200 back.

Clearly Baker was still a player for the Olympic Trials before everything got re-arranged, and showed that she had recovered from her injuries in 2019. If she can stay healthy, then she should still be a contender for her second Olympic team.

Brent Hayden – CAN

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Photo Courtesy: Swimming Canada

Brent Hayden had announced a swimming comeback in October 2o19 at the age of 36, and has thrown down some serious speed over 50 meters before March.

“The conditions are definitely not perfect for me to come back, being so close to the Olympics,” Hayden said when he came back. “But I’m training for a medal. I have been doing times in training that are faster than what I was usually going.”

Hayden has been active on his social media channels with his workouts during quarantine, and if he can stay healthy with his back then he will definitely have a chance to see success in Tokyo.

Chad Le Clos – RSA

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Chad Le Clos of South Africa – Photo Courtesy: Becca Wyant

Chad Le Clos had a bit of an off 2019 in battling a hernia during the World Championships, where he won bronze medals in the 100 and 200 butterfly.

“I’ve been pushing off the wall at 70 percent, 80 percent max in training,” he said, according to the Times before the championships. “It’s only [sore] when I push off the wall, not actually when I kick.” He didn’t want to sulk on the fact he was hurt during the championships, because he didn’t want to make excuses nor take away from the world records that Kristof Milak and Caeleb Dressel set.

Although the injury didn’t seem to affect him too much in Gwangju, Le Clos will needed to not be counted out next summer in either the 100 or 200 butterfly. He has won four World Championships gold medals in his career, and has also taken down Michael Phelps in an Olympic final. So an extra year of recovery after that injury could be beneficial for him to capture his fifth Olympic medal.

Margherita Panziera – ITA

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Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

Margherita Panziera had a breakthrough 2018, moving up from 27th to 3rd in the world rankings in the 200 backstroke from 2017 to ’18, winning the European title in the process. She was a medal favorite at the 2019 World Championships, but found out after the championships she had cytomegalovirus.

“In September, I was tested and found that in June I had cytomegalovirus, so I was debilitated for quite some time,” Panziera told La Nuova di Venezia e Mestre. “It’s definitely not an excuse, but in Korea, I was not in top form.”

Panziera was just off the podium in Gwangju with a fourth place finish in the 200 back. In January this year, she said she is “hot and thirsty for revenge” on the circumstance that held her back run 2019, telling La Nuova:

“I want the failure to medal at the worlds to drive me on in Tokyo.”

If Panziera can keep that drive and determination for the next year, then she could be a factor come Tokyo.

Luca Urlando – USA

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Luca Urlando; Photo Courtesy: Connor Trimble

Luca Urlando had sustained a shoulder injury in January this year during a swim workout. Initially he said the recovery process would take a couple months and he was back training at the OTC in Colorado Springs. Urlando was set to swim on a training camp in Sarasota, Florida with members of the national junior team before it ultimately got cancelled from COVID.

Urlando will be at the University of Georgia this fall, where he will swim under legendary coach Jack Bauerle, who has had much success with 200 butterflyers including NCAA champions Gil StovallMark Dylla and Chase Kalisz. A year of college weights could be beneficial for him as well, as he begins college life as a Bulldog. Assuming Urlando’s shoulder is healing properly and he can adjust to new life in Athens, then he could really benefit from an extra year of preparation.

Alex Walsh – USA

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Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

Alex Walsh has been an underrated star on the rise the last few years along with her sister Gretchen. Both of them have made a name for themselves at Nashville Aquatic Club, leading their high school to the last two high school team national championships by this publication. Both have committed to the University of Virginia with Alex joining the team in the fall of 2020 and Gretchen to join the next year. Alex was ranked seventh in the world in the early days of 2020 in the 200 IM, one of the deepest events in the United States.

Walsh will be headed to Virginia, which was seeded to win its first national championship this season before the meet got cancelled this season. With a stacked recruiting class coming next season, Walsh will be surrounded by a talented team in Charlottesville that will be hungry to win a national championship after missing the opportunity in 2020. With that stacked team around her, Walsh could really benefit from an extra year of preparation for the Games.

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