Culture

At the Back: An Olympic delay

How America's top female racers feel about the Olympics being pushed back a year.

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When Lea Davison found out that the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo had officially been postponed until 2021, she let out a sigh of relief. Whether or not the games would continue amid the mounting coronavirus pandemic had been a source of anxiety.

As Davison processed the news, her emotions quickly changed. Relief turned to sadness, and she began to cry. She thought about the hundreds of hours of training and racing she had completed in the past four years, all of which were aimed at the Olympics. She mourned the amazing form that she had built over the last four months of intense training. Davison, already a two-time Olympian, is 36 and knew that this was likely her final shot at the Olympics.

American cycling’s storyline heading into the 2020 Olympics focused on the country’s collection of amazing female riders. Athletes like Davison, Kate Courtney, Chloe Dygert, and Jennifer Valente, among others, were slated to win the USA its most medals in history across road, track, mountain biking, and BMX competitions. USA Cycling, the sport’s national governing body, had invested substantially in promoting its strong women to seasoned fans and novice riders alike.

Could their success bring a new generation of young female rides into the sport that has, historically, been dominated by men?

When the games were officially postponed, America’s Olympic hopefuls and cycling officials faced the same emotional setback that Davison felt. Amber Neben was training specifically for the Olympic time trial, and at age 45 Neben knew that the games would likely be her last. Now, Neben will try again. Courtney penned a column in The Wall Street Journal explaining how the Olympics had been her lifelong goal, and that she was happy to simply push it back a year.

Dygert focused on the positive, telling us that the extra year simply gave her more time to prepare for the big race.

“I don’t look at this as a negative because it’ll give me another year of experience and strength, which is only going to make me better,” she said.

Mountain biker Chloe Woodruff, a 2016 olympian, summed up the split feelings that greeted many riders.

“My heart is both lifted and broken,” Woodruff wrote on social media. These riders will undoubtedly face the same emotional journey that Davison embarked on in Vermont. Acceptance, grief, sadness, and then, motivation.

After she finished crying, Davison did the same thing she’s always done. She pulled on her cycling socks, tightened her shoes, and went out to ride in the biting Vermont winter air. After all, the Tokyo Olympics were just 16 months away, and she knew she needed to prepare.