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Dygert says Olympic delay could be blessing in disguise

Tokyo favorite says a one-year postponement will give the pursuit team more time to master the discipline.

There’s a silver lining in every cloud, so the saying goes.

That’s the way multi-discipline cycling star Chloe Dygert is considering the historic postponement of the Tokyo Olympic Games until 2021. Frustrated and disappointed, yes. Optimistic? Always.

“Honestly, I’m a little bummed the Games have been postponed but I have dealt with setbacks and difficult situations, so I’m used to adapting to sudden changes,” she told VeloNews. “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.”

The prospect of a stronger and more experienced Dygert will only enhance her prospects for the Tokyo Games.

The 23-year-old already has one Olympic medal on her trophy shelf, with silver from the 2016 team pursuit. For Tokyo, she’s targeting gold across two disciplines. She’ll be competing in road racing, where she’s a favorite for gold in the individual time trial after her impressive 2019 world title. And she’ll be part of the medal-favorite four-rider pursuit team on the track, joining returning rider Jen Valente from the 2016 squad along with two new members.

So it’s natural that Dygert and other top U.S. Olympians feel a bit of personal disappointment from the postponement of the Games until 2021, a first in Olympic history. Everyone recognizes it was the right choice to make in light of a world coronavirus crisis, so Dygert is quickly pivoting toward the positive takeaways in tumultuous times.

“Like most people, I woke up to the news, but I wasn’t surprised,” she said in an e-mail. “It was obvious this was the only decision that could be made under the current circumstances. I mean, once countries said they wouldn’t send teams and starting asking for the delay, I knew this would happen.”

Another year shouldn’t be seen as an opportunity lost, but rather as a gain. Dygert said the postponement could prove decisive for the refitted women’s pursuit team to give them more time to nail down the intricacies and precision required for the four-rider event.

The recent addition of Emma White and Lily Williams coming on this season raised some concerns. Would there be enough time to hone the necessary track skills in time for Tokyo? Those fears were abated in Berlin last month when the U.S. team beat back arch-rival Great Britain to win the world title in team pursuit.

Another year of racing together won’t hurt, Dygert said.

“I think this will help us because Emma and Lily are still so new to the team,” she said. “Giving them an additional nine to 12 months of experience is only going to make our team stronger.”

Unlike many of the European-based pros who’ve been impacted by lockdowns, Dygert has been staying healthy in Boise, Idaho, where she is close to personal coach Kristin Armstrong, three-time Olympic time trial gold medalist.

“I’ve been at home in Boise, doing my best to stay safe and healthy,” she said. “I’m training more indoors but still getting out and riding occasionally. It’s actually been pretty stress-free for me here, so the training hasn’t really been affected.”

The Olympics are still the goal, it’s just that the goalpost has been pushed back. Other than adjusting training programs, not much changes for Dygert — she’s all in for Tokyo.