Track and field throwing standout Payton Otterdahl suddenly has two things in excessive abundance as he trains for what he hopes will be a trip to the summer Olympics in Tokyo: time, and snow.
“It’s a little tough right now with the snow still being around, but I think after this week we’ll see a lot of the snow disappear and it will be a lot easier to throw,” said Otterdahl from his Fargo townhome on Monday.
As of Sunday, Otterdahl was training for what he hoped would be a trip to Japan later this summer. Like the rest of the sports world, he learned that the Olympic calendar has been flipped back at least 12 months, with the International Olympic Committee planning a postponement of the Summer Games due to the worldwide coronavirus pandemic.
“It was to be expected with the way everything has been going on lately. Events are getting canceled or postponed, meets are getting pushed back,” said Otterdahl, who was a multi-time NCAA champion during his four seasons throwing the shot put and discus at North Dakota State, “And now especially with countries saying that they wouldn’t send athletes to compete in the Olympics if they had it this year, I knew it was going to be either canceled or postponed.”
Otterdahl, who turns 24 in early April, graduated from NDSU last spring and has been training full time in anticipation of the U.S. Olympic trials, which were scheduled for June in Oregon. He earned bronze in the shot put during the U.S. indoor championships last month in New Mexico and said that the extra year to train may actually be a good thing.
“I wouldn’t say it throws me off in any sort of way. If anything, the way I see it, I’m just entering my prime, so I think that I’ll be even better next year,” said Otterdahl, who is originally from Rosemount, Minn. “This certainly gives me a lot more time to plan for the Olympics.”
The Olympic dreams for Roshon Roomes were put on hold this week as well. On Monday the middle distance runner from Woodbury, Minn., was traveling back home from Iowa State, where he has been a four-time All-American for the Cyclones, and said the Olympic postponement will allow him a brief respite from the strict training table.
“Right now I’ll take a break for maybe a week or two, and then hopefully get right back into training for next season,” said Roomes. “I’ll eat some junk food. Of course I’ll get it delivered, because you can’t go to places, but pizza, burgers and all the junk food I couldn’t eat on my strict diet is going to be tasting super good.”
On Sunday, the Canadian Olympic Committee announced it would not send athletes to Tokyo in the summer of 2020 due to concerns about the virus, and urged the IOC to postpone. By Monday morning, it was reported that the IOC had agreed.
“On the basis of the information the IOC has, postponement has been decided,” IOC member Dick Pound told USA Today. “The parameters going forward have not been determined, but the Games are not going to start on July 24, that much I know... We will postpone this and begin to deal with all the ramifications of moving this, which are immense.”
The only other cancellations and postponements in the history of the Olympics have been due to world wars.
While athletes in team sports will have a tougher time training with social isolation as the current rule of thumb, those in individual events will take a more business as usual approach. Roomes, who is 23, said he will run in the neighborhoods near his home as the spring weather improves, and on the track at Woodbury High School. Otterdahl is going solo as well.
“Right now I’m doing what pretty much everyone else is doing, the whole quarantine thing, staying inside,” said Otterdahl. “I have a weight set in my garage, so from a strength standpoint everything is all good. From a throwing standpoint I usually either go throw by myself or with one or two other people. We stay in a small group and there’s no one else around so I feel like we’re still maintaining that self-quarantine mentality and not seeing anyone.”
He added that his training needs -- “a piece of sidewalk and a field” -- are minimal, and readily available in Fargo. Both athletes agreed that the postponement was the right thing to do amid the current global uncertainty.
“I was sad, but it’s smart. So many people train just for this one moment to shine, putting in so many hours, dedication, time and effort,” Roomes said. “Now that one moment is postponed, but it’s a smart idea because with this virus, we don’t know how it’s going to affect people, especially in the long term.”
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