FATE DISHES UP GOOD AND ROTTEN LUCK
IT was a pregnant pause of Olympic proportions.
All of a sudden, training regimes were rewritten and peak performances rescheduled.
For some, it meant waiting that bit longer for their Olympic debut, for others it meant delaying retirement by another year.
Sadly, for a minority of elite athletes, the delayed Tokyo Olympics resulted in walking away.The 12-month delay that turned 2020 Olympic preparations upside down can be bookended by the journey of Matilda Katrina Gorry and discus thrower Dani Stevens. For Gorry, 2021 was always pencilled in as the year the 28-year-old wanted to fall pregnant — it was the only downtime in the Matildas’ playing schedule in the next four years. Not even a pandemic was going to change Gorry’s desire to start a family, so she is staying at home.
But for Stevens, the delayed
Games gave the thrower an outside chance to extend her Tokyo dream after a freak gym accident was thought to have ended her career. Wedged in between the two is marathoner Jess Stenson, who was out - then in - then out again following the birth of her son Billy. This is the yin and yang of COVID-19 and the Tokyo Olympics. For every upside, there is a downside.
Stenson was always realistic about the challenge ahead of her.
In deciding to chase her Tokyo dream, the 33-year-old gave herself just six months after pregnancy to be race fit and to post a qualifying time.
With travel restrictions and the uncertainty of mass participation events going ahead, Athletics Australia announced a new marathon event for April 25 specifically for elite athletes to post qualifying times before the Olympic qualification deadline of May 31.
But even a sub 2hr 30min would not have guaranteed Stenson selection.
But it was a glimmer of hope until in chasing that dream, stress fractures have now forced her out.
“The depth in distance running in Australia is outstanding, and it (was) a super tight window,” she said.
Australia already has four women with qualification times — Sinead Diver, Lisa Weightman, Ellie Pashley and Milly Clark.
“I just feel so grateful to be able to run ... and lucky to have my family,” she said.
Dani Stevens (discus)
In an extraordinary return to competition, the world-class discus thrower has recovered from spinal surgery and year-long rehabilitation.
Stevens threw 63.36m last month, just shy of the qualifier of 63.5m, but had already thrown a qualifier before losing use of her right arm during a weightlifting session.
An extra 12 months may allow the 32-year-old become the first Australian woman to throw 70m in her event, and win a medal in Tokyo.
Ben Simmons (basketball)
Simmons wants an Olympic medal but it will only be the delayed NBA season, and not knee or back injuries, that may stop him.
If Simmons and his Philadelphia 76ers run deep into the playoffs, it could rule Simmons out of his first Olympics because the NBA finals end just as the Games begin
The 76ers have to make the playoffs first but Simmons is talking about winning an Olympic medal.
Oliver Hoare (1500m athletics)
Hoare clocked one of the fastest 1500m indoor times ever but he still might not qualify for Tokyo.
In February, the 24-year-old stormed home at the New Balance Indoor Grand Prix in New York, winning in 3:32.35 — an Australian record and the sixth-fastest indoor time ever.
However, selection will come down to an independent panel and AOC agreeing on the final three spots.
Rohan Browning (100m athletics)
Browning will become the first Aussie male to compete in the 100m at the
Olympics in 17 years, after running a qualifying time of 10.05sec last month.
Kaylee McKeown (100m/200m backstroke)
She could be the breakout performer for the Dolphins. Her improvement in the past 12 months has been phenomenal.
Elise Kellond-Knight (women’s football/ACL); Caroline Buchanan (BMX/coming back from injury), Matt Glaetzer (cycling/cancer), Tiana Mangakahia (basketball/cancer), Bec Cole/Zitina Aokuso (basketball/injury).
IN THEN OUT Artistic swimming
Artistic swimmer Alessandra Ho is set to make her Olympic debut after replacing Jane Fruzynski on Australia’s team for Tokyo. Hannah Burkhill was also added to the team in September after Rio 2016 Olympian Amber Rose Stackpole announced her retirement in August.
Chloe Esposito (modern pentathlon)
Australia’s reigning Olympic champion in the women’s modern pentathlon was expected to peak in Tokyo until her surprise pregnancy.
Despite son Ted turning one during the rescheduled Games, lack of international competition courtesy of the pandemic has worked against Esposito, who will reset for Paris 2024.
Andrew Bogut (basketball)
It was thought Bogut would suit up for his fourth Olympics and then call time on his professional career.
But in announcing his retirement last year, Bogut said: “I can’t physically and mentally get to 2021 with the way my body has been. I could get there with a lot of painkillers and mental anguish but it’s just not worth it.”
Mel Breen (100m):
Australia’s fastest woman Mel Breen was to line up for her third and final Olympics in Tokyo. When the event was postponed, she retired at age 29.
OTHER OMISSIONS INCLUDE:
Ella Nelson — athletics Stephanie Morton — cycling Amy Cure — cycling
Angus Moore — rowing
Gabi Nance - hockey
Jodie Kenny — hockey
Karri McMahon — hockey
Paul Gaudoin — hockey (coach) Dan Smith — swimming
Kevin Chavez — diving
Alicia Quirk — rugby
Jared Tallent — race walking