Katie Ledecky, Simone Manuel welcome Olympic decision amid backyard pool, backpack lunges

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Katie Ledecky had reportedly turned to a backyard pool to swim last weekend. Simone Manuel, without a weight room available, piled books into a backpack and did lunges at home.

That’s been life for two of the world’s best swimmers for much of the last two weeks. No surprise, then, that they were relieved that the Tokyo Olympics were postponed until 2021.

“I think that a lot of the athletes expected it, but I support today’s decision,” Manuel told NBC Olympic primetime host Mike Tirico. “The health of everyone is more important than the Olympics at this time. So I’m just excited that a decision has finally been made and we can move on and get prepared for 2021.”

No more uncertainty over whether to keep preparing for a potential June Olympic Trials. No more searching for pools around their base of Stanford University, which closed its athletics facilities amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The search to swim brought Ledecky and Manuel to Menlo Circus Club, two miles up the road. That didn’t last. Ledecky and Manuel eventually turned to swimming in somebody’s backyard pool on a few occasions, according to the Washington Post.

“Honestly, it’s been more just therapeutic,” Ledecky said, according to the newspaper, which added she and Manuel considered relocating to Florida to find an Olympic-size pool. “It hasn’t really been training. It’s just been something to do, something to get our minds off the uncertainty that we’ve all been in these last 10 days or so.”

Manuel said that after Stanford’s pool closed two Fridays ago, a ripple effect of events essentially ended her training. She’s used to nine practice sessions a week — 22 hours in the water — and four more hours of dryland work.

“For a period of time we were being told that the Olympics are still on, and you’ve got to do the best that you can, so scrambling, trying to figure out what to do about training,” Ledecky said.

On a scale of one to 10, Manuel said right now she would be a three on the range of readiness to compete.

“Even if I am able to train, I’m training short-course yards [25-yard pools], and in no way is that going to allow you to win Olympic medals [in 50-meter pools],” she said. “I’m not able to lift in the gym, and so I’m really just putting books in a backpack and trying to do lunges.”

They can now exhale. It’s still unknown when Ledecky and Manuel can return to regular training, but the last two weeks put that problem in perspective.

“As we stand together to meet today’s challenges, we can dream about a wonderful Olympics in a beautiful country,” Ledecky posted on social media. “Now is the time to support all those working to heal the sick and keep us all healthy.”

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Coco Gauff delivers speech, demands change, promises to use platform

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Coco Gauff, the 16-year-old tennis star, delivered a speech at a peaceful protest in her hometown on Wednesday, demanding change and promising to use her platform to spread vital information.

“I’ve been spending all week having tough conversations, trying to educate my non-black friends on how they can help the movement,” Gauff told a crowd, holding an affixed microphone atop a lectern in front of Delray Beach City Hall in Florida, after her grandmother spoke. “You need to use your voice, no matter how big or small your platform is. You need to use your voice. I saw a Dr. [Martin Luther] King quote that said, ‘The silence of the good people is worse than the brutality of the bad people.'”

Earlier this week, Gauff posted links on her social media accounts — with more than 800,000 combined followers — to register to vote and a petition for justice for the death of George Floyd. On Wednesday, she shared video of her participating in a march, saying her hometown police chief was part of the group.

Click here for NBC News’ coverage of Floyd’s death and protests in Minneapolis and around the country.

Last summer, Gauff, then 15, became the youngest player to reach Wimbledon’s fourth round since Jennifer Capriati in 1991. She followed that with third- and fourth-round runs at the U.S. Open and the Australian Open, sandwiched between her first WTA Tour title.

The full text of the beginning of her speech, which she shared on social media:

“Hello everyone. My name is Coco, and who just spoke was my grandma. I think it’s sad that I’m here protesting the same thing that she did 50-plus years ago. So I’m here to tell you guys this: that we must, first, love each other no matter what. We must have the tough conversations with my friends. I’ve been spending all week having tough conversations, trying to educate my non-black friends on how they can help the movement. Second, we need to take action. Yes, we’re all out here protesting, and I’m not of age to vote, but it’s in your hands to vote for my future, for my brother’s future and for your future. So that’s one way to make change. Third, you need to use your voice, no matter how big or small your platform is. You need to use your voice. I saw a Dr. [Martin Luther] King quote that said, ‘The silence of the good people is worse than the brutality of the bad people.’ So, you need to not be silent, because if you are choosing silence, you’re choosing the side of the oppressor. So, I’ve heard many things this past week. One of the things I’ve heard is, well, it’s not my problem. This is why I have to tell you this. If you listen to black music. If you like black culture. If you have black friends. Then this is your fight, too. It’s not your job. It’s not your duty to open your mouth to say, ‘Lil Uzi Vert‘s my favorite artist, but I don’t care what happened to George Floyd.’ Now how does that make sense? So, I demand change now. It’s sad that it takes another black man’s life to be lost for all of this to happen, but we have to understand that this has been going on for years. This is not just about George Floyd. This is about Trayvon Martin. This is about Eric Garner. This is about Breonna Taylor. This is about stuff that’s been happening. I was 8 years old when Trayvon Martin was killed. So why am I here at 16 still demanding change? And it breaks my heart because I’m fighting for the future for my brothers. I’m fighting for the future for my future kids. I’m fighting for the future for my future grandchildren. So, we must change now, and I promise to always use my platform to spread vital information.”

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MORE: Olympic tennis: Key questions for Tokyo Games in 2021

Hayato Sakamoto, Japanese baseball MVP, tests positive for coronavirus

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Hayato Sakamoto, an MVP of Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) league, is one of two players from the Yomiuri Giants to test positive for the coronavirus, according to several Japanese media reports.

Sakamoto, a 31-year-old shortstop, and catcher Takumi Oshiro tested positive ahead of the NPB’s planned June 19 start to the season that had been delayed to the coronavirus.

The tests showed traces of the coronavirus, according to Kyodo News.

The Giants canceled Wednesday’s practice game with the Seibu Lions to limit the spread of the virus.

Sakamoto is the reigning Central League MVP. He has been called the Derek Jeter of Japan for playing the same position as the Yankee great and being the veteran captain of Japan’s equivalent club, the Giants, which own a record 22 Japan Series titles.

Sakamoto, who played in the last two World Baseball Classics, has been considered a lock for Japan’s baseball team at the Tokyo Games in 2021 as the most well known active player who hasn’t left for Major League Baseball. MLB is not expected to allow its top players to participate in the Olympics, which would keep the likes of Shohei Ohtani and Masahiro Tanaka off the Olympic roster.

The sport returns to the Olympic program for the first time since 2008, though it is not on the 2024 Olympic program nor guaranteed a place at the 2028 Los Angeles Games.

Japan reached the semifinals of all five Olympic baseball tournaments when the sport was previously on the medal program but never took gold.

In a 2018 survey, Sakamoto was ranked as Japan’s eighth-most popular athlete across all sports, foreign or domestic, active or retired.