Olympic champions, hopefuls react to Tokyo Games move to 2021

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Athlete reactions on social media and elsewhere to the announcement that the Tokyo Olympics will be moved to 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic … 

“As we stand together to meet today’s challenges, we can dream about a wonderful Olympics in a beautiful country,” was tweeted from U.S. Olympic champion swimmer Katie Ledecky‘s account. “Now is the time to support all those working to heal the sick and keep us all healthy.”

Noah Lyles, the world champion in the 200m, said he was relieved “because my first concern is that everybody would be healthy and everybody would have a fair place to compete.” Training in Central Florida has been curtailed to grassy, trail-like areas around woods where people are walking dogs.

“We can’t really sprint,” said Lyles, who is spending more time playing video games and working on an EP he has planned to release in the next few months. “Not a lot we can do, just kind of a little bit of running on the grass. Some plyometrics. Just an hour or two, and then you go back and quarantine. It’s just a little bit of something to not go crazy.”

Pita Taufatofua, the Tongan flag bearer sensation from Rio and PyeongChang, had already qualified for the Tokyo Games in taekwondo. He will continue to try to qualify in a second sport of kayak.

“Either way this is the right decision and now athletes can focus on looking after themselves and their families,” he posted. “Personally I will keep pushing on my kayak just Incase [sic] there is that chance that a miracle will happen and I get to represent Tonga on the Taekwondo mats and in the Kayak in Tokyo. I will use the extra year to be the best athlete and person that I can be.”

Des Linden, a two-time Olympian, was fourth at the Feb. 29 Olympic Marathon Trials, just missing the team of three women. Any changes to any Olympic qualifying procedures have not been announced, but she was adamant that the U.S. marathon team not change.

“Anybody suggesting the Marathon Trials be re-run, just stop,” she tweeted. “There are 6 athletes who actually have so much to celebrate during this tough time, please don’t crap on their parade.”

France’s Kevin Mayer is the world-record holder in the decathlon. The Olympic decathlon champion is commonly labeled the world’s greatest athlete.

“No problem,” Mayer tweeted, “we can wait.”

Great Britain’s Katarina Johnson-Thompson is the reigning world champion in the heptathlon, which crowns the world’s best female athlete.

“Waited 8 years for this, what’s another 1 in the grand scheme of things?” she tweeted. “As an athlete, it’s heartbreaking news about the olympics being postponed until 2021, but it’s for all the right reasons and the safety of everyone!”

Lilly King, the finger-wagging Rio Olympic breaststroke champion, posted, “Just one more year to get better.”

Eliud Kipchoge, the world-record holder in the iconic Olympic event of the marathon, called it “a very wise decision” to postpone.

“I look forward to come back to Japan to defend my Olympic title next year and look forward to witness a wonderful event,” Kipchoge posted. “I wish everybody good health in these challenging times.”

Carli Lloyd, a two-time Olympic champion soccer player and World Cup star for the U.S., was already, before the postponement, bidding to become the oldest U.S. Olympic soccer player in history at age 38.

“This is bigger than sports. It’s bigger than an Olympics,” she said in a video interview with an ABC affiliate. “I think it was definitely the right call. Disappointed … but I think for the safety of everybody, it’s definitely the best thing”

Powerful Frenchman Teddy Riner, who won 154 straight judo matches from 2010 until February, summed it up.

“See you in 2021, Tokyo,” he posted. “First, we have to win a huge fight.”

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MORE: U.S. athletes qualified for Tokyo Olympics

Bobby Joe Morrow, triple Olympic sprint champion, dies at 84

Bobby Joe Morrow
AP
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Bobby Joe Morrow, one of four men to win the 100m, 200m and 4x100m at one Olympics, died at age 84 on Saturday.

Morrow’s family said he died of natural causes.

Morrow swept the 100m, 200m and 4x100m at the 1956 Melbourne Olympics, joining Jesse Owens as the only men to accomplish the feat. Later, Carl Lewis and Usain Bolt did the same.

Morrow, raised on a farm in San Benito, Texas, set 11 world records in a short career, according to World Athletics.

He competed in one Olympics, and that year was named Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year while a student at Abilene Christian. He beat out Mickey Mantle and Floyd Patterson.

“Bobby had a fluidity of motion like nothing I’d ever seen,” Oliver Jackson, the Abilene Christian coach, said, according to Sports Illustrated in 2000. “He could run a 220 with a root beer float on his head and never spill a drop. I made an adjustment to his start when Bobby was a freshman. After that, my only advice to him was to change his major from sciences to speech, because he’d be destined to make a bunch of them.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Johnny Gregorek runs fastest blue jeans mile in history

Johnny Gregorek
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Johnny Gregorek, a U.S. Olympic hopeful runner, clocked what is believed to be the fastest mile in history for somebody wearing jeans.

Gregorek recorded a reported 4 minutes, 6.25 seconds, on Saturday to break the record by more than five seconds (with a pacer for the first two-plus laps). Gregorek, after the record run streamed live on his Instagram, said he wore a pair of 100 percent cotton Levi’s.

Gregorek, the 28-year-old son of a 1980 and 1984 U.S. Olympic steeplechaser, finished 10th in the 2017 World Championships 1500m. He was sixth at the 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials.

He ranked No. 1 in the country for the indoor mile in 2019, clocking 3:49.98. His outdoor mile personal best is 3:52.94, ranking him 30th in American history.

Before the attempt, a fundraiser was started for the National Alliance on Mental Illness, garnering more than $29,000. Gregorek ran in memory of younger brother Patrick, who died suddenly in March 2019.

“Paddy was a fan of anything silly,” Gregorek posted. “I think an all out mile in jeans would tickle him sufficiently!”

MORE: Seb Coe: Track and field needs more U.S. meets

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