Olympians without Olympics: Baylor track & field deals with IOC postponement

By Matthew Soderberg | Sports Writer, Video by Nate Smith | Broadcast Reporter

The postponement of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics altered athletes on the world stage, and both current and former Baylor student athletes were also afflicted by the ramifications of the decision.

Baylor track and field head coach Todd Harbour said the delay was expected once everyone realized how harshly COVID-19 was affecting the world.

“When they canceled our season, I felt like the Olympics would be [too],” Harbour said. “I knew they were going to try to hold on as long as they could, but the more reports you got on how bad this virus was, you knew that was probably coming. The only thing that surprised me was that they waited as long as they did.”

The International Olympic Committee announced the games would be postponed 12 days after the NCAA announced the end of collegiate athletics for the year. Now, Olympians from the Baylor community are left waiting another year for the biggest competition in sports.

Junior pole vaulter KC Lightfoot and former Bears sprinter Wil London have been preparing their whole lives for this chance, and were both projected members of the American team, but the ground was ripped out from under them with the effects of the pandemic.

“We can’t use the weight room,” London said. “It’s hard to get into the track on some days … It’s one of those things where it sucks, and it hurts because you don’t think about what you can lose … now I really miss lifting weights, and I really miss being on the track.”

Lightfoot is more fortunate in some ways, he has a place to practice and a weight set available, but things are still difficult. After his trip to the NCAA Indoor Championships was canceled while he was at the airport, he made his way back home to Missouri. Lightfoot said even with the hardships right now, he’s still working towards his next goal.

“I’m still training right now for next year’s Olympics,” Lightfoot said. “It’s hard … right now just because a lot of things are closed … There definitely have to be some accommodations because I don’t have everything that I usually have, but you can still get a good workout.”

Lightfoot also said finding a silver lining was easy because time is still on his side.

“I’m still young,” Lightfoot said. “I mean, I’m 20 years old, and I know I still have a lot to work on in the vault and muscle mass and growth just in my own body… I have a whole extra year to get better and make my chances go up even higher.”

In-season athletes now have something they don’t normally have this time of year: free time. Lightfoot said he gets to rest with the comfort of the people he loves most around him, and that’s more valuable than he could’ve realized.

“I’m just coping with it one day at a time just hanging out with my family,” Lightfoot said. “I don’t come home too often, so it’s nice just getting to spend a couple weeks home. Obviously I’m still training, but it’s not at the forefront, just ‘go.go,go’ everyday kind of thing.”

Family bonding is just one plus on the table for athletes stuck at home. Harbour emphasized the chance to dive into faith during this tough period. London said finding a bright side only gives him more drive to compete in the long run.

“Certain situations, you just have to take what you can get and run with it,” London said. “As an athlete, I’m very self independent, and I’m very motivated. The way I look at it is I always try to make a positive out of a negative, and I look at this situation and this right here teaches you a lesson. You have to make something out of nothing sometimes.”