Hansen Sheds Light on Olympic Uncertainty

Courtesy of Olympic.org

By Brandon HENSLEY

The amount of time, preparation and desire that goes into not only competing in the Olympic Games but just to qualify is something most people can’t fathom. With the news this spring that the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 have been postponed until 2021 due to health concerns over the COVID-19 outbreak, athletes will have to adapt to the change in schedule, and it may not be the easiest schedule.

Kate Hansen placed 10th in luge during the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. Hansen, a native of La Cañada, became a celebrity of sorts during the Games. A video of her dancing to Beyoncé during warm-ups went viral, and she appeared on “Jimmy Kimmel Live” during a segment about pranks during the Olympics.

Hansen said if she were a summer Games athlete, there are several problems that might not have clear solutions since the Games will take place on an odd-numbered year.

File Photo
La Cañada Olympian Kate Hansen, seen here signing autographs at the Crescenta-Cañada YMCA, offered insights as to the challenges Olympic athletes will experience due to the postponement of the Games.

“I would definitely have to alter the training program. Everything you plan is on a four-year contingency,” she said. “Your trainers are thinking four years ahead and making sure that you will peak on that fourth season. For people [training for] their first Olympics, and they are young, it will be tough but would still be manageable.”

World War I and World War II forced some cancellations of the Olympic Games but this is the first time the Olympics have been postponed.

Hansen, who does not know any athlete affected by the novel coronavirus, said experienced Olympians competing in their third or fourth Games should be able to adjust more easily. That includes having financial flexibility. Some younger athletes, though, depend on Olympic years to make money from sponsors that were not available in the year leading up to the Games. Waiting another year could have financial consequences.

Another downside is the passage of time on a person’s body.

“Physically, bodies age quickly and, while we are meant to be the most fit people in the world, many athletes are riddled with injuries and they might not have an option to keep this high level of training up for a whole extra year,” Hansen said.

This uncertainty might lead some athletes to stop training.

“I think some will definitely have to drop out and, [even for those who stay], just because someone is the best now does not mean they will be the best in a year to re-qualify,” Hansen said. “I think the teams might change a lot in a year. That would be extra devastating to qualify now but then not be good enough next year. So technically you were an Olympian at one point but then never got to compete?”

According to Olympic.org, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Qualification Taskforce has amended some rules for qualifying, including naming the new deadline to qualify as June 29, 2021.

“It is clear that all those athletes who have qualified for the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 already remain qualified,” the website states.

Hansen said it was “devastating” to hear about the postponement. She emphasized how much work goes into preparing for what many feel is the biggest moment in their lives.

“Imagine your current full-time job, your relationships, your hobbies and your weekends rolled into one entity,” she said. “Then imagine your life being like that for 10 years. Then Olympic year comes around and most of your friends and everyone you have been living/training with still won’t qualify for the Games. So when you become the .001% of people who get the opportunity just to show up and compete –not even guaranteeing you compete well – and then this global catastrophe happens.”

The Games next year are scheduled to run from July 23 to Aug. 8.