Postponing the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo because of the coronavirus pandemic was “the right decision,” beach volleyball player and three-time Olympic gold medalist Kerri Walsh Jennings said. Walsh Jennings, who was set to play for Team USA this summer, said it was almost a relief to hear the games would be delayed.
“When they made the decision, my heart broke a little bit, but also my mind was able to breathe,” she told “CBS This Morning Saturday” co-host Dana Jacobson. “Something like this where it’s like, ‘Am I competing, you know, on the world’s biggest stage in six months, or am I not?’ To me it was like pulling the Band-Aid off fast.”
Training for the unknown was something the veteran Olympian had never encountered before.
“My heart for the past three-plus years has been so focused on Aug. 7, 2020, the gold medal match, and what it’s going to take to get there,” she said. “As tournaments started falling off our schedule, my eyes became wide open to the seriousness of this pandemic.”
Walsh Jennings said she has “no doubt that they made the right decision” to postpone.
“We want the Olympic movement and the spirit of it to be held in the highest integrity,” she said.
She said the news could be “devastating” to some, especially athletes who were preparing for their first Olympic Games.
“It’s like going into triple overtime when you’re spent, so mentally and emotionally, physically exhausted. My bet is that if you’re made of what Olympians are made of, if you’re made of championship qualities, that your operating mode is optimism,” she said. “There’s a period where you have to understand and process what’s going on, but once that’s over, it’s go time, and I believe every athlete will just see this as, you know, I have 365 more days, or whatever it is, to become even better.”
Walsh Jennings said she will compete in 2021, her sixth Olympic Games.
“I’m just fully committed. Twelve more months is nothing. I love what I do. I just feel like over the weeks as the real life kind of toll has come and the human stories have come from this pandemic, it’s put everything in perspective,” she said. “And however sad I am as an athlete to not get to go and fight for my dreams this summer, I can wait a year. Life is so much more important.”