Cal Track: Camryn Rogers' Tokyo Olympics Dream Has Been Put on Hold Until 2021

Jeff Faraudo

A year ago, Camryn Rogers could barely imagine competing at the Olympics.

And now, after that dream began to blossom, Rogers knows she must wait at least another year.

The Tokyo Games, scheduled to begin on July 24, have officially been postponed until 2021.

Rogers, a Cal junior and the reigning NCAA champion in the hammer throw is back home in Richmond, British Columbia, taking online classes, finding creative ways to train and sorting out a tangle of conflicting emotions.

“The biggest one just being sadness. I’m so disappointed,” she said in a phone interview on Monday, the day news came that the International Olympic Committee was working on plans to postpone the Games.

But Rogers also feels strong tugs of pride for her country: A day earlier, Canada became the first nation to announce it would not send a team to the Olympics because of the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

“I’m not sure any country wanted to be the first to do that,” she said. “They definitely became a world leader in representing the health and safety of their athletes. Whenever I put on a Canada singlet, I cannot feel more proud.”

Here is a Sports Illustrated video providing the latest news on the postponement:

Back home with her mother, Shari, Camryn said she misses her school, her coach, her teammates, her classes. What was planned as a long weekend at home to catch up with friends and attend a sports banquet has turned into an indefinite stay in Canada.

“These are the times it’s most important to have your support system by your side. My mom’s my everything,” said Rogers, 20. “Knowing I'm here with her in a safe environment, I have a lot to be thankful for.”

Asked if she knows when she might be back on campus in Berkeley, Rogers says she has no idea.

She flew home a week ago Wednesday. A day later, Cal, the Pac-12 and the NCAA began shutting down all sports for the rest of the school year. On that Friday, British Columbia began closing community centers and public places. By Saturday, the border was shut and flights were grounded.

“It’s been kind of crazy,” Rogers said.

Shari Rogers is a hairdresser whose shop in Vancouver is being shut down this week. She is her daughter’s biggest fan, and she called the decision by Canada to withdraw from the Olympics “both devastating and a relief.”

Mom also has no doubt her daughter will cope with whatever obstacle is sent her way.

Camryn Rogers' mother says her good attitude is a huge benefit to her.

“This girl never complains. She is so driven and rolls with the punches,” Shari Rogers said. “I am so proud of her achievements, but her attitude and zest for life and success are what is paramount and endearing.”

Rogers’ throw of 71.50 meters (234 feet, 7 inches) at the NCAA meet, wound up ranking her 27th on the final 2019 world list, and made her the youngest thrower in the world among the top 67.

After her win at the collegiate nationals in Austin, Texas, Rogers and throws coach Mo Saatara began mapping out a path they hoped would end in Tokyo this summer. “It’s funny looking back now, that really was not that long ago,” she recalled. “After the NCAAs I think it became more of a hardened goal.”

Rogers actually first broached the subject of the 2020 Olympics with Saatara during her freshman season when her personal best was nearly 30 feet shorter than she now throws.

“I said, `OK, we’ve got a ways to go,’ “ Saatara recalled. “A lot of kids say stuff like that. With her, her performance went up. Everything went up.”

The two set a series of targets that included her adding one meter to her best to reach the Olympic qualifying standard of 72.50 meters.

“My mentality has changed a lot,” she said. “I remember Mo and I sitting in his office planning the season and working around Tokyo. ‘Oh my gosh, this is happening.’ It was such a moment of reality to finally be at a place where I can feel really good about what we’re doing and, pun intended, hammer it out there. I still get excited talking about it.”

Rogers, who red-shirted during the indoor season and hasn’t thrown in a meet since last August, had set up this outdoor schedule:

April 2-4: Stanford Invitational

April 11: Big Meet at Berkeley

April 16-17: Mt. SAC Relays at Walnut

April 25: Brutus Hamilton Invitational at Cal

May 16-17: Pac-12 Championships at Eugene, Ore.

May 28-30: NCAA West Regionals at Lawrence, KS

June 10-13: NCAA Championships at Austin, Texas

The final step to the Olympics would be the Canadian national trials, June 25-28 in Montreal.

“I think she had a really good chance,” Saatara said. “Her training is showing she could be a meter, a meter-and-a-half better than last year, maybe more. We’re not going to know because there’s no competitions.”

Far from derailing Rogers’ plans, this delay could actually help her, according to Saatara.

“She’s going to get one more year to develop, one more year to get better,” he said “In the short term, she’s obviously disappointed. But in the long term, I think it’s actually going to be a benefit for her.”

In the meantime, Rogers will lead a careful life at home, concerned about the same things that have the attention of the rest of us. In British Columbia, just as in Berkeley, sanitizing wipes and toilet paper are tough to find, she said.

Rogers was able to rente weights from a local gym that has temporarily shut its doors, and she lifts on concrete in her mom’s backyard. She throws at a seldom-used nearby field with a hammer cage, creating what she believes is a safe environment.

She texts videos of her practice throws to Saatara, who responds with coaching tips. “I can't even express how fantastic he is,” Rogers said.

The entire routine is not what she has at Cal, but Rogers is making it work.

“A little goes a long way,” she said. “That’s the biggest thing I've learned. Whether it’s a little bit of support, a little bit of help, a little bit of resources . . . it can help you get better.”

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