Current & Former Louisville Athletes Affected By Olympics Postponement

Matthew McGavic

Over the last couple weeks, the global COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic has turned the sporting landscape completely on its head. From the NCAA cancelling the remainder of all athletics for the 2019-20 academic year, to the NBA suspending its season, to countless other leagues across the nation and world, you are hard pressed to find any aspect of sport that has not been affected or altered by the virus.

On Tuesday, it had even reached the climax of all sport. After originally taking a stance that the 2020 Summer Olympics would carry on as planned, the International Olympic Committee finally came to their senses and made the decision to postpone the Games until 2021.

It was a call that ultimately had to be made, but it doesn't make it any less difficult to swallow for the countless athletes that have trained their entire lives for this moment. Some will still be able to follow through on their Olympic dreams when the dust finally settles, but for others, for one reason or another due to any number of circumstances, might have seen their window get closed.

The decision to postpone the Games was even felt here in Louisville, as many current and former student-athletes had Olympic aspirations. After dropping a Nigerian-record 36 points, men's basketball junior forward Jordan Nwora was a hopeful to make the final Nigerian Men's National Team roster after they had qualified. 

Coincidentally, women's basketball sophomore guard Elizabeth Balogun is also a member of the Nigerian Women's National Team, and had even missed the games against FSU & Syracuse in order to compete for the NWNT in the 2020 Women’s Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Belgrade, Serbia, where they clinched their bid to Tokyo. 

Men's basketball alumni Donovan Mitchell & Montrezl Harrell had also been named as a part of the 44 finalists for the 2020 U.S Olympic Men's Team, though it is unsure if Mitchell would have been able to make it to Tokyo with his positive COVID-19 diagnosis.

But Louisville was not limited to sending basketball athletes to the Games, as the Cards also have a pair of Track & Field alumni who were Olympic hopefuls. Long jumper Ben Williams had a chance to qualify for England, while steeplechase runner Matt Hughes was looking to head back the Olympics after placing 10th for Canada in the 3000m steeplechase at the 2016 Games in Rio. 

While the hardwood and the track felt the impact, the most profound one was felt in the swimming pool. According to UofL Swimming & Diving SID Nancy Worley, 38 current and former Louisville Cardinals have qualified for the Olympic Trials.

Several of them had very real chances of making it to Tokyo. 4 current and former Cards had made the cut for the US National Teams. Kelsi Worrell Dahlia & Mallory Comerford landed on the Women's National Team while Zach Harting & Nick Albiero did so for the Men's National Team.

Not only could Louisville have sent swimmers to represent the United States in Tokyo, but other countries as well. Joao De Lucca & Maria Sumida (Brazil), Grigory Tarasevich & Arina Openysheva (Russia), Carlos Claverie (Venezuela), Marcelo Acosta (El Salvador), Daniel Pinto (Peru), Andrej Barna (Serbia), Haridi Sameh Kamel (Egypt), Nikolaos Sofianidis (Greece) and Nastja Govejsek (Slovenia) all had very good chances at qualifying with their native countries.

Time will tell if these athletes will still get to carry on with their dreams of representing their countries on the grandest stage in all of sports. But for now, they unfortunately have to wait.

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