Tokyo's athletes go it alone, while their families observe from afar

Through a chainlink fence, Michael Phelps reached out to his mother for her hand. The 19-year old swimmer had just won gold at the 2004 Athens Games and wanted to share that medal with his mother.

Tokyo's athletes go it alone, while their families observe from afar

This kind of moment between close friends and family won't happen at the Tokyo Olympics, which has been delayed by the pandemic.

Local and foreign spectators will not be permitted at most venues. Athletes will wear medals around their necks to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. There will be no handshakes or hugs at the podium.

Simone Biles, defending champion all-around gymnast, said that she likes to "feed off the crowd," and "so I am a bit worried about what I will do under those circumstances."

An athlete's motivation can be boosted when they see familiar faces at competition. It was a great help to Matthew Centrowitz during the U.S. track trials where fans were permitted.

Centrowitz, the Olympic 1,500-meter champion, said, "Seeing my family and hearing them gave my a little bit of comfort and what I needed to calm my nerves."

The U.S.'s youngest athlete in Tokyo says it is "weird that her family will not be there."

"They're usually there all my meets," stated Katie Grimes (15-year-old Las Vegas swimmer).

Katie Hoff was exactly the same age as Grimes in Athens, when she was the youngest member the U.S. team. Nerves took control of Hoff in her first event. She hyperventilated, vomited and lost consciousness on the pool deck.

Three-time Olympian Katie Ledecky stated, "I hope older swimmers are able to show them the ropes and create that family atmosphere." "We'll make sure that we keep in touch with our families, and keep them informed about what we do."

Safety and health concerns led to the decision to ban fans. Due to rising coronavirus infection in Japan, where 16.8% of the population has been fully vaccinated, the Games will take place in Tokyo during an emergency. There are also new strains of coronavirus emerging all over the globe.

You know those reaction shots with shocked, excited or crying relatives in the stands? It's overrated. Singing, cheering, and chanting among flag-waving supporters at the venues? Television producers will need to look elsewhere. Boomer Phelps, a 3 month old son of Phelps, was an adorable sight at 2016's Olympic pool. This time, no children are allowed.

When they aren't watching the competition on different devices, their parents will be content to talk to them via text, calls and video chats.

Kira Toussaint, a Dutch swimmer, said that Jolanda de Roer, her mother, was a gold medalist swimmer in the 1984 Olympics.

During the pandemic, coaches have taken on a new role in building support and camaraderie among athletes competing individually. To help and encourage younger athletes, they're looking to the past to provide guidance.

Lindsay Mintenko, the American swimmers' national team director, stated that "We will have to rely more on each other than we would if our loved one was able to attend Tokyo to watch." "The lack of an outlet might make the bond stronger."

Vashti Cunningham, an American high jumper, will have Randall Cunningham as her coach. He is also her dad. She will be absent the rest of her family.

She said, "It just feels great to go and eat together, for them to attend the Bible studies alongside me, just everything. Going to the shops." "But it doesn’t really matter to us if there are supporters or not. I just want to jump. However, I wish our families could be there to watch.

Mason Finley, an American discus thrower, is ready to settle down at the athletes' village with his Nintendo Switch and endless gaming while his wife and two dogs wait at their home.

He said, "I'm just going kind of nest in there" and was happy to keep the kids entertained.

Some athletes' families host watch parties back at home. Nellie Biles, the mother of Biles, will not be able to attend.

She said, "I will be at home watching gymnastics alone." "I get too nervous," she said.

Chad le Clos' family is flying to America to view the competition. It will air in the USA at 3:00 a.m. South African time.

Le Clos stated, "It must have been terrible to watch you at three in the morning." "Then, what do you do after?"

Caeleb Dressel is the dominant male swimmer in the world, but he barely sees his family and friends at major meets.

He said, "It's nothing I'm dependent upon." "I know they'll be back home, you can feel that energy and I can text and FaceTime whenever it is necessary."

Nellie Biles is married to her husband and they own a spring, Texas gymnastics training facility. They are familiar with COVID-19 restrictions and protocols. She believes that having 12,000 spectators at the Tokyo venue would have been a good idea.

"We could socially distance ourselves and not see one another. She said that this is how complex their complexes and their venues are. It's difficult for me to comprehend that they are unable to make accommodations. I'm just being selfish. Because I won't be there, this will be the one gymnastics event I will never forget."

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