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Tekoa native Susannah Scaroni among athletes in limbo as Olympics, Paralympics hang in balance

Wheelchair racer and eventual winner Susannah Scaroni leads the pack up Doomsday hill during Bloomsday 2016 on Sunday, May 1, 2016, in Spokane, Wash. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)
Wheelchair racer and eventual winner Susannah Scaroni leads the pack up Doomsday hill during Bloomsday 2016 on Sunday, May 1, 2016, in Spokane, Wash. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)

Despite conflicting reports on Monday, it seems inevitable with the global pandemic, international travel bans and social distancing guidelines that the Olympics and Paralympics scheduled for Tokyo in July will be affected, resulting in postponement or cancellation.

National teams in Canada, Germany and Australia have already announced they won’t be sending athletes to Tokyo, regardless of the situation. Several U.S. organizations, including USA Swimming and USA Track & Field have made public announcements recommending the postponement of the Tokyo Games.

According to the Washington Post, on Monday night the U.S. Olympic governing body voted for postponement. In a joint statement, U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee chair Susanne Lyons and CEO Sarah Hirshland said that after polling 1,780 athletes, the USOPC had reached the conclusion that postponement was the best option.

Athletes across the globe are left in limbo, and many are unable to train with gyms, fields and courts closed to the threat of the coronavirus.

Some athletes have already qualified for their spots on their nation’s Olympic and Paralympic squads, while many others would have been participating in qualifying meets throughout the spring months leading up to the games.

One para athlete who already qualified for the Tokyo Games is Susannah Scaroni, a two-time U.S paralympian and five-time Bloomsday winner, including last spring, when she broke Tatyana McFadden’s four-year old course record.

Scaroni, who lives and trains in Illinois, is from Tekoa, Washington, and her family still resides in the area.

“I haven’t received any official messages yet,” Scaroni said Monday afternoon. “I’m sure we will soon though. I would say 100% that it’ll be postponed.”

She qualified for the Tokyo Games with a fourth-place finish in the 2019 Chicago Marathon. If the games get pushed until next year, she may have to requalify.

“I’m not sure what the (organizers) will do,” she said. “I feel like they aren’t sure what they’re going to do either. My guess – I’m not sure – but my guess is we’ll have maybe another trials for the marathon depending on, I guess, when they postpone it until.”

Though disappointed, Scaroni thinks postponing is the right thing to do.

“I think it was the move they had to make,” she said. “I know it was so tough there; it’s such an enormous thing to put on and they’ve been working for years to do it. And I know the postponement is not easy either because it’s not like there’s nothing going on in 2021.”

Scaroni said, health considerations aside, postponing is really the only way to ensure an equal playing field at this point.

“I think given the fact that so many sports are having their qualifying events in the spring get canceled, and there are so many gyms that are closed, it is trickier to train the way you would like hope to train.

“I’ve already made the team, and I’m in a very privileged area where we have a lot of support to train. I know that there’s so many others who don’t have that.”

Scaroni, 28, lamented the idea that this might be some athletes’ only shot at representing their country.

“There are so many athletes who don’t have a very long, extended career,” she said. “I just don’t know what it will mean for a lot of those athletes.”

It’s not just moving two weeks of athletic competition.

Many countries still need to hold qualifying tournaments, and there’s already an extensive competition schedule for the fall and into 2021. Add in sponsorships, advertising, television schedules and insurance issues, and it’s a logistical nightmare for organizers.

“Our whole world is kind of in this whole state of crazy,” Scaroni said. “We know it’s gonna be insane when things sort of go back to normal. And I just hope that there’s just a lot of grace and working together.

“We know everyone has suffered a lot and it’s not going to be easy. It’s complicated and it’s going to just take a tremendous amount of patience.”

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