Tokyo: Empty stands and a year-long wait for the Tokyo Games have done little to dampen enthusiasm among America’s top track and field athletes, who told reporters on Thursday they were adapting to the challenges of competing amid the pandemic.
“Whatever it takes, they’re going to throw at us, (I’m) just excited to be able to compete again and just follow what... they think is best for us,” said Clayton Murphy, who picked up bronze in the men’s 800 metres at the Rio Games, the first time the United States medalled in the event since 1992.
The 26-year-old middle distance runner is among those who have yet to travel to Japan, after USA Track & Field cancelled a planned Tokyo training camp in May over health and safety concerns.
When they arrive, the fanfare and cheering crowds they enjoyed at the team trials in Eugene, Oregon, will be a distant memory, after organisers banned spectators from venues amid public opposition in Japan to holding the Games.
“You kind of got to draw on yourself, your competitors, your competition spirit, and kind of find that little drive in other ways,” said Murphy.
US First Lady Jill Biden will lead the U.S. diplomatic delegation to the Olympics, leaving Washington, D.C., on Wednesday as a show of support for Japan, a critical ally.
“To have the support of the first lady of the United States of America is huge,” said Will Claye, a three-time Olympic medallist competing in the triple jump in Tokyo.
“(It) says a lot about, you know, the people that are running our country.”