👟 For KU Olympic Hopefuls, the Goal to Compete in Tokyo Remains the Same

LAWRENCE, Kan. – Just over one week ago, the World’s largest sporting event was put on hold, as the 2020 Summer Olympic Games, originally slated for July 23 to August 8 of this year, was suspended until 2021, leaving athletes around the world searching for new plans.

Right here in Lawrence, Kansas, several Jayhawks who were preparing to compete and coach in track & field at the Olympics Games took in the news and set their sights for 2021.

Kansas head coach Stanley Redwine was the first Jayhawk to be named to the Olympic Games, when he was announced as an assistant coach for Team USA on October 30, 2019. Prepared to coach in his first Olympics, Redwine was excited for the opportunity to coach the distance team, but understands the decision to postpone the Olympics.

“I absolutely believe it was the right call,” Redwine said of the decision to postpone the Olympics. “Coaching in the Olympics is an opportunity I had always hoped for, but it’s something that can wait to make sure that everyone is healthy and the time is right.”

Mason Finley, who was a six-time All-American with the Jayhawks from 2010-12, was training on campus at KU when he heard the news of the NCAA outdoor track & field season being canceled. Knowing athletic facilities and gymnasiums would soon be shut down, Finley searched the Facebook Marketplace for at-home workout equipment to build a temporary gym in his garage.

“I was kind of relieved to get some information, either way,” Finley said of his reaction to the Olympics being postponed. “When I heard it was postponed, it was like ok, now I have a plan. Now I can get focused and train through the summer.”

Finley added workout equipment such as free weights and more that would help him keep in shape. He also practices throwing the discus by getting out to an open field a couple times a week to work on his technique and throwing mechanics.

It’s a similar story for last year’s NCAA Indoor and Outdoor 800-meter champion, Bryce Hoppel, who has turned to workouts on the road, as opposed to the track, since the shutdown. Hoppel, who recently won the 2020 USA Track & Field (USATF) Indoor 800-meter title on February 15, has taken the news in stride, and is spending the newfound time with family while mixing in training.

“It’s really good to get home and spend time with family, in what would otherwise be a really busy time of the year for me,” Hoppel said. “But training has been going great, a lot of it has been on the roads with tracks being closed. I’m still doing as much as I can and putting in the work for whenever everything does get back to normal.”

For Finley, Hoppel and Redwine, despite the uncertainty of what’s to come, the common theme was this: the goal is to compete at the Tokyo Olympic Games, whenever that may be.

After learning the 2020 Summer Olympic Games were postponed to 2021, Hoppel posted a photo to his Instagram, captioned, “When you’ve had a dream for as long as you can remember, what’s just one more year? Hope everyone has been staying safe. Although unfortunate a lot of the year has been put on pause, it’s managed to bring my family together which would otherwise be our busiest time of the year.”

Hoppel’s season ended abruptly due to the Coronavirus, after his first season competing in the professional ranks for adidas. In that season, Hoppel made his debut on the World stage at the 2019 IAAF World Championships in Doha, Qatar, placing fourth in the 800 meters, before winning his first USATF National Title earlier this year, while making a lot of memories along the way.

“It is a little comforting because now I can prepare for a year and sharpen up and maybe even get faster than I would’ve been, so I’m excited,” Hoppel said of his training. “Having that experience of racing against world-class athletes has really prepared me to be ready for anything. So having that experience, I’m ready for it.”

For Finley, he uses his situation as motivation to make his return to the Olympics, after making his debut in 2016. Finley was one of four Jayhawks to appear in the 2016 Olympics, where he represented Team USA by placing 11th in the men’s discus final, throwing 62.05m (203-7 ft.), USA’s top finisher in the event.

Although the timetable for the return to the discus ring is uncertain, Finley believes he would be more comfortable competing at the Olympics a second time.

“My first Olympics (2016), was also my first ‘big-boy’ competition, so there was a lot of shock and awe,” Finley said. “I definitely feel more prepared and a lot less starstruck now.”

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The 2021 Olympics do not have a date set, as of now, though Tokyo still plans to be the host. Since the first Olympic Games in 1896, the Olympics have never been rescheduled for something other than war, while in 1916, 1940 and 1944, the games were canceled because of the world wars.

Stay tuned to KUAthletics.com for more on the journey to the Olympics for KU athletes.