Laura Thweatt narrowly missed her opportunity at a 2020 Olympics spot when she took fifth at the women’s marathon trials in Atlanta. Less than a month later, it was announced nobody will be at the Olympics this year because of the coronavirus.
The International Olympic Committee made the decision Tuesday to postpone the 2020 Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo beyond 2020 but to be held no later than summer of 2021. That decision came because of the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic and in the wake of many countries announcing they would not send athletes to Tokyo if the Summer Games were not postponed until at least 2021.
Three men and three women marathon runners in the U.S. had already earned their place in Tokyo through United States Olympic Team Trials held Feb. 29 in Atlanta.
Thweatt, a 31-year-old from Durango who now calls Boulder homer, finished fifth at the marathon trials. She ran a remarkable race, but she came up two spots short of qualifying for the Olympics behind Aliphine Tuliamuk, Molly Seidel and Sally Kipyego, who finished first through third, respectively.
When news came out of the Olympic postponement, the question was asked: Would USA Track & Field rerun the trials, or would the results from Atlanta stand?
Though there has been no official announcement, Thweatt and fourth-place finisher Des Linden made a strong statement in suggesting the results of the race should be counted and that Tuliamuk, Seidel and Kipyego be the women to represent the U.S. in the marathon along with the top-three men: Galen Rupp, Jacob Riley and Abdi Abdirahman.
Again, another statement extremely well said and I couldn’t agree more. https://t.co/Q1flSC6r1c— Laura Thweatt (@thweatt11) March 24, 2020
“I definitely think the results should stand from our trials,” Thweatt said Tuesday in a phone interview with The Durango Herald. “We ran for the Olympics. Whether those are this year or next year, it doesn’t matter. The three best men and women made this team. I don’t think the trials should be rerun or another team should be picked. They earned their spot in the marathon, which is so, so hard. They should get to represent their country whenever the games are held.”
In a time when sports are at a standstill and many athletes are unable to compete or even train in their respective sports because of closures, Thweatt believes now is a good time to honor the athletes who did earn the right to be called Olympians.
“There is not a lot to celebrate in sports right now with so many things postponed and canceled. Athletes are in a hard place and livelihoods are on the line with so much out of our control,” the 2007 Durango High School graduate said. “The fact we already raced and selected six people to represent USA come the Olympic Games, it’s exciting and they deserve to be celebrated. We can all back those athletes. Let’s celebrate their accomplishment.”
Linden, who placed fourth at the trials, and Thweatt are now alternates if any of the three qualifiers are to pull out of the Olympics. Linden would be the first alternate and Thweatt the second.
Though Thweatt, who also missed the 2016 Olympics in Rid de Janeiro in the 10,000-meter run by two spots, said she would continue to train hard in case that opportunity arises, she hopes the three women who qualified are healthy and ready to run whenever the Olympics are held in 2021.
But the desire to be an Olympian is strong, she admitted. After taking a month off to recover from the trials, physically and mentally, she would consider a plan to run a 10K and see if she could earn a qualifying time to get into June’s USATF Olympic Team Trials in the 10K race. She wouldn’t have had much time to train for a shorter, faster race if all had continued on schedule. Now, the trials are also postponed.
“This morning, the International Olympic Committee announced its decision to postpone the 2020 Olympic Games due to the spread of novel coronavirus,” TrackTown USA CEO Michael Reilly said in a news release. “TrackTown USA is now working with our partners at USA Track & Field and the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee on rescheduling the U.S. Olympic Team Trials – Track & Field. Although it is not yet clear how long it may take to finalize a new date for the event, our Local Organizing Committee stands ready to welcome the best athletes in the country to the University of Oregon’s Hayward Field once a decision is reached.”
Now, Thweatt will have more time to prepare and change gears if she chooses to chase the 10K for 2021. She had planned on potentially racing the 10K at the Payton Jordan Invitational at Stanford on May 8, but that, too, has been postponed.
“It’s hard to let go of that Olympic dream,” Thweatt said. “I definitely wanted to come back down from the marathon and get in shorter races, put the speed back into things to freshen up a bit from the slog of marathon training. I was thinking of doing the track trials. It was going to be a tight squeeze to jump on the track and try to get a 10K time in and turnaround and do the trials. I haven’t touched a track since almost a year ago at Payton Jordan.
“Now, it’s nice to have time to give it some more thought to see if this is something I can realistically go after or if it’s something I even want to go after.”
With no races currently on the calendar, Thweatt has taken the opportunity to reset. She called running her “saving grace” during a time of quarantine and social distancing, as she is able to break up the day by getting out for a run.
She had hoped to run another marathon in the fall, but now that is uncertain. After four years of battling injuries, though, she is simply happy to feel healthy coming out of the Olympic trials. Whatever comes next, she knows her body will be ready.
“Stay prepared,” Thweatt said. “In our sport, having more time is not a bad thing for someone like me. It’s nice that there isn’t this rush to change gears so quickly. You gotta find those silver linings right now. So much can change in a year.”