Ostrava (Czech Republic) (AFP) – While Christian Taylor said the past year had been “disheartening” and Joshua Cheptegei lamented a lost Olympic opportunity, they, and other top athletes, tried to find pandemic plusses on Tuesday, ahead of the Golden Spike meet.
Talking to reporters in the eastern Czech steel hub of Ostrava ahead of Wednesday’s competition, some athletes said 2020, when the Tokyo Olympics were postponed, had been a year of opportunities while others bemoaned the wasted time.
“In the beginning I had the mind of going to the Olympic Games in 2020 with the mind of winning the gold,” said Cheptegei.
“From the look of things, I was really the favourite,” said the Ugandan.
But Cheptegei went on to break long-standing world records in the 5,000 metres in August and the 10,000 in October.
“Positively, I would say that it is because of the pandemic that I was able to rediscover my potential.”
“That’s why I was able to run the 5,000 metres in Monaco and then the 10,000 metres again in Valencia, and those are two world records,” he added.
Taylor, a two-time Olympic triple jump champion and four-time world champion, said the one-year delay to the Tokyo Olympics was “disheartening”.
“The postponement from an athlete’s standpoint was very difficult because I was very excited going to my third Olympic games,” said the 30-year-old American.
“I felt like the momentum was really towards our back,” he said, adding that he would have liked to compete more against Hugues Fabrice Zango who set the indoor world record of 18.07 metres earlier this year.
“We really feed off of each other and so keeping this energy going into the following year I think would have been very special, I think the marks would have been very, very high,” Taylor said.
– ‘A whole ton of fun’ –
Taylor used his time off the sport, forced out by the pandemic, to found the Athletic Association, an independent body intended to protect athletes’ interests.
“This has been the blessing of 2020,” Taylor said.
Pole vault prodigy Armand Duplantis, who set the outdoor world record of 6.15 metres last September, complained about a lack of crowds.
“I think that was the worst thing for me really, the competitions with no spectators, because it just wasn’t as fun,” he said but added the pandemic had also allowed him to look for other pastimes.
“When the pandemic first hit last March, I started playing a ton of golf and I still play a lot of golf so that’s what I picked up during the pandemic for sure,” he said.
Two-time world pole vault champion Sam Kendricks has opted for a very different hobby.
“I picked up a new puppy from my papa’s litter when I got home from the indoor season so I’ve been puppy-training for the last two months and that’s been a whole ton of fun,” he said.
“It’s funny when the puppy seems smarter than you are a lot of times.”
The Golden Spike signals the acceleration of the European outdoor season and allows many top athletes to compete ahead of the start of the Diamond League in Gateshead Gateshead, England on Sunday, and the delayed Olympic Games, which are due to start on July 23.