We almost forgot about the Olympics, but the 2020 Summer Games are coming, and in an odd year no less because this remains the oddest of years.
Of all the sports, events and players that suffered, were delayed or canceled, the Summer Olympics and its athletes had it the worst.
For most of these men and women, their windows to chase an Olympic medal of any color are inherently so narrow any delay could negatively alter their opportunity of a lifetime.
Or, “[The time off] made me better,” wrestler Katherine Shai said Friday at the first of two days of Olympic trials that were held at Dickies Arena. “It gave me an entire year to focus. I had my son in 2017, and [didn’t wrestle in 2018]. That time is priceless.”
“We haven’t wrestled in a while. We didn’t think this was going to happen,” said wrestler Ryan Mango. “It means the world to us. We trained for four years, now five years.”
Of all the events that should have used the COVID delay to change the way it operates, and force itself through some hard cuts, it’s the Olympics.
Niche sports like wrestling and several track and field events are quintessential to the Olympic games. But the Olympics have over extended themselves, to the point certain events belong on The Ocho rather than on NBC.
No sports organization is justifiably rooted to its past more than the IOC is to the Olympics, but now that body is looking like the old guy at the club trying to hang out with the college kids. They don’t know they’re turning into a joke.
The Olympics doesn’t have to impress anybody. Just be the Olympics.
No international event has the cache of the Olympics, but the schedule of events for Tokyo is damaging the brand.
The list of sports that are scheduled to be played this summer includes basketball … 3 on 3 basketball.
Five on five basketball is an Olympic sport, not some old guy jacking up 3s with two of his buddies because they’ve had a few too many Whataburgers to run the whole floor.
Also an Olympic sport: “breaking” … as in breakdancing.
No one could have guessed that in 1984 the film “Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo,” which featured Ice-T in a co-starring role, would become an Olympic sport in 2024, when it will debut at the Paris Games. Anybody up for an Olympic waltz in 2028?
Skateboarding is also now an Olympic sport. Tony Hawk, come out of retirement and win gold for the USA.
There’s more. Surfing and sport climbing have made the cut, while our old favorite “trampoline” celebrates 20 years.
That’s right, the trampoline that you put in the backyard, the one your kid never uses unless friends come over, can still be used to spring them to Olympic gold. No family with a yard has any excuse not to be raising a budding Olympic hopeful.
If trampoline is a sport, why not just add “lightsaber” to either complement, or replace, fencing? Think of the demographic the Olympics could reach by enticing Star Wars geeks to watch the Summer Games.
There’s no question that all of these events added to the Olympics’ summer schedule require skill, dexterity, training, dedication and talent. Anyone who has ever watched a surfer bravely navigate a 35-foot swell, to not only surf it but avoid death, knows this is an upper-tier athlete.
But not all athletes are Olympic athletes because not all competition should be Olympic competition, and the IOC should not have added these types of sports to its bloated schedule of events.
Sports must be allowed, and encouraged, to evolve, but the addition of these new events feels more like a bad marketing campaign rather than a natural evolution.
NBA players competing in the Olympics elevated basketball globally. For all of the disdain that the old skiing culture had for snowboarding, the Winter Games are better for it.
Women boxing and wrestling in the Olympics is a plus, but that doesn’t mean Charlotte Flair should be jumping off the top rope to win gold.
The Olympics are running. They are swimming. They are wrestling.
The Olympics should remain loyal to the truest form of sport.
Watching the wrestlers on Friday try to gain a spot on Team USA is the best sign that the Olympics are coming back. A staple of the global sports’ calendar will return, albeit in an odd year.
The Olympics just needs to be the Olympics, and the IOC must remember that there’s a certain dignity about being the old guy who knows he doesn’t need to hit the club in the first place.