BLOOMINGTON – For athletes and coaches from Indiana University, qualifying for the Olympics is the culmination of hard work spanning years, sometimes even decades.
But with the Summer Games in Tokyo set to start July 23, there is growing concern about surging COVID-19 cases throughout Japan and whether events will go off smoothly and safely.
On Wednesday, 1,149 new COVID-19 cases were reported in Tokyo, the most since Jan. 22. A COVID-19 cluster was reported this week at a hotel in Tokyo where Brazilian athletes are staying.
IU diver Andrew Capobianco, a seven-time All-American and Olympic qualifier who will be going for gold in the 3-meter dive, said Team USA officials provide frequent updates on the status of COVID in Tokyo.
“They are just telling us that we’re going to need to obviously remain in the athlete village,” Capobianco said. “After we’re done competing, we do have to come back 48 hours afterwards. My last competition is Aug. 4, if I make the finals, and then I’ll have to come back on the 5th. So, (I) won’t be able to do closing ceremonies or anything like that. But I’m just excited to go and get the job done and experience it all.”
Blake Pieroni, a former IU swimmer who qualified for the 4-x-100 relay, feels comfortable going to the games after getting vaccinated this spring.
“We just got off of our second Zoom call with USA Swimming where they were talking about all the procedures. We’re going to have to go to get our tests before we get on the plane,” Pieroni said. “Then we get tested when we get off, and we have to do all kinds of questionnaires and stuff. So I feel really confident in all the measures that they are taking to keep us safe.”
IU swim coach Ray Looze, who will be assisting Team USA in Tokyo, said all the swimmers he knows coming from the Hoosiers are vaccinated.
“That’s good because you’re going to have your phone in Japan, and if you walk within six feet of somebody that’s positive and they triangulate those phones, you’re gone,” Looze said. “So I feel good about that part of the equation.”
Another precaution Tokyo plans to take for the games will be holding events without fans.
“Tokyo, that’s going to be rough. They are draconianly locked down,” Looze said. “So I think the village is not going to be that pleasant. But our kids are so tough, they went all over the place, ponds, driving an hour and 15 minutes to Seymour. I like the fact that we’re already battle hardened with inconveniences, and IU is pretty harsh with the testing. We had to be tested three times. It will be every day in Tokyo. But I think we’re battle hardened.”