FARGO — After Laura Roesler heard the news that the NCAA was canceling the remaining winter and all spring championships more than a week ago, she knew the Olympics could be on deck.
“That made it feel like it was a real possibility that the Olympics would be the next thing,” said Roesler, a Fargo South graduate and former University of Oregon track star. “I kind of started expecting the worst, hoping for the best. … I was prepared for this to come so it’s not quite as disappointing.”
The news broke Monday, March 23, that the Olympics are likely the next sporting event to be postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic, according to the USA Today. The 2020 Summer Olympics are scheduled for July 24 through Aug. 9 in Tokyo.
Roesler, a professional runner who trains out of Jacksonville, Fla., was hoping to make the U.S. Olympic Team for women’s track and field in the 800 meters. Those plans are now likely on hold with the outbreak of COVID-19 worldwide.
“I’m probably in the best shape of my life and I’m really fit and mentally strong,” said the 28-year-old. “I was ready to go into this season and hit my Olympic qualifier and run in my fourth Olympic Trials, but I guess all of those things are going to have to wait.”
Former North Dakota State thrower Payton Otterdahl also heard the news Monday that the Olympics are likely to be pushed back. Otterdahl was an Olympic hopeful in the men’s shot put and had been training in Fargo.
“I’ve had the feeling that it was going to be either canceled or postponed for a while now,” said Otterdahl, a 2019 NCAA Division I Indoor national champion in the shot put and the weight throw. “I am relieved to hear that it is postponed and not canceled. It kind of keeps the hope alive that I don’t have to wait another four years for the Olympics to come around.”
Roesler had planned to compete in meets in early April before coronavirus concerns started to change the sports landscape over the past couple weeks. She sensed she was ready to have a strong outdoor season.
“I was ready and trying to go out my first race and hit the Olympic standard and get it out of the way,” Roesler said. “I was fit. It was like, ‘This is an Olympic year, we’re not messing around.’”
Roesler said the emotion of a potential Olympics schedule change started to sink in for her last week, soon after the NCAA had announced its cancellations.
“That was when it really hit me,” she said. “I got upset.”
Roesler added postponing the Olympics is the “right call.” Otterdahl echoed those sentiments.
“Every athlete and every person in the world really is going through the same thing right now and we’re all in this together,” Otterdahl said. “I don’t feel sorry for myself because this is something everyone is going through. It’s the reality that we live in right now. … In the long run, I think it’s the right decision to help save lives and keep the health of the public better.”
Roesler hasn’t competed in an outdoor 800 meters race since July of 2018. She had a strong indoor season last year, but shut her outdoor season down in 2019 to prepare for 2020 and a potential Olympic bid.
Roesler said she’s scaled back workouts, but will continue to train, recover and rest and remain patient.
“I’m kind of an old lady,” she said with a laugh. “I like to read and do puzzles and watch some shows. I’m just trying to stay busy, living life."
Otterdahl said he will also continue to train, which had become challenging with restrictions due to the coronavirus outbreak.
“The fact that I can’t train at NDSU right now, that also made it hard,” Otterdahl said. “I’ve been training out of my garage. Having no facility to throw in has been pretty difficult.”
Otterdahl added the news that the Olympics are likely postponed provided relief.
“It is also nice to know that there is some closure,” Otterdahl said. “The uncertainty of everything over the last couple weeks has been one of the hardest parts.”