Duanesburg wrestler Nick Gwiazdowski put himself in excellent position to reach his first Summer Olympics, which were only four months away.
Now he’ll have to wait until next year for that chance.
Gwiazdowski, a two-time NCAA champion at North Carolina State, had his dream delayed when the International Olympic Committee announced this morning the Tokyo Olympics are being postponed until 2021 because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“I’d say it’s a little unfortunate,” Gwizadowski said by phone from Raleigh, N.C., where he lives and trains. “Given the whole world is involved and the magnitude of everything, it’s got to be the right decision.”
Gwiazdowski is among athletes with Capital Region ties let down by the announcement. Cyclist Emma White, also from Duanesburg and a Union College graduate, and sprinter Grace Claxton of the University at Albany were also on the cusp of Olympic berths. Claxton is trying to reach her second consecutive Summer Games for her home country of Puerto Rico.
She reached the semifinals in the 400 hurdles in Rio in 2016.
“It’s difficult because it’s been a four-year journey for her since the last Olympics,” UAlbany track and field coach Roberto Vives said. “She graduated three years ago, so she put her personal life, social life, professional life all on hold. As a track and field athlete, you’re not getting rich.”
Vives said Claxton would soul-search to see if she wanted to keep pursuing her goal until next year.
Gwiazdowski had yet to qualify for the Olympics. He won a gold medal at the Pan Am Olympic Qualifier in Ottawa this month. But in order to make the Olympic team, he still had to triumph in the 275-pound class in the Olympic trials at Penn State, which were scheduled for next week but postponed because of COVID-19.
Tuesday’s news didn’t come as a complete surprise to Gwiazdowski, especially after an IOC member said on Monday the Games would be postponed. He said he would have been willing to compete in Tokyo this summer despite the pandemic.
“It was still a couple of months, but like I said, I don’t know the full magnitude of everything,” Gwiazdowski said. “I hear what they say on the news. But what we see in our own little bubble is very different. So I’m a wrestler first and foremost. When the competition’s there, if your government believes it’s safe for us to go, I go and compete. That’s part of the risk I take on. It is what it is.”
Gwiazdowski, 27, was hopeful the extra time will make him an even better wrestler when the Tokyo Games finally arrive.
“It’s a little disappointing, but I kind of just continue to move on and do what I can do to make a better version of myself,” he said. “It is what it is. Another nine months, or another year, if that’s what I have to do to complete this process and complete the journey I’m on, then that’s what it is. I think it’s times like these, when things change, you have to really show your character and your ability to adapt and be positive. You just need to know there’s a grander picture, a grander scheme of things, and it’s not all about you.”
White, 22, had been all but named to her first Olympic team. She won a gold medal in team pursuit with Chloe Dygert, Jennifer Valente and Lily Williams at the UCI Track Cycling World Championships in Berlin in February.
The official Olympic team announcement wasn’t due until May.
“Nothing is certain until then,” White told bicycling.com this month. “But I’m trying to stay calm and just enjoy racing for now!”
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