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Olympics postponement leads to some mixed feelings

Sammy Schultz competes in the 2018 world championships in Mexico City in the lead-up to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, which were postponed on Tuesday until next year. She is a member of the U.S. modern pentathlon team that qualified for the games. (UNION INTERNATIONALE de PENTATHLON MODERNE PHOTO)

In the wake of the coronavirus outbreak, the postponement of the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games probably didn’t catch many people off-guard when the official announcement was made Tuesday morning (U.S. time).

The quadrennial showcase has been pushed back to 2021, but it’s too early for a set date.

Roswell native Nathan Schrimsher, who represented the United States in the 2016 Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro in the modern pentathlon, sympathizes with the hundreds of American athletes who had spent a good part of the past four years prepping for the world event.

“It’s crazy times and it’s sad to see how the games were postponed, but it’s also good to see the government and the IOC taking precautions,” Schrimsher said in a phone interview Tuesday.

He retired from competition in 2017 on the heels of finishing 11th out of 36 athletes in Rio in the event that comprises five disciplines: fencing, freestyle swimming, equestrian show jumping, pistol shooting and cross-country running.

Back then, the Zika virus in Brazil was putting a scare into the athletes, but it was nothing like the monster virus that now grips the world.

“It was a completely different animal,” said Schrimsher, who said back then he wasn’t going to let Zika keep him away from the Olympics.

On Tuesday, he was particularly sad his ex-teammate and good friend Sammy Schultz nee Achterberg saw her dreams derailed, at least for the time being.

Schultz, a native of Littleton, Colorado, who turns 28 on Friday, was an alternate four years ago on the women’s team but already had qualified for this year’s Olympics by virtue of her performance in the 2019 Pan-Am Games.

“In 2016 I finished only three points behind a teammate (for a berth) … I just missed,” Schultz said. “It definitely was hard to swallow, but things happen for a reason. And I don’t think I would have made the commitment to compete this year if I had made that team.” She said the news of the Olympics being postponed gave her mixed feelings.

“In some sense it was a relief that will help ease some of the tension,” Schultz said. “Although there’s still a lot of uncertainty about the games, the unknown, I’ve just got to be grateful, thankful that they were postponed and not canceled.

“I’ve worked so hard the past offseason to build my fitness up, but I’ll take advantage of this delay that will give me the chance to develop more physically and mentally. At least I have that opportunity. I know a lot of athletes in school who won’t get another chance to finish. I’m getting another chance, another opportunity.”

She’ll also eventually have to update her web page (samanthakusa.com), which has a countdown to the Olympics. It’s now going to be a lot longer than current mention of 121 days and however many hours.

After putting in roughly eight hours of training five days a week at the Olympic Training Center, plus half a day on Saturdays, Schultz’s athletic life was turned upside-down when the facilities were shut down March 11 because of the outbreak.

At the earliest it will open again April 30.

What to do in the meantime?

“There’s only so much I can do,” she said. “I can do fencing footwork in the garage, and practice shooting and do (resistance) band work. But swimming, the feeling of the water? It’s hard not being in the water.

“I’m going through withdrawals, but I’m trying to train and work those muscles so they don’t dry out and I don’t get injured when I start up again.”

But Schrimsher said having down time isn’t necessarily all that bad.

In this 2016 photo, Roswell’s Nathan Schrimsher practices in the shooting range at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs. He finished 11th in the modern pentathlon in the 2016 Summer Olympics. (Marla Brose/Journal file)

“I think it’s good to let athletes rest,” he said.

“They’re going to find ways to train, thinking outside the box, if they really want it.”

Although he agreed finding a place to swim won’t be easy: “Unless they find a lake or something similar.”

Schultz, who married Karl Schultz in September, is in the military and stationed in Fort Carson, Colorado, and a member of the World Class Athlete Program, as was Schrimsher.

But since her contract would have expired in September, she said she’ll have to re-enlist for another two years.

“But I wouldn’t be where I am if it wasn’t for them,” Schultz said. “So I need to give back and do my part.”

She also said she’s appreciative of the time spent with Nathan, and brother Lucas Schrimsher, during the lead-up to the 2016 Olympics.

“They were like brothers to me,” she said. “They really inspired me.”


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