Ajee' Wilson Relieved Olympics On Hold

For New Jersey track legend, 2016 U.S. Olympian and American record-holder Ajee' Wilson, the announcement Tuesday morning came as a relief.

The International Olympic Committee and the Japanese government agreed to postpone the 2020 Summer Olympics, to be held in Tokyo, "to a date beyond 2020 but not later than summer 2021."

To thousands of athletes worldwide, an announcement like this usually means a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity missed. With the coronavirus pandemic sweeping the globe, count Wilson as one of the many who are relieved about not making the trip this summer.

"My initial reaction was relief because it was the right decision to make," said Wilson, the American record-holder in the indoor and outdoor 800 meters. "Initially I was worried that the decision would be prolonged, and it could potentially put people at risk."

Wilson said what scared her the most was the thought of a family member contracting the virus while making the trip to Japan.

"I think about the people who are most important to me -- those people are on the list who are at risk," Wilson said. "If I don't think about them and their health, who's going to share (the Olympics) with me. It's a dismal, morbid thought, but this situation is more important. 

"Don't get me wrong, I wanted to compete, but in the big picture, at what cost and how much am I going to enjoy it?"

The last time Americans missed out on a scheduled Olympics was in 1980, when President Jimmy Carter forced a U.S. boycott of the Moscow Games. Many athletes on that U.S. team gave up their Olympic dreams because they couldn't wait another four years.

The postponement of the 2020 Games is a vastly different scenario than 1980, although there are sure to be stories about athletes who were ready for these Olympics specifically, and for one reason or another cannot or will not compete next summer.

"I'm disappointed that I won't get the opportunity to compete," Wilson said. "If your competitors are working out, you have this constant need to work out. So no one wants to stop what they're doing.

"But I'm also sad for a lot of people, other athletes who were going to get their last run, their last hurrah. They won't be able to go after it one last time."

Wilson, who turns 26 in May, indicated that while it's hard to look down the road a year in advance, it's probable that the 2021 Olympics will be on her schedule. 

"Right now we haven't talked about what the training will be," said Wilson, who trains under coach Derek Thompson and the Juventus Track Club of Philadelphia. "I can only speak for my experiences, my ups and downs, having to take time off, not having raced for months. So I don't think it will be difficult to get back on track. We'll just make a new plan."

Like everyone else, Wilson said she is observing governmental guidelines to observe social distancing. She said she hasn't trained for three days and is trying to get outside just to remain active.

"It hasn't been too bad. I've been face-timing a lot," said Wilson, a Neptune native who lives in Philadelphia and whose family still resides in New Jersey. "It's about doing the best with what you've got. I've got a good network in Philly."

Wilson also said being cooped up in her home hasn't wrecked her social life -- yet. 

"I was supposed to go to a bachelorette party this weekend. We ended up having a group movie night (Netflix Party App, social distancing in full effect). We did movie bingo and got to hang out for a few hours. 

"The biggest thing on my list is for the first time in a long time my room is completely clean."

If terms of momentum, Wilson would have reason to be annoyed that the Olympic Games are on hold, as she appeared to be on a roll this winter. 

Already the outdoor American record holder in the 800 meters (1:55.61, set at the 2017 Monaco Diamond League meet), she claimed the American indoor 800 record last month when she ran 1:58.60 at the Millrose Games at Madison Square Garden. 

And that race came on the heels of two world-leading performances. She posted a 600-meter world best 1:25.91 at the Dr. Sander Columbia Challenge on Jan. 26 at the New York City Armory. Six days later she ran an 800 world-best 1:59.26 at the Camel City Invitational in Winston-Salem, N.C.

Wilson, an eight-time national champion, will just have to wait a bit longer for international competition. Her last taste of it was last fall when she placed third in the 800 in 1:58.84 at the World Championships in Qatar. 

In Wilson's Olympic debut, she reached the semifinals of the 800 meters (1:59.75) and placed 12th overall at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. 

"Initially I was on the fence about the Olympics, but now we're able to focus on what's important," Wilson said. "For me, I'm just taking things one day at a time and letting the cards fall where they may. I have confidence in my coach, and with the support of my family and the community, things will work out."

Stats for Ajee' Wilson