The Red & Black’s assistant sports editor Austin Roper spoke via phone call with Petros Kyprianou, Georgia track and field head coach and Estonian Olympic coach. Kyprianou discussed the cancellation of winter and spring sports events, an additional year of eligibility for spring sport athletes and the Tokyo Olympics moving to begin on July 23, 2021.
Austin Roper: What’s a typical day been like for you lately?
Petros Kyprianou: After I wake up in the morning and get my workout and get a good meal, I kind of get back to the drawing board and scan recruits and [go over] recruiting in general. I look for some youngsters to fill up the possible future gaps we might have on our team. Try to have a plan for anything, whether it's the NCAA telling us 'Okay, you can start coaching [players] now,' come April 15 or whenever that is. I'm just trying to plan ahead. So I try to spend about an hour a day designing the plans and everything and kind of recruiting, identify some recruits, touch base with the coaches and my assistants and just kind of stay in touch with the [UGA] administration and everybody around the program.
Roper: How have the conversations with your student and Olympic athletes been since everything’s unfolded?
Kyprianou: Just very basic. They kind of keep themselves updated on social media and all that good stuff. But mainly just exchanging a few texts here and there. I keep giving them options or choices for workouts. I have my Google Slide where I upload the workout for the week and that kind of keeps them in the loop to know what they have every day and what they have available to them to train. It's been pretty different, much different, than before. That's the hardest part when you close in a bunch of competitive youngsters [and] tell them [they] can't go outside or can't go through their normal routine. We're trying to keep it as simple as possible.
Roper: When you do get to speak to them, do they seem a little worried or uncertain given the circumstances?
Kyprianou: I honestly try not to talk about that at all. I'm just trying to get them to maintain the faith we have in each other and just test the system. Now the good thing is, this is for everybody. It's not just for us, you know? Nobody's in any advantage or [in a situation] more outlandish than we have. So my feeling is that it's the same playing field for everybody and when we get to work, we can practice and have a real plan. It started with the International Olympic Committee naming [a date] for the opening ceremonies for next year's Olympics. Now, that's a good start. [The Olympics' new date] lines up well with the NCAA season and all that. But I consider this [past] season pretty much, you know, a waste.
Roper: How much of an impact do you think the athletes’ performance could see with their training being disrupted by this?
Kyprianou: I think it's gonna have a big, big impact. So that's why it's important for them to continue training until maybe June or July when they would usually take their break. Athletes are habitual beings. They have their habits, they have their routines, and every time you take them off of their routine and take them away from that routine, it really throws them off. I'm expecting this to have a huge impact on every athlete out there.
Roper: Do you think the IOC making its decision this early is considered good or bad?
Kyprianou: I think that was good because the longer they waited the worse it would've been for everybody. Because when you prepare yourself for the Olympics, the biggest stage of your career as an athlete, you need a minimum of 12 months or one year to prepare and be physically or mentally ready. So I think the timing is pretty good.
Roper: How important is it to keep the Olympics in the summer?
Kyprianou: I think that is very important because initially, [the IOC] mentioned something about the spring, which would have been super stupid in my opinion. I mean, just flat out dumb to have the Olympics in May. I mean, 50% of the athletes will be at the [Olympic] Trials, maybe 75% of the athletes will be at the Trials from the NCAA. So when are they supposed to compete? Because it has to be like a month or two months before the Olympics. So you're telling me that we'll be having the Olympic Trials in the middle of February? Just impossible. I'm super thankful that they did not [decide on] that.
Roper: Do you think it was fair to give spring student-athletes another year of eligibility and do you think they should’ve done the same for winter sport student-athletes?
Kyprianou: Yeah, I think it would be super fair to give the spring athletes [an additional year of eligibility]. Now the winter athletes, I mean, I think it wouldn't be fair. ... Now, as far as the spring sports, like outdoor track or other sports, I think it's very fair that they give that [year] back to the student-athletes and basically take on the bill and not [have it] count against scholarships. A lot of sports, take basketball, for example, I think their season is just not right because they played so many games. But then they will say, ‘Well, we were about to get into March Madness, the most important part of the year.’ I agree, but our championship competition is basically a weekend. So, you know, for them, it's a month, for us, it's a weekend and it's equally as important. Maybe more important for us because we've got men and women on the same team. In my opinion, I think for the winter sports, what's done is done and you just have to move on from that.
This interview was edited for length and clarity.