bulldogs 2021 olympians collage

2016-graduate Garrett Scantling, graduating senior swimmer Veronica Burchill and 2018-graduate Keturah Orji join other Bulldogs past and present looking for a spot in the 2021 Tokyo Olympics.

July 23 would have marked the start of the 2020 Summer Olympics — athletes from across the world would have gathered in Tokyo for two weeks for a shot of a lifetime on the biggest stage in the world.

But COVID-19 had different plans.

The one-year postponement of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics did not come as a surprise to many amid the global spread of COVID-19. Olympic hopefuls around the world, including several former Bulldogs, have had to change their workouts and routines to adapt to the year ahead.

During the 2016 U.S. track and field Olympic trials, the three highest-scoring athletes would earn a reserved spot on the U.S. National Team. Nearly missing the opportunity, former Georgia track and field athletes Garrett Scantling and Devon Williams placed fourth and fifth, respectively.

Now, Scantling and Williams are in Athens preparing for the 2021 Olympic Games. Scantling trained with Georgia track and field head coach Petros Kyprianou as a coaching intern in 2020.

Many former Bulldogs were relieved that the Olympics were extended for a year. Kendell Williams, a 2017 graduate and sprinter representing the United States, felt relieved that she had another year to prepare. 

2018 graduate Keturah Orji, who represents the United States in the triple jump, narrowly missed the podium at the 2016 Games. Her 14.71-meter jump landed her in fourth behind Kazakhstan's Olga Rypakova by just three centimeters. Though she hoped to move up and earn a medal at this year’s games, Orji sees the added year as a silver lining to get used to her new coach.

Similarly, Cejhae Greene, a 2018 graduate representing Antigua and Barbuda as a sprinter, and Melanie Margalis, a 2014 graduate representing the United States as a swimmer, were disappointed in the announcement. Although they agreed with the decision to postpone the Games, they felt that their hard work and training this year went down the drain.

Current Georgia track and field athletes Karel Tilga and Johannes Erm both shared the objective of making the 2020 Estonian Olympic Team this year. Erm made the team while teammate Tilga, who joined Georgia in 2019, was still hoping to make the cut.

Georgia coaches have spoken up about their experiences with the year-long postponement as well. Katrin Koch, Georgia’s director of strength and conditioning for Olympic sports, has remained dedicated to training Bulldog athletes despite the postponement. Keeping safety protocols in mind, Koch has helped train athletes for the Olympics in Athens this summer.

Similarly, Jack Bauerle, head coach of swimming and diving at Georgia, has trained athletes in local swim centers and backyard pools this summer. Although training has been different, now including daily temperature checks and a temporary ban on locker rooms, Bauerle has maintained his Olympic coaching streak even during the current “dead” period.

Senior swimmer Veronica Burchill had hoped to compete in five relays and two individual events during her fourth invite to the NCAA championships before the coronavirus struck. 

The event, which would have taken place this March at the Gabrielsen Natatorium in Athens, was already decorated and ready for incoming teams when the news of the cancellation came. The defeat of the cancellation hit the women’s team hard, but the NCAA’s extended eligibility rule has left many seniors feeling more sweet than bitter.

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