Hamilton Olympians supportive and conflicted as COVID-19 postpones 2020 Tokyo Olympics

Kia Nurse, 24, is still approaching her prime as she leads Canadian basketball. She was devastated to learn the Olympics were postponed. Meanwhile, Olympic marathon runner Reid Coolsaet was relieved.

'You only have a shot at this every four years'

Kia Nurse of Hamilton said she felt every emotion imaginable after hearing the Olympics were postponed because of COVID-19. (Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

Kia Nurse has been riding the biggest wave of momentum in her life and was poised to compete at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Then the 24-year-old basketball player from Hamilton read a tweet saying the International Olympic Committee postponed the next big games of her career to 2021.

In that moment, Nurse became a passenger on a roller coaster of emotions.

"Every emotion you can think of for a human to have — sadness, anger, frustration, confusion, an understanding of what was going on in the world and a bigger picture — all of that was going through my mind," she said.

"It was really hard to, at that moment, see a light at the end of the tunnel."

Kia Nurse believes her team can get a medal at the Olympics, but now they'll have to wait until next year. (Jason Franson/The Canadian Press)

She understands the tough choice to postpone the competition and prioritize the health of athletes and knows it was the right call. 

"What's hard as an athlete is your hopes and dreams are in the hands of the IOC and those are people I will probably never come into contact with and don't have a lot of influence on," she said. 

"That was very frustrating but I'm very glad they made the decision in postponing it."

One shot every four years

Nurse is coming off a recent championship win in the Australian women's basketball league where she scored the game-winning shot.

She said she's on her way toward her prime and the Olympics would have served as a new challenge, one that she and the rest of Team Canada felt they could finish with a medal.

"Tokyo was guaranteed and then all of a sudden it wasn't," she said.

"You only have a shot at this every four years and your career can last however long, you never know which day your body says 'this is enough.' "

'It was a relief'

Marathoner Reid Coolsaet, 40, was looking to qualify for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics but "didn't have a clue" on how to prepare — every recent race leading up to it had been cancelled.

Now, so is the biggest race of them all.

Hamilton's Reid Coolsaet struggled to find a race to help him qualify for the Olympics. He said the timing wasn't right for the spectacle give the spread of COVID-19. (Matthias Hangst/Getty Images/File)

"It was a relief … everyone is pretty relieved the games are being postponed," said the Hamilton native, who is one of Canada's fastest marathon runners ever.

"It's just not the right climate right now to host an international event."

Coolsaet said it was a question looming in the back of athletes' minds, so to have an answer is good. But he still isn't completely sure how to train for the next chance to win a medal and pose on the podium.

A waiting game

He's looking ahead to start up again in fall, but for now, Coolsaet is playing a long waiting game.

So is Nurse — on and off the court.

She hasn't seen her grandparents for seven months after playing in Australia and being in self-isolation upon her return to Hamilton.

"I'm just trying to stay in the moment," she said.

"We're just all holding to hope that at the end of the day this is going to be OK and everything is going to be figured out."

About the Author

Bobby Hristova


Bobby Hristova is a reporter/editor with CBC Hamilton. Email: bobby.hristova@cbc.ca