The one-year postponement of this summer’s Olympic Games in Tokyo was a blow to three local water polo players on the U.S. National Women’s Team, but they agreed it was the right decision in response to the global COVID-19/coronavirus pandemic.
Sisters and Dos Pueblos High alums Kiley and Jamie Neushul and San Marcos grad Paige Hauschild were in full-time training with the U.S. team in Los Alamitos in preparation for the Games, originally set for July 24-Aug. 9.
After pressure from several individual sports national governing bodies and Olympic commitees from around the world, the International Olympic Committee and the Toyko Olympics Organizing Committee announced last week that the Games were being postponed because of the spread of the coronavirus.
The new dates are July 23-Aug. 8, 2021.
Team USA is the three-time defending Olympic champion in women’s water polo.
“Obviously, I was really frustrated, I was really bummed,” Hauschild told Noozhawk of her initial reaction to the news of the postponement. “We’ve been working super hard for this moment. For a lot of people, its’s been almost like a lifetime dreaming for this moment.
“We’ve been on a tight schedule, everything is leading up to this moment. And being so close and having it taken away from us, it’s super frustrating.”
But Hauschild acknowledged the IOC made the right decision.
“Obviously, the health and safety of our world is more important,” she said.
Hauschild and Jamie Neushul were looking forward to making their Olympic debuts this summer.
“At first, I was very disappointed,” Jamie Neushul said. “My teammates and I have put a lot into this process, and to have it change so abruptly is not a good feeling.
“It is still sinking in, it still hurts and I’m not sure that hurt will ever go away,” she continued. “That being said, it was the right decision given the circumstances. The health of our population and the health of our planet will and always should take precedence over any other issue. The postponement comes not only as a painful realization that we will have to be patient with our Olympic dream, but also as a humbling reminder of how lucky we are to be alive, healthy, and safe.”
Kiley Neushul, who played on the gold-medal winning U.S. team at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil with local players Kami Craig and Sami Hill, said the team was 10 months into its concentrated 15-month training program prior to the start of the Toyko Olympics.
“Our team had been training for 35 hours a week since May 2019. We continued normal training sessions up until our pool was shut down on March 18, and our coach felt it was unsafe to proceed.”
As the spread of the deadly virus accelerated around the world, Kiley Neushul said she and her teammates anticipated the IOC would delay the Games.
“We were anticipating a postponement as complications with our preparation for the Olympic Games began to surface weeks ago,” she said. “Many of our scheduled competitions and trainings abroad and at home were canceled or indefinitely postponed. I was relieved to hear that the Olympic Games were postponed and not outright canceled.”
When the IOC made its announcement, coach Adam Krikorian said in a Twitter post: “As challenging as this has been for our athletes, it pales in comparison to what so many are going through. The priority of all of us at this moment should be simply to make sure we continue to do our part to help fight this virus and support those who are so courageously on the front lines.
“When the time comes to resume training, our new dream will entail being a small part of what we hope will be a historic event that brings the world together in an epic display of peace, unity and compassion for humanity.”
The Neushul sisters and Hauschild have been part of an incredible run of accomplishments achieved by Team USA. Over a period of three years, the team won 69 straight games (the streak was snapped in January in Australia) and captured the FINA World Championships, World Cup, Pan American Games and two World League Super Final crowns.
Coach Krikorian had not yet determined a roster for the Tokyo Games.
According to Hauschild, there were 17 players in camp vying for 13 spots.
Kiley Neushul said the roster announcement was about a month and a half away when the team stopped training.
Krikorian has a tough job ahead of him.
“This roster is one of the most competitive in the history of our sport,” Kiley Neushul said.
The Neushul sisters and Hauschild remain committed to Team USA for 2021.
“I’m fully on board,” said Hauschild, who took her junior year off from USC to train full time with the national team.
Said Kiley Neushul: “I am fully intending to see this Olympic cycle through. It has been a dream of mine to represent the U.S. and water polo alongside my sister at an Olympic Games. Regardless of postponement, I will continue to fight for that opportunity.”
Added Jamie Neushul: “I am absolutely committed to seeing this process through. This has been my dream since I was a young girl, and I have entirely embraced the opportunity these last four years. I fully intend on doing everything I can to realize my dream of competing in the Olympic Games.”