Jul. 24—With the start of the 2021 Tokyo Olympics on Friday, some local athletic figures look forward to watching the games despite COVID-19 restrictions.
Kayla Felty, assistant director of athletics at Penn State Schuylkill, said she is excited to see the athletes be able to compete this year after the games were postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
"I have a really deep appreciation for the athletes and what they've gone through mentally," Felty said. "They trained for four years, then to have it postponed and still be in an unknown situation, that must be mentally taxing."
Felty said the uncertainty of whether events will be canceled due to COVID-19 cases and the requirements for getting tested are surely an added stress on the athletes, but she thinks the experience will still be worth it.
"Who knows if in four years you'll be at your peak anymore," Felty said. "It's still worth the opportunity to go."
Another aspect Felty said may be challenging for the athletes is the restriction on spectators.
"Having no spectators may impact their mindset," Felty said. "Athletes really feed off that crowd energy, so it may change the way the games operate."
As a former softball player, Felty said she is looking forward to watching the softball games, as well as swimming. As a graduate of Villanova University, she also has a personal connection to the men's basketball team, which will be coached by Jay Wright, Villanova's head coach.
While Felty plans to watch these events, she said she does not think the Olympics have as much buzz from viewers this year.
"We're all so numb from watching everything going on online and on TV," Felty said. "People might not remember to tune in with so much going on in the world."
Felty said the Olympics were not the only sporting event to be hindered by the pandemic, as athletics at Penn State Schuylkill and elsewhere saw changes in the past year and a half.
"I'm really excited to see sports happening again, whether it's at the Olympic, college or high school level," Felty said.
Sharon Klinger, owner of Schuylkill Aerial and Wellness in Pottsville, said after the Olympics were postponed last year due to COVID-19, she is even more excited to watch the games this year.
"I've been looking forward to it all year," Klinger said. "I marked it on my calendar. Even though there will be a time difference, I plan to watch as much as I can."
The main event Klinger plans to watch is gymnastics. Klinger said she enjoys seeing new moves and routines from gymnasts all over the world, but especially Simone Biles of Team USA.
While the environment might be different this year with COVID-19 restrictions, Klinger said she thinks there might be some benefits.
"It may change the excitement with the crowd not being there, but the gymnasts may have more ability to concentrate," Klinger said. "I expect they will be on their best performance."
As a fitness instructor, Klinger has a particular interest in gymnastics. She opened her aerial yoga studio in 2019 and said watching Olympic gymnastics has helped drive her passion.
"As a child, many of us had a goal to be in the Olympics," Klinger said. "Even if you don't make it, you can start at any age and still pursue your passions in life."
Klinger said watching athletes in the Olympics shows that pursuing those passions takes time and practice.
"As long as you have a willingness to learn, you can do anything," Klinger said.