TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — As the Tokyo Olympics get underway, it has been no easy road for athletes who have had to navigate through uncertainty and delays. The world has watched and waited for this moment, but so have Olympians of games past.
As excited as fans are to watch athletes represent the United States, and see the best of the spirit of competition, local Olympians like Brooke Bennett believe this will be an Olympics like none other before.
“I think the Olympic Games are pure form of the greatest athletes that come every four years,” said Bennett.
As a three-time gold medal winner at the 1996 and 2000 Olympic Games, Bennett has a keen insight into what athletes go through to represent the United States. Much like the rest of the world, Olympic athletes have lived day-by-day, not knowing what would happen with the games.
Competing will look different. She spoke to 8 On Your Side about swimming with stands full of fans; the sounds of competition days ringing in her ears, and how that once helped calm her nerves.
“I was just so in tune to the sound, and the roaring, and cheering that you get goosebumps, and you forget about all the nit-picky things running through your head at that point in time,” said Bennett.
Athletes now have to follow new rules to protect against COVID-19. There are changes from previous games, including how they arrive to Tokyo, the extra testing for COVID that must be done regularly, and how fans will cheer on their favorite competitors and countries. During the next few weeks fans are basically not allowed in the stands, stadiums, and arenas.
US athletes will compete in silent venues. No family in the stands, no friends or signs of support.
Bennett says this will not deter athletes from giving their all.
“You’re not here to see us in person. I’m going to get out there, and I’m going to perform harder, better, faster, because I want all of my fans, my family, who can’t be there to feel my excitement of being an Olympian,” said Bennett.
Bennett gave one bit of advice on how we can connect with our favorite athletes. Social media. She encourages us to use this to encourage, not tear down. Love not hate on the athletes who will do their best.