Mar. 24--Joey Woody refuses to get down, refuses to ask "what if."

The college track season is gone and, now, the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo have been postponed until 2021.

It's a double whammy for the director of track and field/cross country at the University of Iowa, a man who has competed in world championships and just missed the Olympics as an athlete.

The International Olympic Committee announced Tuesday, because of the coronavirus pandemic, the Tokyo Games "must be rescheduled to a date beyond 2020, but not later than summer 2021, to safeguard the health of the athletes, everybody involved in the Olympic Games and the international community."

It's first time the Olympics have ever been postponed, the first time they will be held in an odd-numbered year in the modern era, which began in 1896. Only three Olympic Games -- 1916, 1940 and 1944 -- were disrupted and those were canceled by war.

Woody, 46, now coaches athletes chasing the same dream he once harbored. His message is simple -- don't get down.

"It might be a blessing in disguise," he said Tuesday in a telephone interview. "That extra time could be the difference."

One of the athletes Woody was prepping for the Olympic Trials was former Iowa standout Erik Sowinski, an 800-meter specialist who turned 30 in December. Woody feels for athletes in the twilight of their careers, but told Sowinski "two of my best years is when I was 30 and 31."

Elite athletes, he said, "train on the edge all the time." Taking a little down time now and refocusing on 2021 may have perks.

"Just staying healthy is going to be the key," he said. "Ultimately, it was a good decision.

"It gives people clarity to know where they're at ... the IOC really didn't have a lot of options."

This was the second hit Woody has had to deal with this month. The NCAA announced March 14 all winter and spring championships were canceled, meaning the indoor season ended the weekend of the national championships and there would be no outdoor season.

"I don't question the decision, but it was disappointing," said Woody, who had qualified nine competitors for the NCAA Indoor Championships. "We felt really good going into the NCAA meet."

Iowa's men's team had just finished second in the Big Ten indoor championships, its best finish since 1963. The women's team finished eighth, but was ranked 19th in the country. The men were ranked 16th.

Woody felt both had a chance to finishing the Top 10 nationally.

The men's team also is coming off a Big Ten outdoor team title and "I actually felt this year was going to be better," Woody said.

But, again, he refuses to get down.

"It's going to be a growing and learning experience for everybody," he said. "If we get caught up in the 'what-ifs' we'd get in a real depression mode.

" ... as coaches we always think about what's next. ,,, You can't look at it as something that was taken away."

What's next was a three-hour virtual meeting with his staff on Tuesday and plans are in the works for similar team meetings soon. Students are back in school -- albeit online -- next week and he wants them to focus on academics.

"We're staying busy," he said, "just shifting our mind-set."

What pains him more is the possible loss of the high school track and field season. He feels for those seniors who wanted to compete for the final time. His son, Drake, is a senior at Liberty who "has been really dialed in and focused on track" since the end of the football season.

"He had an exceptional winter," Woody said.

"I really hope and pray they have some sort of a season ... those are the people I really fell for."


(c)2020 The Gazette (Cedar Rapids, Iowa)

Visit The Gazette (Cedar Rapids, Iowa) at

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.


Recommended for you

Load comments