Michael Hixon, Gabby Thomas play waiting game with 2020 Tokyo Olympics

  • Mike Hixon of the United States competes in the semifinals of men's 3-meter springboard diving at the World Swimming Championships in Gwangju, South Korea, Wednesday, July 17, 2019. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein) Mark Schiefelbein—AP

  • United States' Mike Hixon performs his routine in the men's 3m springboard diving final at the World Swimming Championships in Gwangju, South Korea, Thursday, July 18, 2019. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man ) Lee Jin-man—AP

  • United States' Mike Hixon reacts after competing in the men's 3m springboard diving final at the World Swimming Championships in Gwangju, South Korea, Thursday, July 18, 2019. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man ) Lee Jin-man—AP

  • New Balance announced on Monday, Oct. 8, 2018 that it signed Harvard senior Gabby Thomas to a multi-year contract. COURTESY NEW BALANCE

  • Silver medalists United States' Sam Dorman, right, and Mike Hixon pose after the men's synchronized 3-meter springboard diving final in the Maria Lenk Aquatic Center at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2016. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham) Matt Dunham

  • Jenna Prandini of the U.S., center right, and Gabrielle Thomas of the U.S., center left, compete in the women's 200 meters race at the IAAF Diamond League athletics meeting at London Stadium in London, Sunday, July 22, 2018. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham) Matt Dunham

Staff Writer
Published: 3/23/2020 7:36:31 PM

Michael Hixon didn’t plan to dive after this summer.

Ideally, the Amherst native would qualify for his second straight Olympics, compete in Tokyo in late July then retire to start the MBA program at the University of Michigan in the fall.

Now that timeline may need reworking. The 2020 Olympic Games will likely be postponed to 2021 because of the global COVID-19 pandemic, according to USA Today.

“Some things will have to be adjusted in my life for sure,” Hixon said.

Hixon, 25, came back to Amherst to spend time with his family after the University of Indiana closed its athletic facilities. He was living in Bloomington and training with Hoosiers coach Dave Joergensen, who also leads the U.S. national team. Hixon won the 1-meter national title for the Hoosiers in his senior season and was named an All-American each of his three years there.

“When Bloomington shut down all the facilities a lot of people left and went home. It was terrible watching a lot of those seniors unknowingly do their last dives,” Hixon said. “Everyone was gone, and it didn’t make sense to stay there.”

With the postponement of the Olympics likely, uncertainty exists about the run up to the games. There’s still a qualifying meet left that will determine the participating countries for synchronized diving. Hixon won silver with Sam Dorman in the men’s 3-meter synchro event at the Rio Olympics in 2016. The Olympic Diving Trials (June 14-21 at Indiana) could also be postponed.

“It’s a little unclear, it’s pretty ambiguous,” said Hixon, who understands the decision and why the International Olympic Committee is doing it.

“There’s bigger fish to fry out there. There’s more important things going on,” Hixon said. “As important as the Olympics is to me, I know this is a good decision. It’s for the safety of everybody in the world.”

Hixon will do his best to stay in shape and be prepared for the rapidly changing situation. He is doing a lot of bodyweight exercises and doesn’t plan on rushing back to the board.

“Nobody planed for this and the people who respond best to it will have the best result,” he said. “There’s more important things going on than diving.”

Regardless of how the situation is resolved, Hixon will always be an Olympian. Florence native Gabby Thomas was trying to qualify for her first games. She moved to Austin, Texas, in August after graduating from Harvard to pursue that goal.

“Emotionally it is really really tough. I know that I’m not alone in that feeling. Especially for me this my first real attempt at making an Olympic team and a time when I felt confident in my ability to do so,” Thomas said. “I uprooted my entire life to make this Olympic team. I’m hopeful I still will have the opportunity soon enough.”

Thomas, 23, has been training with University of Texas coach Tonja Buford-Bailey on her track club. Thomas feels fortunate to still be able to train unlike many professional athletes who rely on Olympic training centers or college facilities that have shut down because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“The hard part is my coach doesn’t know what we’re training for,” Thomas said. “We don’t know if we should be running fast now or training like it’s the start of the season in August. It’s good that we’re able to get on the track and get something done.”

Like divers, track and field athletes haven’t received much information about what their season will look like.

“It’s tricky because I do feel like things are moving very slowly. You have half the population thinking ‘I’m the exception’ and you have half the cities on lockdown. It’s hard to not have any type of timeline when it comes to the government talking about public health. We’re not in the loop,” said Thomas, who minored in global health at Harvard. “All we want is answers, and we want a timeline when decisions are being made.”

Amid the chaos, Thomas has kept her goal in perspective.

“There will be another Olympics at some point,” she said. “And I plan on being there.”

Kyle Grabowski can be reached at kgrabowski@gazettenet.com. Follow him on Twitter @kylegrbwsk.

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