With dozens of sports leagues postponing their seasons amid the COVID-19 outbreak, Kamali Thompson expected the Olympics would be postponed too.
Thompson, a former Temple sabre and 2012 biology alumna, had been training for a spot on the United States fencing team for the 2020 Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo, but the games were postponed until 2021 due to the pandemic.
Thompson fenced for Temple from 2008-12 and finished her career with a record of 175-48. Thompson held the program record for most career victories by a sabre until this year. Seniors Kerry Plunkett and Malia Hee finished their careers with 235 wins each.
Thompson was supposed to compete in three Olympic qualifiers to determine if she would have made the U.S. national team. When President Donald Trump announced a travel ban for 26 European countries on March 11, all the qualifiers were postponed.
Thompson’s first competition was supposed to take place in Belgium at the end of March; the other two were scheduled in St. Louis, Missouri, and Seoul, South Korea.
The top four fencers from each of the three weapons qualify for the Olympics. Thompson is currently ranked fourth in sabre, she said.
When all of the qualifiers were postponed, Thompson was not surprised about the Olympics being postponed.
“It was a little upsetting to say the least just because we train for so long, or I’ve been doing it for so long to compete in the summer hopefully,” Thompson said. “But in the end, it’s better postponed than canceled so I’m still pretty happy.”
Thompson usually trains at the Peter Westbrook Foundation in New York City. However, due to COVID-19, the gym has been closed indefinitely.
Because she is unable to fence, Thompson has to stay at home and work on exercises that are not directly related to fencing. As a result, Thompson is preparing for the games by working on her cardio and exercises like squats and lunges that help her fence better.
“I was not fortunate enough to be smart enough to get a home gym before all this happened,” Thompson said. “So I’m getting really creative about different exercises I can do. It’s a little frustrating because I feel like I’m downgrading my training but with the situation, you can only do what you have.”
The Olympics were originally scheduled to take place in Tokyo, Japan, from July 24 to August 9. They will now take place July 23 to Aug. 8, 2021.
Thompson believes having an extra year to train will be beneficial, depending on how much the virus is contained so gyms can be opened up again, she said.
“I think a year definitely helps to change the momentum of what’s going on,” Thompson said. “With the Olympic trials, a year also gives me more time to work on my weaknesses, work on my strengths and get some more experience.”
Globally, there are currently more than 1 million cases of coronavirus and more than 75,000 people have died from the virus as of Tuesday afternoon, the New York Times reported.
As of Tuesday, the U.S. has more than 360,000 cases of coronavirus and 11,000 deaths and Japan has seen more than 4,600 cases and 80 deaths, the Times reported. In Tokyo, there are more than 1,000 cases, according to Nippon.com.
Even though COVID-19 is a global pandemic, Thompson believes the Olympics will be the first event that brings the whole world together after the Coronavirus is contained.
“First and foremost, the Olympics are about bringing everyone together,” Thompson said. “I think that when the Olympics do happen because we are experiencing a pandemic right now, this will be the first time that the world will be able to come together, everyone will be healthy and it will be a really exciting moment.”