The New York Times
Steele Johnson, a diver who won a silver medal for the United States at the 2016 Rio Games, woke up Tuesday morning to texts from friends saying they were so sorry that the Summer Olympics had been postponed. They knew how hard it had been for Johnson, 23, and his wife, Hilary, to make ends meet as he pursued a gold medal in Tokyo.
When he read the news, Johnson said, he felt it in the pit of his stomach.
“We’ve had a very, very tough year financially,” he said. “I don’t know if I could keep up a lifestyle like this for another 12 to 15 months of just diving without getting a full-time job. It’s hard to think about making more sacrifices than we already have.”
For days, athletes had been voicing concerns about the 2020 Tokyo Games, worrying that they were jeopardizing their health and the health of others if they continued training while many of their countries were locked down and restricting activity.
In polls and surveys conducted over the weekend, athletes voted in overwhelming numbers in favor of a postponement.
Yet when the news finally came, it was the ultimate mixed blessing: a lifeline for some and a new set of challenges that may be insurmountable because of financial, age or health issues for others.
Like so many Olympians, Johnson, who has a degree in film and video studies from Purdue, lives on a tight budget that has no place for cuts. He and his wife don’t buy new clothes. At home in Indiana, their grocery bill must stay within $60 a week. He has worked nights as a driver for the food delivery service Grubhub. His wife is a wedding photographer.
After he won a silver medal at the Rio Games, Johnson could not secure a sponsor. He receives a small stipend for being on the national team, but now will look for work that can carry him through to the new, unspecified date for the Games in 2021.
“I’m just going to have to be creative,” he said. “I will do what I can to support my family and pay for our food and our dogs’ food, but it’s going to be a challenge.”