With the Olympic Games in Tokyo beginning in July, athletes from around the world compete for spots on their country's rosters to compete in Japan. One of the most popular collections of games, track and field, will be some of the fiercest trials. From sprinters running as fast as they can to throwers heaving 16-pound shot puts, every second and inch counts.
The University of Arizona will have three athletes who the focus will be on. Track runners Sage Watson and Shannon Meisberger and thrower Jordan Geist.
Geist wrapped up his junior season in stellar fashion, finishing eighth in the hammer throw (70.53 meters) and third in shot put (20.40 meters) at the national championship in Eugene, Oregon. Even with the pressure of an Olympic trial, Geist feels the key to success is not treating the trials any differently than a regular track meet.
“The biggest difference is that it is just a different stage,” Geist said. “We have all been here before, so it should not be too overwhelming. I have competed at USA nationals before, so it is very similar to that. Obviously, it is the Olympics, so your approach is a little bit different, but you just have to treat it like any other day in the office.”
Before he was a star thrower at the UA, Geist was just a kid with a dream who wanted to follow in his family’s footsteps.
“I have been throwing since I was eight years old,” Geist said. “My parents were both throwers in college, and I have been taking it year by year. Once I got into middle school, I started to find my passion for it. That is when I stopped playing basketball and football and just focused on track and field.”
Though throwing ran in the family, Geist never felt pressure from his parents, only support.
“My parents did a really good job,” Geist said. “They never pushed me into the sport. It was a sport that I chose from a young age, and they were able to share their knowledge to help me build a solid base and learn the fundamentals.”
While Geist seems calmer and more collected about it, Meisberger acknowledged the added pressure of competing for an Olympic roster spot.
“Of course, you try not to think about it, but you are always going to [look over] and see who is in your lane,” Meisberger said. “You have to focus on the moment. If I make it to the Olympics, I am just going to be happy that I made it there. These [trial] races are more of a celebration than intense pressure, especially for student-athletes because we do not have money riding on this. This is for the joy of competing.”
Meisberger has a legit shot at making it, as she finished second in the 400-meter hurdles (55.70) at the national championships. Meisberger is thrilled to have the support of her family and friends.
“I have gotten a lot of texts from coaches and friends,” Meisberger said. “I am not going back home to Massachusetts until after trials, but hopefully not until after the Olympics. I am very happy, and all of my friends back home have been very supportive.”
While Geist and Meisberger are attempting to make their first Olympic team, Watson is competing for her second Olympic berth.
Watson ran for Team Canada at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Watson finished No. 11 in the semifinals with a time of 55.44, which was not enough to qualify for the finals. Watson did reach the finals with Team Canada in the 4x400 meter relay, where her team would narrowly miss the podium with a fourth-place finish at 3:26.43.
“Track and field is highlighted more so in Olympic years than other events,” Watson said. “That is a cool thing for our sport, but we do not get as much attention during the World Championships, the diamond league or the pro circuit. Hopefully, the attention from the Olympics will help spike that interest in attention to our pro leagues as it does for other pro sports leagues.”
Watson is also proud of how the Olympics can bring the world together for two weeks with a common cause of cheering for your nation.
“It is an honor to be recognized,” Watson said. “The world really comes together to celebrate track and field … and it is an exciting time for our sport.”
The Games of the XXXII Olympiad will begin with opening ceremonies at Olympic Stadium on Friday, July 23 in Tokyo, Japan on NBC.
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