While looking forward to competing in the Olympic Games for the second time, former Villanova track star Patrick Tiernan saw it become increasingly more difficult to prepare as the coronavirus pandemic tightened its grip on the world.
As it turned out, the Olympic committee in his native Australia relieved the stress for Tiernan and his fellow countrymen when it voted not to send a delegation this summer to Tokyo for the 2020 Games. The move came one day before the International Olympic Committee announced on March 24 the postponement of the Games.
Speaking before the IOC’s decision was made public, Tiernan, 25, said he understood what a tough call it would be financially to postpone but that many people involved, especially the athletes, "would be sort of relieved, or at least not stressed out, about something that they’re really not sure is going to happen or not.”
Tiernan said he had received a call from Athletics Australia, the nation’s track and field governing body, to let him and other athletes know they may not be going to Tokyo. He said the Australian government had instituted several travel bans to stop the spread of the virus.
“That was something they were very open to us about and they were letting us know that it was going to be a realistic option,” he said. “Ultimately, I think it was the right decision on their part. They were very focused on the health and safety and all of the athletes and coaches who would be traveling to the Olympics.”
For Tiernan, who competed in the 5,000 meters at the 2016 Rio Games but did not qualify for the final, the uncertainty of finding a race to help him prepare was the most difficult to experience. He had planned to compete in the March 15 New York Half Marathon that was canceled, and then in a race in early May that also was canceled.
“It was more the aspect of not knowing when we were going to be able to set foot on the track again, or any sort of race, and ultimately not knowing whether we’d be able to get a race in at all before the Olympics,” he said. “So probably that was the most stressful part.
“I guess now we can sort of look more toward races that are in a realistic time frame of when this will pass, so that’s something that we can prepare for. It also means that we don’t have to worry now about finding time to train if we don’t need to if we’re being told to stay indoors and stuff like that. So it just makes the whole thing a lot less stressful and we can just focus on the matter at hand.”
Tiernan said he had been training with Villanova track coach Marcus O’Sullivan about twice a week and trained with Philadelphia-area runners on some of the other days. But as coronavirus fears spread, he stopped seeing the 58-year-old O’Sullivan because he did not want to put him at risk.
Tiernan said he was looking forward to the next Olympics to put into practice the lessons he learned from his 2016 debut, when he was not quite ready for the “overwhelming feeling” when he stepped to the start line for his heat.