by Alex Poletti
Photo by Lukas Schulze/Picture Alliance via Getty Images
Tuesday marked another setback for the sports world, as the 2020 Summer Olympic Games were postponed due to concerns about coronavirus. The news hit US gymnast Sophia Butler especially hard; the 15-year-old fears that, because the games have been pushed back a year, she may age out of her chance at Olympic glory.
“I was really looking forward to competing in Tokyo,” the US National Team member says. “But now I’m afraid I’m never going to get that chance. In a year I’ll be 16, so I might as well be competing in the geriatric division.”
Gymnastics often has one of the youngest average ages of any Olympic sport, with many athletes making their Olympic debuts before turning 18. The entirety of the US team was under the age of majority during their 2012 gold medal run in London.
“When you look at the greats, they were all young when they made it big,” Butler sas. “I mean, maybe I’ll be able to be the team’s chauffeur because I’ll finally have my driver’s license at that point, but other than that I have no idea how I’ll be a part of this team moving forward.”
The road to Olympic qualification is harder than ever, as the 2021 games are to feature a reduced four-person squad instead of the traditional five. This was done to ensure that countries without as much depth could still be competitive against the gymnastics powerhouses. As one of the aforementioned powerhouses, the US has perhaps the largest field of talented gymnasts in the world to choose from, and with one spot all but reserved for reigning All-Around gold medalist Simone Biles, Butler has a small shot at clinching one of the three remaining spots.
“I know that it would’ve been super competitive, but I think I had a good shot,” Butler says. “In a year’s time? Not so much. I doubt the coaches would even think I could remember a routine, given the possibility I’d have developed dementia by then.”
The bad news keeps rolling for Butler, as she will not be able to train at public gyms for the next few months: due to her advanced age, she has been labeled high risk for the coronavirus by the government and has been advised to stay in her home unless absolutely necessary.