Olympian Jacob Pebley Calls for USA Swimming to Postpone Olympic Trials

2016 U.S. Olympian and current National Team-er Jacob Pebley has posted a letter to Instagram addressing USA Swimming, urging the organization to postpone the 2020 U.S. Olympic Swimming Team Trials and publicly advocate to push back the 2020 Olympic Games.

The U.S. Olympic Swimming Trials are a USOC property.

As the coronavirus pandemic ensues on a global scale, and U.S. cities are in lockdown or are actively considering shelter in place mandates, Pebley’s comments (in full below) echo concerns that late spring and summer events like the Olympic Trials and the Olympics are still going on as scheduled. While we’ve seen advocacy for the Games to go on in an appeal to the spirit of sport and competition, Pebley gives voice to caution in the face of a virus that has already proved itself incredibly deadly and very damaging to the economy and everyday life.

Pebley’s letter notes his ‘deep concern’ with the recent statements from the IOC saying they are still going forward with the 2020 Games. The IOC, along with organizers in Tokyo, have persisted with communications that the pandemic won’t affect the Olympics, though one organizer mentioned the possibility of delaying the Games and later apologized. Today, IOC Athletes’ Commission Chair Kirsty Coventry took to Twitter after a two-hour all with all 220 athlete reps, saying that athletes had several concerns about training and qualifications but that they ‘want the Games to continue.’ Pebley’s comments are the opposite.

“How can we, members of Team USA and role models for hundreds of thousands of young athletes, attend Olympic Trials/the Olympics in good conscience? To do so would fly in the face of all emerging evidence and best practices for social distancing and protecting the health of vulnerable communities,” writes Pebley in his letter.

Pebley also points out the movements by governments worldwide to close public spaces and businesses, noting, “even if Trials or the Olympics were to be held without spectators, the events would still necessitate extensive travel and interaction among thousands of athletes/staff/media– all potential vectors for spread of a virus we barely understand and do not have the resources to effectively treat or prevent at the moment.”

Next, he mentions the unequal playing field brought about by this pandemic, with athletes dealing with closed training facilities and living in varying levels of isolation depending on where they live. Indeed, ongoing measures by governments worldwide to keep people in their homes have varying negative effects on swimmers depending on the location.

“USA Swimming has the opportunity to lead the push for the only moral option in light of this unprecedented situation,” said Pebley in his closing statements.

He also provided links to recent studies done by Imperial College London and the University of Minnesota about necessary measures to mitigate the disease and its damage.

The U.S. Olympic Trials are still scheduled for June 21-28 in Omaha, Nebraska, while several major nations have pushed back their trials or have canceled them altogether. See a running list of international Olympic trials changes and cancellations here.

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2 years ago

I agree with Pebley. It is extremely disrespectful to place athletes, officials, and health care providers at risk for the Olympic trials and 2020 games. This is insane. Just look at what is happening around the world! Even our health care providers are getting sick. We don’t even know if there will be enough of them to take care of us. Some people can train for their sport, while others cannot. Sadly, this is not going to be over with any time soon.

2 years ago

Kee going. is easier for athletes, but the season puts the fat down and the weakness can last for a long time. As far as the Olympics are concerned, my view of China’s developments is solid: using technical sound systems and light art solutions to partially compensate the atmosphere at the right time and in full public. Qualifying can use silking, and it’s better to lock them up. The best ones are anyway compliant and instead of the test races, as in Estonia, there are more than 2 (swimming) or 3 (most of the areas) A-standard performers. In the event of an earthquake, there is no place to move. London was a good option but the virus rages there. Ironically,… Read more »

Reply to  Kristiina
2 years ago

Uh whatttt?

Ol' Longhorn
2 years ago

By “event” do you mean Armageddon?

2 years ago

The problem is not everyone has equal opportunity to train now. Creates an unfair competition in many people’s eyes.

Reply to  Taa
2 years ago

There’s never been equal opportunity but those of us from privileged countries only notice when it’s us at a disadvantage.

Casas 100 back gold in Tokyo
Reply to  Troyy
2 years ago

Well said. I didn’t see anyone bring up the problem of unequal training opportunities when China, Japan and Korea were suffering from the pandemic. Then it suddenly became a problem after breakout in Europe and America.

Reply to  Casas 100 back gold in Tokyo
2 years ago

You want us to monitor training conditions in every country and speak up whenever one of them is at a disadvantage? It’s only a fair competition when we have an advantage

2 years ago

We need more Pebwick

Agent Pebwick
Reply to  Taa
2 years ago

Might get what you wish for sooner than you think:)

2 years ago

You also have to wonder with all the travel restrictions, if the top athletes around the world are even being tested regularly? Not just for swimming but for all the summer olympic sports.

2 years ago

Ok. At least we have an “Olympian” weighing in, but is Jacob really likely to even make the team this year? And how many Olympic medals does he have? Let’s hear from Murph, Caeleb, King, Simone, Adrian…(sorry to leave so many out)…when we have a better picture of the future of this virus. Why not ask my age grouper friend who barely has trials cut?

SuperSwimmer 2000
Reply to  FLMOM
2 years ago

Are you an Olympian? How many Olympic Medals do you have? Why do you feel anyone should listen to what you have to say on the subject?

Ol' Longhorn
Reply to  SuperSwimmer 2000
2 years ago

If applied that principle across SwimSwam, it would close down.

Reply to  Ol' Longhorn
2 years ago

Only Michael Phelps is allowed to comment on anything because he has more medals than everyone else and will always have the correct opinion by default

Roque Santos
2 years ago

AGREED! Thanks Jacob!

About Karl Ortegon

Karl Ortegon

Karl Ortegon studied sociology at Wesleyan University in Middletown, CT, graduating in May of 2018. He began swimming on a club team in first grade and swam four years for Wesleyan.

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