Wrestler’s long journey to Tokyo Olympics put on hold

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BLACKSBURG, Va. (WFXR) — For Ethan Aguigui, the last few weeks have been a roller coaster of emotions.

The 27-year-old freestyle wrestler has been waiting four years for the chance to earn a spot at the Tokyo Olympics.

“You’ve been training the last four years for this past cycle to prepare for this moment,” Aguigui said. “And to hear that it’s been delayed one year, it’s kind of heartwrenching. But at the same time you…gotta keep in mind the safety of humanity pretty much at this point.”

Aguigui wrestlers for Guam, an island territory of the United States. He trains in Blacksburg while working for the Virginia Tech wrestling team as the assistant director of operations. His qualifying tournament was supposed to take place in Morocco from March 13-15.

But a week before his scheduled departure, just as the coronavirus became widespread, the event was canceled.

“I was just preparing for that. But at the same time, preparing for the possibility that it wouldn’t get canceled,” Aguigui said. “So just try to stay even keeled and do the best that I can with my routine and just try to stay positive.”

For weeks, Aguigui was in limbo as the International Olympic Committee was determined to deliver the Tokyo Games on time. Meanwhile, athletes around the world had nowhere to train as practice facilities shutdown.

“Access to those things that have been so routine and so regular, it’s just scratched. So it’s a whole change of routine and lifestyle pretty much,” Aguigui said. “I was still eager and ready to go if the Olympics were to happen at the same time. As the cases got more serious, there was a realization that maybe postponing it isn’t the worst idea.”

After numerous calls to delay the Games by athletes and federations, the IOC finally made its decision to postpone on March 24.

“It was very hard to take because, first of all, we had to consider the dreams of the Olympic athletes, which we wanted to make coming true,” IOC president Thomas Bach said. “Given the latest worldwide dramatic developments in the spreading of the virus, there we did not see the opportunity any more to organize Olympic Games, which safeguards the health of every participant.”

Tokyo 2020 will now be held in the summer of 2021, with the Opening Ceremony set for July 23.

With the extra time to prepare, Aguigui can relax a bit while organizers try to figure out new dates for qualifying tournaments.

“Right now, just a little bit binge eating, indulging a little bit but trying to be sensible,” Aguigui said. “I still have to qualify for Guam. I have to stay on a regimen. Stay disciplined.”

In the meantime, he’s still working out while trying to maintain weight as he prepares to compete in the 57 kilogram (127 pound) division. With gym facilities closed, Aguigui has taken up a routine of running, cross training and home workouts.

“It’s doing what you can with as little as you can pretty much.”

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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