The pandemic-delayed Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo are now underway. The Hoosier State will have a strong presence in Japan with athletes competing in a variety of sports, including swimming, running and cycling. Some of the athletes are chasing the dream of repeating their medal-winning performances from the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
In an interview with Inside INdiana Business sports contributor Bill Benner, IndyStar sportswriter and long-time Olympic journalist David Woods said amateur athletes in Indiana have put up impressive numbers.
“The last Olympics was the most Indiana medalists I have covered,” said Woods, who first covered the Olympics in 1996. “Indiana affiliated athletes won 19 medals, which would have put in like them like about 12th in the (medal count) standings. Ahead of Kenya. Ahead of Spain. Ahead of some prominent, prominent nations in the Olympic sports world.”
Many of those medals were earned in the pool, which could see a repeat this time. Woods says the state of Indiana has the most swimmers and divers on the Olympic team, including athletes who attended college in Indiana but compete for their home countries. One hometown athlete to watch is Indiana University swimmer and 2016 gold medalist Lilly King.
“Lilly King is trying to become the very first woman to win the 100-meter breaststroke gold medal at the Olympics on the women’s side twice. It’s never been done. But if there’s anybody going to do it, it would be Lilly King.”
Woods says King was good at the Olympic trials and he thinks she’ll be better at the Olympics.
He says another athlete to watch is Brownsburg’s Chloe Dygert, who won silver at the Rio Games in cycling. Woods says Dygert is coming back from a crash at the World Championships last fall.
“She recently won a national title in individual time trial, which is in her wheelhouse. So, she has a chance to win gold medals on the track and on the road in cycling,” Woods said.
The veteran sportswriter says the age factor is part of the equation for some athletes, including Indianapolis runner Cole Hocker, who is a chasing a medal in the 1,500-meter race. At 20 years old, Hocker is the youngest U.S. runner in the category in more than 50 years. The delay gave Hocker an extra year to prepare.
“There’s no way he would have made the Olympic team last year. This year, he has an outside chance to medal,” said Woods. “We’ve seen some that it’s been good for some of the younger athletes. And then some of the older athletes, that one extra year has been bad.”
The opening ceremonies, on a tape-delayed basis, will be shown tonight on NBC stations.