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Tracking COVID-19 at UCLA2020 Racial Justice Movement

With Olympics postponed, current and former Bruins use the extra time to train

(Illustration by Nico Hy/Daily Bruin)

By Jacqueline Dzwonczyk

April 22, 2020 4:21 p.m.

While the world faces shortages of necessary goods, many people are surrounded by an abundance of one thing: time.

And if it’s possible to keep future goals in focus, extra time can be a good thing, according to some of the current and former UCLA student athletes who had been preparing for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. They agreed they could use all the time they can get.

When UCLA women’s soccer senior goalkeeper Teagan Micah found out the Olympics had been postponed and rescheduled, she said her shock was quickly replaced by contentment.

“I was obviously taken back from it, however, in the grand scheme of things I was relieved,” Micah said. “It has been a great opportunity to reset. Individually, I have taken this time to recover from a few little injuries that I had been carrying with me from playing in back-to-back seasons.”

After finishing her final season with the Bruins in December, Micah began training with the Australian national women’s soccer team in preparation for what would have been her first Olympics.

For Micah and other first-time Olympians, the postponement has offered a much-needed opportunity to prepare more fully for the world stage.

Former UCLA beach volleyball player Sarah Sponcil had spent all her time since last year’s national championship May 5 training with partner Kelly Claes to earn a spot on Team USA. They are currently the third-ranked pair in the U.S. and would have had until June 15 to move into the top-two teams in order to qualify for the Olympics.

Sponcil said since she and Claes are just beginning their professional careers and are in no rush to compete right away, they are grateful for the extra time to improve their standing.

“The more time that we have, the better for us – the more time we have to train, to get more experience,” Sponcil said. “I think for a lot of other athletes it’s hitting differently, especially older ones. But for us, we’re so young. So it was a shock, but it was a good thing.”

Sponcil has taken advantage of the downtime to not only focus on her athletic development, but also to build her brand as a professional beach volleyball player.

She has recently launched a website that features blog posts and at-home workout routines, and said she plans to try her hand at a YouTube channel designed to support young beach volleyball players.

“A goal of mine is always to be known as a relatable person and not just as this athlete who can do X, Y, Z or has won this many tournaments,” Sponcil said. “I’m happy and more fulfilled in life when I’m looked up to as that role model for these girls that I once was.”

Sponcil may be one of the youngest beach athletes who was headed for Tokyo, but UCLA softball redshirt senior pitcher/first baseman Rachel Garcia and senior utility Bubba Nickles – two members of USA Softball – aren’t even officially professionals yet, as they still have remaining college eligibility.

Garcia said in addition to the gift of extra preparation, her time in quarantine has allowed her to get to know her USA teammates more intimately off the field.

“It’s definitely a bonding experience, especially with our team since we figured out another way to be in contact other than just through texts – we do talks every Tuesday,” Garcia said. “That’s been a big factor through this quarantine that’s bringing us closer, to help us get to know each other better on a personal level.”

The duo also plans to start joining the current Bruins’ Zoom meetings in the coming weeks, though neither has decided whether she will return to UCLA for a final season after the Olympics.

Even with so much up in the air, Nickles said the anticipation surrounding the return of sports makes the future Olympics even more exciting.

“This is the first time that the Olympics – and then every type of sporting event – has been abruptly stopped, so it’s kind of sad and disappointing that it happened, but it makes it so much sweeter when it does come back around,” Nickles said. “That’s the coolest part about it, is that people are just eagerly waiting for the best parts of everything to come back.”

It’s still uncertain how long it will take for sports to come back. But when they do, it will be as historic as the day they were taken away.

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Jacqueline Dzwonczyk | Sports senior staff
Dzwonczyk is currently a Sports senior staff writer. She was previously an assistant Sports editor for the women's basketball, women's soccer, beach volleyball, men's golf and women's golf beats. Dzwonczyk was previously a staff writer on the women's soccer, beach volleyball and women's tennis beats.
Dzwonczyk is currently a Sports senior staff writer. She was previously an assistant Sports editor for the women's basketball, women's soccer, beach volleyball, men's golf and women's golf beats. Dzwonczyk was previously a staff writer on the women's soccer, beach volleyball and women's tennis beats.
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