Dreams on hold: LSU athletes Olympic dreams postponed due to COVID-19


FILE – In this March 24, 2020, file photo, workers stand at the bottom of the Olympic rings at Tokyo’s Odaiba district. Just two months after the unprecedented postponement. Chief Executive Toshiro Muto was asked Thursday, May 28, 2020 about progress rescheduling next year’s Tokyo Olympics. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko, File)

LSU swimmers and chemical engineering students Nicole Rozier and Helen Grossman qualified for the Olympic Trials that were set for June 19 in Omaha, but due to COVID-19 their Olympic dreams have been put on hold.

Both students spent most of their lives swimming competitively and trained with LSU to make it to the trials. According to LSU, they practiced six days a week, sometimes twice a day, and spent at least three hours in the gym every week.

“It’s frustrating to have the Olympic Trials postponed, but I understand looking at it from the committee’s perspective,” she told LSU. “It’s really not a level playing field anymore. Anyone could have a backyard pool they’ve been training in, or have some sort of access to a pool while others like me have no access whatsoever.”

Rozier, who graduated in May, says her biggest issue will be trying to train for another year while entering the workforce.

“I would love to be able to work swim-time into a job,” she told LSU. “If I’m still in Baton Rouge, I’m sure the LSU Swim Team would let me train with them a little bit. They’re really accommodating and understand what it’s like to fulfill a dream. They’ve helped me get this far.”

Next week, Rozier will start her internship with Solenis, a water solutions/treatment facility in Garyville, La. She hopes it will turn into a full-time job in the fall.

“I hope to prove myself as a valuable employee while also gaining hands-on experience,” Rozier told LSU. “My goal is to work hard and turn this opportunity with Solenis into a career.”

The Olympics being moved to next year, forced Grossman, a junior, to make the hard decision to retire from swimming all together.

“After the announcement that the trials were being postponed, I decided it was time for my retirement from the sport,” she said. “I am starting a co-op with a Marathon Petroleum refinery in El Paso in the fall, and it would not be feasible for me to train another year.”

Like Rozier, she understands the committee’s decision to postpone the trials.

“I think it was a great idea for the trials to be moved to 2021 because it will be the best for the health and safety of all the athletes,” she said. “This is a much better option than canceling because these athletes have worked their entire lives to attend the meet and greet and get their chance at making the Olympic team.”

Though she is sad about leaving the sport, Grossman will cherish her memories with the LSU Swimming & Diving team as she prepares to graduate in Spring 2021.

“I am so grateful for the opportunity given to me by LSU to train for four years, and I’m extremely sad that it had to end early and not on my own terms,” she said. “I am very excited to follow my younger teammates through their journey toward Olympic Trials 2021, and I can’t wait to see what they do in the NCAA as well.”

LSU diver and civil engineering senior Juan Celaya-Hernandez also qualified in March for a pre-Olympic event that was set to take place in Tokyo in April. Hernandez was to compete for his home country of Mexico.

“I was really disappointed for five days after we got the notice about the Olympic games being postponed, but now I’m just trying to enjoy some forced vacation time with my family in Monterrey [Mexico],” Hernandez told LSU. “I have no idea whether I will have to win my spot again, or if the team is already set in stone. I have lots of questions, but hopefully this will be another chance for me to better my score at the event and be better than before.”

“The thing about our sport is it’s such a delayed gratification,” Rozier told LSU. “You work for six to eight months or a year, and you’re just waiting for that final meet to showcase everything you’ve been training for. It’s just rough. I could sit and be sad about it all day, but that’s not really being productive. I’m glad I already qualified. No matter what, they can’t take that away from me.”

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