The 2020 Tokyo Olympics will be one of the most different sporting events to ever take place. Especially in modern history.
There will be no fans in attendance and athletes from around the world are risking their health to win a gold medal for themselves and their country.
Seattle Storm forward and U.S. women’s basketball team member Breanna Stewart is one of the athletes risking it all to complete a goal.
Just five years ago she was the youngest person on the team during the 2016 Rio Olympics and now she’s a veteran. In that span, she’s now able to reflect on the stark differences between both Olympics.
“It’s completely different from my first experience in Rio,” Stewart said. “We were able to do a lot of things. Go to different events, we were able to be with our families, and visit the city itself. Now we’re all in this life where we have a lot of restrictions and we don’t view it any other way. It was before the pandemic and we were able to do a lot. To be here at the Olympics in Tokyo, I think they’ve done an amazing job to keep us safe and happy.”
Stewart noted the women’s basketball team isn’t staying in the Olympic village but wanted to visit it to take it in. To see what the environment was like and also for the Olympic neophytes to bask in the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
Being in the village during a pandemic is a risk athletes from around the world are willing to take and, according to Stewart, appreciate the village and precautions taken.
“We wanted to have the opportunity to see and explore the village,” she said. “To just see how the village was made happened. At the same time, experience it. A lot of people experiencing the Olympics for the first time wanted to experience it and see what the village is all about. It’s cool to be around so many athletes that are representing their country and want to play their best.”
Although this is Stewart’s second Olympics, the experience doesn’t get old. She’s in a new country with new teammates and around different athletes. More specifically, she’s around the best athletes at their sport from each country. It’s the ultimate get-together of athletes who would understand each other best.
Five years later and Stewart went from a WNBA rookie to now a WNBA multiple, multi-time champion and is on a trajectory to be in the Basketball Hall of Fame.
The progression she’s made has been expected, and she understands to take in the culture of a new country but to now forget why she’s there.
“In 2016 it was my first Olympics,” Stewart said. “I was in a whirlwind of a summer. Kind of just spinning and going with the flow. I did everything that was asked of me and at the same time enjoyed the experience. Now, it’s different because what we’re able to do is much different. I’ve also matured who I am as a basketball player. This is a business trip.”