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Dreams delayed, not denied: Bend Olympic hopefuls set their sights on 2021

Mel Lawrence and Jamie Brown continue to train amid coronavirus

(Update: adding comments from Lawrence, Brown)

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- While the sports world stands still, two Olympic hopefuls who live in Bend are doing the opposite. They continue to train almost every day, not wavering on their commitment. Their path to the podium, however, looks a bit different now.

"I feel like in this sport you just have to choose to be flexible and adaptable, and I think this is a real test to that now,” said Mel Lawrence, a 3,000-meter steeplechaser who’s lived in Bend for 6 1/2 years.

Lawrence is currently training in Flagstaff, Arizona. She said that as a distance runner, she's fortunate. She can still do most of her exercises outdoors, but the routine itself has changed.

"We're not doing race-specific workouts anymore,” Lawrence told NewsChannel 21 Thursday over Skype. “We've kind of backed off the intensity, and we're doing more endurance workouts, which we usually do in the fall."

Meanwhile, Jamie Brown, a paratriathlete, faces his own challenge.

"We can only focus on what we can control and our outlook and be positive and keep grinding away until that opportunity presents itself again."

Jamie Brown, Paratriathlete and Olympic hopeful

"I do have a trainer here (in Bend), so I can ride my bike, and I have a treadmill as well,” Brown told NewsChannel 21. “Obviously, with all the pools being closed, swimming's been kind of shut down for everyone. I mean, just trying to make the most out of a pretty crappy situation."

Two weekends ago, Brown said he was about to cement his spot on the team. When he woke up, though, the race was canceled.

"We can only focus on what we can control and our outlook and be positive and keep grinding away until that opportunity presents itself again," Brown said.

Brown had surgery last summer to repair a ruptured hamstring. So he sees this delay as an advantage.

"It actually gives me another year to get my leg stronger and hopefully stay injury-free," Brown said.

Lawrence shared the same sentiment -- not because she's recovering from an injury, but because she can perfect her craft.

"Get really good at this one thing, because you have time now,” Lawrence said. “Whereas before, it was like, 'Yeah, you can get good at that, but you have this race and you have that race.'"

Lawrence and Brown both hope to compete in their first Olympic Games next year. While the change in date does not mean a change in heart, it does mean a change in mindset.

"I am getting close to being done in my career, and I've been doing it for a while now,” Lawrence said. “So I think just the mentality of committing to that full year, whereas it might've been unknown before, I hadn't really decided. Now, it's definitely a commitment."

For now, those dreams are not denied, they're just delayed. Brown believes this break will actually make the Games that much more important next year, when it brings the whole world back together.

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Max Goldwasser

Max Goldwasser is a reporter and producer for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Max here.


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