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PERMIAN BASIN PROFILE: Midland's Hoppel has Olympic quest sidelined by pandemic - Odessa American: Sports

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PERMIAN BASIN PROFILE: Midland's Hoppel has Olympic quest sidelined by pandemic

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Posted: Tuesday, March 24, 2020 5:15 pm

MIDLAND It’s been a whirlwind last 12 months for Bryce Hoppel.

The former Midland High and University of Kansas standout had gotten off to a strong start in his professional career and was gearing up for a run to represent Team USA at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.

Much like the rest of the world, however, those dreams have been put on hold as the International Olympic Committee announced Tuesday that the games would be postponed until 2021 due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Hoppel says he was ready for anything to happen, adding that it was the right call to make.

“As an athlete, it’s a disappointment but I think it was the right thing to do,” Hoppel said. “I think the U.S. Olympic Committee did a great job of getting us ready for this throughout the past week and making sure that the athletes really got a voice.”

USA Track and Field, along with USA Swimming, were among the first groups to call for postponing the games last week.

That was followed by the Olympic committees of Canada and Australia making the same call as well. Those stances forced the IOC to change course after initially resisting the idea of postponing the games.

That decision came down with Hoppel starting to ramp up for the upcoming qualifying races leading up the Olympics. But with everything on pause, he’s had to make adjustments as to what his next steps will be. 

“It was just training like usual. A lot went into it already and just a lot of is just going to be scrapped,” Hoppel said. “We put our heart and soul into training and chasing after those dreams. But I think just from the experience and some of my friends in the collegiate system and everything, just everyone in sports kind of had that disappointment.

“You just have to roll with it because life kind of happens like that sometimes.”

There is the natural disappointment of having to wait to qualify for the Olympics for the first time, but Hoppel says that the stoppage has given him a chance to reflect on everything that’s happened over the last 12 months.

Hoppel turned pro last July after finishing third at the USATF Outdoor Track and Field Championships in Des Moines, Iowa, which snapped a 21-race winning streak while representing the University of Kansas.

Among the highlights since his move to the professional ranks include competing at the World Championships in Doha, Qatar last October, finishing fourth in the 800 meters by running a personal-best of one minute, 44.25 seconds.

He followed that up by winning his first national title at the U.S. Indoor Track and Field Championships in February in Albuquerque, N.M.

“It’s been incredible,” Hoppel said. “This downtime has really helped me appreciate all that’s happened and be thankful for it.

“I know it’s just a brief pause right now but I’m just more excited for what’s left in my career.”

Hoppel added that one moment that stood out is during the World Championships in Doha. That’s when he said he started to recognize what it meant to represent Midland, West Texas and the U.S. on a global stage.

“It just means so much to me,” Hoppel said. “I’m out there running fast but it’s so much more than that.

“I do it for my family, for Midland and just try to make everyone as proud as I can. It’s incredible getting to wear that USA on my chest.”

As for what is next, Hoppel said the tentative plan is to switch into an offseason workout plan in order to maintain his strength.

The rest of the schedule is still unknown given the ongoing situation with the virus but says that he’ll do what he needs to do in order to stay healthy.

“I just have to keep putting the work in and have that determination in order to keep that dream alive,” he said. “It’s going to be tough with all the great athletes in the U.S. when that time comes around but I just have to keep the faith and try my best.”

>> Follow Tony Venegas on Twitter at @OA_TVenegas

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