Welcome to the world of Olympic fandom in the midst of a pandemic, where Texas families must applaud from their homes

If needed, Teresa Hernandez is ready to make a fashion statement.

Before her 18-year-old daughter, Hailey, competes in the Olympics later this month as a novice diver, Teresa and her husband, Richard, are not heading to Tokyo but to Orlando.

This is where the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee will be hosting watch nights over the next few weeks, the next top destination for family and friends of Olympians.

With Hailey’s competitive schedule and the half-day jet lag likely to collide, Teresa is unsure whether she will watch her daughter, who just graduated from Southlake Carroll, compete live in the middle of the night from her hotel room or whether she will be wearing her pajamas and slippers around the complex to reunite with other fans.

Welcome to the world of mid-pandemic Olympic fans.

The Japanese government has banned spectators from attending events in Tokyo in an attempt to limit the spread of the coronavirus during the ongoing state of emergency in the region.

But that doesn’t rule out hometown celebrations.

Fans closest to the Texas Olympians are getting creative in their plans to stay connected to their athletes and the spirit of the Games from halfway around the world – from caffeine-fueled parents to extended families partying in Airbnbs to an NFL quarterback wondering if he’ll get permission to get out of training camp to cheer on his wife.

“It’s so difficult,” Teresa said. “We’ve already sent her to competitions abroad without us, just for financial or time reasons or for whatever reason, and she’s gone as a couple without us, and we know she’s with it. a team and that she is with good coaches and we feel comfortable with her in that environment.

“So it’s not like we’re like ‘Woo, we can’t go!’ But again, we’re just thankful and grateful that they’re hosting the Olympics and that she can have that experience whether we’re there or not. ”

Like so many aspects of these Games – delayed by a year due to the coronavirus pandemic, the first postponement in Olympic history – a decision on participation was in motion until last week.

On July 8, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said all fans would be banned from arenas in the Tokyo area during the Games due to the increase in local cases of COVID-19 and the highly contagious delta variant.

While organizers said in March that foreign spectators would not be allowed to travel to Japan, many American athletes only secured their Olympic places in their respective trials recently.

This left little time for the Olympians to prepare to perform in calm and cavernous arenas.

And allowed families and friends to quickly turn around in deciding how they would look from a distance.

Many are preparing to leave for Florida.

USOPC, NBCUniversal, and sponsors Reese’s and Toyota are paying for two family or friends of each American athlete to attend activities in Orlando – an offer that includes free airfare, four nights at Universal Orlando Resort, passes to theme parks and meals at Olympic Nights, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Parents, four siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents and a few close friends of Houston gymnast Jordan Chiles have all booked a trip to Orlando, where they will dress up in their T-shirts. inspired by Chile and their Team USA equipment and will launch an Airbnb bash during its competitions.

Triple jumper Jasmine Moore’s parents Earl and Trinette are also considering inviting Orlando, though they’re not the type to set up huge atmospheres.

They had traveled to Eugene, Oregon on consecutive weekends in June to watch Moore compete at the NCAA Outdoor Championships and the US Olympic Trials. They hardly ever missed out on dating during his illustrious high school career at Mansfield Lake Ridge.

“It sucks, but it was his dream,” Earl said. “She’s still going. I’m so excited for her and I wish I could be there, but I mean we’re going to cheer her on like we’re right next to her.

Tokyo is 14 hours ahead of Dallas. Many competitions are scheduled for noon in Japan, when most Americans are asleep. Swimming and track and field are the only two major sports with some competitions scheduled live during prime time in the United States.

David Blough, a Detroit Lions quarterback who is married to his Carrollton Creekview high school sweetheart Melissa Gonzalez, doesn’t know when his wife will show up for Colombia in the women’s 400-meter hurdles.

But he knew he wouldn’t be in Tokyo, pandemic or not, because he would be in training camp.

If Gonzalez runs odd hours, Blough is ready for wake-up calls in the middle of the night at the team’s hotel – and has invited his teammates to join him in trading sleep for live assistance. If his events conflict with Lions training, he’s already considering ways to watch on an iPad. “I will watch though, no matter what,” Blough said. “Whether it’s 2am, 5am, if it’s the middle of practice, I’ll probably ask to say, ‘Hey, can I go out for 30 minutes?’

Modern streaming technology has become more prevalent and more reliable. The same goes for phone communication, with FaceTime and video calling widely accessible.

In previous Games, many athletes have stayed in host cities even after their events to participate in media interviews and closing ceremonies. This summer, Japanese organizers are asking all athletes to leave within 48 hours of their last competition.

With these factors in mind, some wonder how isolated the distance can seem.

After all, Gina Chiles had to wait around four hours to see Jordan after the Olympic gymnastics trials were over. She predicts that her reaction to Jordan’s Olympic performances, even looking at 7,200 miles and 13 time zones, will be the same as if they were in the same arena.

“That’s what she’s worked for her whole life,” Gina said. “I’m going to be nervous, but it’s going to be electric. I’m sure no one will have any more water in their body because everything will fall in their face.

Luka Doncic will compete for Slovenia at the Tokyo Olympics, but he will surely be one of the North Texans fan favorites next month.

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