Oregon’s Cole Hocker competes with fellow athletes during the men’s 5,000 meter race. Hayward Field hosts the third day of the 2021 NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships in Eugene, Ore., on June 11, 2021 (Ian Enger/Emerald).

With the Olympics starting in just nine days, athletes have begun traveling to Japan. Ducks Cole Hocker and Micah Williams talked about their experiences and preparation in the lead up to the Games, as well as the lingering threat of COVID-19 in Japan.

“I’m interested how locked down it’s going to be,” first time Olympian Cole Hocker said. “It’s all gonna be new. I’m just gonna roll with it."

As a college sophomore, Hocker recorded the fourth fastest 1500m in collegiate history, when he ran a 3:35.35 in the 2021 NCAA National Championships in Eugene.

Hocker qualified for the Olympics after a first place finish at the Olympic Trials for the 1,500 meters, finishing with a time of 3:35.28. Hocker, who spent a majority of the race boxed in, found a gap during the last lap and used it to pass defending Olympian Matthew Centrowitz in the final 50 meters of the race to win by 0.6 seconds.

Cole Hocker discussed how athletes will be subject to a COVID test 48 and 72 hours before their flight, as well as another COVID-19 screening test.

Although Japan declared a state of emergency in wake of a recent surge of COVID-19 cases, Hocker trusts the protocols in place to keep the athletes safe, regardless of vaccination status.

“I’m not vaccinated, but I feel content with that decision,” he said. “I’m not too worried about it.”

Fellow Olympian Micah Williams also discussed the impact of the pandemic on his first Olympic games, and how it might’ve differed from other experiences he has had.

“With COVID-19, it’s a really different experience,” he said. “There’s no relay camp… We’ll just see how it goes when we get there.”

As a freshman, Micah Williams has already made a splash at the University of Oregon. He set a record at the Championships at the Peak meet where he broke the school record indoor 60-meter dash with a time of 6.49.

Williams earned his spot on the Olympic team by finishing fifth in the 100-meter final. At just 19 years old, he broke another school record, for his 100-meter time. It was set by Cravon Gillespie in 2019 when Gillespie ran a 9.93 in the 100-meter. With a time of 9.91, Williams is now the record holder. 

“I trust (team) USA... They take every detail the Japan[ese] government says and make sure it’s right, ” Williams said. “I think we'll all be good for sure going into Tokyo.”

Despite so much uncertainty, as teams will do their best to keep themselves safe, both athletes are prepared to do whatever they can to find success.

“I’m ready for whatever,” Hocker said. “I think I’ve got as good a shot as anyone.”

The 2021 Olympics start on July 23, with the track and field events starting on July 30.