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With 2020 Olympics Postponed, Erik Shoji Stays On His Game

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

And finally, today, the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics. They were originally scheduled to start, yesterday. But due to the ongoing pandemic, the Games won't take place now until July of 2021. We reached out to some would-be Olympians to learn how they're coping with the postponement and how their staying competition-ready during quarantine. Here's what we learned back from one Team USA member.

ERIK SHOJI: My name is Erik Shoji. I am a professional volleyball player. And I would be participating in the men's volleyball tournament for the Olympic Games in Tokyo right now. This would've been my second Olympics. I was fortunate enough to win a bronze medal in 2016 with the volleyball team. It was a crazy awesome emotional experience like everyone has but this time around, you know, looking forward to having a new experience with a new group of guys and hoping to bring gold back to USA next summer.

When the Games were postponed earlier this year, it was almost a sense of relief. I think a lot of athletes understood the situation in the world and with the pandemic and everything that was going on. So we were just happy that it wasn't canceled. And I think it came at the perfect time. I think everyone was nervous about it in general. So when they said that, we were all like, OK, take a deep breath. Move on and prepare for next year.

MARTIN: Shoji is from Hawaii, and he comes from a family of volleyball players there. His father, David, was the head coach at the University of Hawaii for more than four decades. And his brother, Kawika, also plays indoor volleyball for Team USA.

SHOJI: I think going through these difficult times and all the uncertainty, it's just great to have someone to listen to that's going through the same experiences as I am and someone that can just relate and understand that, you know, uncertainty is going to happen. But, you know, if we stick it out, work hard, hopefully, everything will work out. The state is relatively open, so we've been able to get into a gym, lifting and working out four times a week and getting into the gym three times a week. Because we're not in Japan competing right now, we're just trying to stay fresh and stay on our game.

MARTIN: And while missing out on the Olympics this year is disappointing, spending quarantine in Hawaii has had its rewards for Shoji, too.

SHOJI: It's been really nice to just be home with family and friends and kind of explore the state I live in on the island I live on, where I would just normally wouldn't have that opportunity.

MARTIN: That's Erik Shoji. He is planning to be in Tokyo next year for the Olympics, going for gold in men's volleyball for Team USA.

(SOUNDBITE OF FREE NATIONALS' "GIDGET") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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