Episode 8: Olympic Training During a Pandemic

In collaboration with ESPN, we follow an Olympic high jumper dead set on making it to the Tokyo Games this year—while also battling long-haul symptoms of COVID-19.

Priscilla Frederick of Antigua and Barbuda competes in the Women's High Jump final on day 10 of the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games, Gold Coast, Australia.
Photograph by Michael Steele/Getty Images

It’s a dream year in the making. High jumper Priscilla Frederick-Loomis will do anything to support her training for the 2020 Olympics—even clean strangers’ houses. But as the postponed Tokyo Games approach, she’s still suffering mysterious health problems months after contracting COVID-19. In collaboration with ESPN, we follow Frederick-Loomis’s progress and ask: What will it take to safely pull off the Olympics?

TRANSCRIPT

PRISCILLA FREDERICK LOOMIS (ATHLETE): High jump... is a part of me.

JACOB PINTER (HOST): This is Priscilla Frederick Loomis. She’s a track-and-field athlete—a high jumper. And she’s training for the 2021 Olympic Games.

LOOMIS: I look at the timer. Fifty-nine seconds remain. I fix my hair and roll back my shoulders. I look at the bar. Right foot, left foot, right foot, left foot.

PINTER: What Priscilla’s describing—this is all part of her training. She’s visualizing the perfect high jump.

LOOMIS: It's a weird balance because you can't think. Because when you think you lose everything. And then you’ve got to be patient because you’re running into the sky. It all kind of goes quiet, and it's just you and your brain talking, saying execute, execute, execute, get a little bit faster, get a little bit faster, run into the sky. Does that kind of explain it—does that help?

PINTER: I feel like I just saw you jump in slow-mo.

LOOMIS: I started when I was a kid. And it's taken me on this journey to adulthood. I started when I was 13. I’m 32. It’s a relationship I’ve had. I've grown, it's grown with me. It's been my partner in crime. It's my BF4L.

PINTER: But like all relationships, this one hit a rough patch. In January 2021, Priscilla got infected with COVID-19. She thought she recovered. But when she started training again, her body just wasn’t the same.

LOOMIS: I'm wearing a sports bra and I would, like, pull it because I was like, I just need to, like, let my chest expand or something. And it hurt. Like it hurt a lot. Like I’d have to, like, hold my chest, like I was trying to punch it out of me.

PINTER: This was long-haul covid. Priscilla’s doctors warned her that if she kept up her normal Olympic training regimen, there could be permanent consequences.

LOOMIS: They say, It doesn't look good because if you keep going, it could be fatal. And that's something I was like, never heard before. That’s a lot. That’s crazy.

PINTER: So what’s an athlete to do? If you answered, Oh you know, call it a career… Well, you’re not Priscilla Frederick Loomis.

LOOMIS: I'll be on oxygen if I need to in between jumps at the Olympics. I don't care.

PINTER: I’m Jacob Pinter, a producer at Overheard: a show where we eavesdrop on the wild conversations we have here at Nat Geo and follow them to the edges of our big, weird, beautiful world.

This week: sports and science collide at this year’s Olympics. We’ll go behind the scenes as a world-class athlete untangles a medical mystery and pushes to see just how resilient her body really is. We asked her to keep an audio diary leading up to the Olympics.  

Plus, the Olympics brings together more than 200 nations and thousands of athletes, and this time, there’s one deadly virus looming large over it all. In collaboration with our friends at ESPN, we’ll explore whether organizers can safely pull off the Olympics during a pandemic.    

More after the break.

When I think of the Olympics, here’s the image that pops in my head: it’s that moment when three athletes are standing on a podium. They’re all wearing big, shiny medals. Their countries’ flags are rising up behind them, and the crowd is just going nuts. But for most of the athletes who don’t get to take one of those medals home, just being at the Olympics is a huge feat all by itself. It’s a feat so big that someone like Priscilla Frederick Loomis is gonna chase it, no matter the costs.

LOOMIS: I have put myself in debt—like I worked so hard to get out of debt and now I'm in debt because of track. So I just can't do that to myself and to my husband anymore.

PINTER: Priscilla plans to retire after the 2021 Olympics, so this is her last chance to compete on the world’s biggest stage.

LOOMIS: You have to overcome these obstacles because greatness is on the other side—greatness is what's at stake.

PINTER: In 2016 Priscilla had her first shot at greatness. She made it to the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. Priscilla grew up in the U.S., and today she lives in New Jersey. But she has dual citizenship to Antigua and Barbuda, so that’s who she competes for.

I watched a couple of videos of you in Rio in 2016. And when you—

LOOMIS: Did you like my hair?

PINTER: That’s what I’m saying. You’ve got like long, purple hair.

LOOMIS: I had my purple hair. My wig was looking right. Makeup was on point. My body was looking right.

PINTER: So I watched Priscilla’s most important jump in Rio. It’s the end of a qualifying round. She has to jump over the bar without knocking it over. The TV camera zooms in on her face. She stares down the track and takes a couple of deep breaths.

LOOMIS: And being an unsigned athlete from a small Caribbean country—less than 100,000 people on this island—you're representing it all.

PINTER: Then Priscilla takes off down the track. She runs, leaps, twists over the bar,  but as she falls to the mat so does the bar. She didn’t jump high enough, and she was knocked out of the competition. This is the exact moment when her dreams of a gold medal disappear. But you wouldn’t know it from what happens next. Priscilla stands up, strikes a diva pose, blows a kiss to the camera, and gets a huge cheer from the crowd.

These days, people still ask her if she won a medal.

LOOMIS: Do you think that you wouldn't be able to see it on me? I'm going grocery shopping with that thing. I am taking a shower, I am going swimming. It's never coming off. Obviously, I didn't win one, but thank you for your concern.

PINTER: Overall, Priscilla finished 28th at the Rio high jump event. That means she’s one of the best high jumpers in the world… but it’s a long way away from the medal stand.

LOOMIS: I know it sounds crazy. I visualize myself being the first Antiguan ever to medal at the Olympics.

PINTER: Still, Priscilla chalked up the 2016 Olympics as a win. Just getting there, it was huge for Priscilla.

LOOMIS: I fell to my knees and I was like shaking. That was the first moment that I was like, it worked. All of my hard work, all of my efforts, every down period, everything that I went through, being poor, having to sacrifice my life, my relationships, missing funerals, missing weddings, all of it, it all came together.

PINTER: Almost as soon as she returned home from Rio, Priscilla started game-planning for 2020. She lined up a coach and a training regimen, and things were going pretty well. Until last year, when COVID shut everything down.

What is training during all of this look like for you?

LOOMIS: Hell. It's absolute utter ridiculousness of hell.

PINTER: So say you’re a really famous athlete. Someone with big sponsors, who’s been on a cereal box once or twice. When everything shut down at the beginning of the pandemic, you might have arranged special, socially distanced access to a gym. You might’ve even had professional equipment delivered to your house, all at no cost to you.

Yeah, not Priscilla.

She says even in the world of elite athletes, there are the haves and the have-nots.

LOOMIS: Less than one percent of the world makes the Olympics, right? One percent of that make a lot of money.

PINTER: So here’s what that looks like for Priscilla. She takes home about $12,000 a year from high jumping. That’s not really even enough to pay the bills, let alone invest in a brand new home gym. But also she couldn’t just stop training when everything closed last spring. So she improvised. Priscilla went to a gas station, she bought a few big jugs of water, and voilà: DIY free weights.

LOOMIS: I lived down the beach, and I went and I filled up my gallons of water with sand and I was lifting in my driveway.

PINTER: Priscilla says the sandy weights weren’t great. But hey, they kept her busy until she could get back into a real gym.

LOOMIS: It's not as glamorous as it seems, but I think my hair and makeup bring all the glamour that is necessary.

PINTER: Also not very glamorous, that $12,000 a year income. A few years ago, Priscilla decided she needed a new day job. She’s always been a neat freak, so…

LOOMIS: I am the CEO of a cleaning business. And I am the sole employee. My mom helps me sometimes. But I clean homes. I am cleaning, yes. I am cleaning bathrooms, showers, toilets, making the beds.

PINTER: Hey, whatever it takes to keep the dream going, right?

LOOMIS: I very much associate with being a superhero because by day, I'm your cleaning lady. And by night I'm this badass Olympian that's jumping over bars, you know?

PINTER: Priscilla has other side hustles too. She scored a job hosting a morning show on local radio in New Jersey.

RADIO HOST: All right, more to come on the 98.7 The Coast WCZT with Priscilla and Leon.

PINTER: So at the beginning of 2021, everything seemed to be lining up. She was making it through the pandemic. And after four and a half years of nonstop training, the Olympics were finally in sight.

LOOMIS: I was in the best shape, I was kicking butt, I was looking cute, I was ready to go. And I had my wig picked out for the Olympic Games. I was like, yes, I am so ready.

PINTER: Then, in January, everything changed. Priscilla got COVID.

LOOMIS: I was legit just stuck on the couch. I couldn't move for about 10 to twelve days. I was done.

PINTER: Priscilla says she felt like she was dying. She had horrible headaches. There was congestion and chills. Her energy evaporated, and her sense of taste and smell—they disappeared.

LOOMIS: I tried to take a shower after 10 days—almost passed out in the shower. My husband had to come get me. It was bad. ‘Cause everyone said, You're an athlete, you'll bounce back, you'll be fine. And from the first day I was like this… this can't be. Like I can't bounce back from this as much as people think.

PINTER: In February, Priscilla’s symptoms cleared up. It seemed like she was on the mend, so she tried to jump back into her training routine.

LOOMIS: Just finished. Spent just about 30 minutes warming up, doing some drills.

PINTER: But from the very beginning, she could tell something was wrong. Priscilla felt discomfort in her chest all the time, even from just waking up in the morning.

LOOMIS: It just felt like a lot of pressure, felt like a really big bubble or balloon in my chest. And then sometimes it would feel like a little needle pointing and jabbing in my chest at different places.

PINTER: Many people who get COVID feel healthy again within a month or two, but others just can’t shake this mysterious array of symptoms.

LEROY SIMS (NBA): They can have what's called long-hauler syndrome, where they're experiencing chronic fatigue, shortness of breath, headaches, dizziness, and confusion.

PINTER: This is Leroy Sims. He’s the NBA’s head of medical affairs. He was also a team physician for Team USA Track and Field at the 2016 Olympics.

Doctors and scientists still don’t really understand long-haul COVID yet. When it comes to what causes it or how to treat it, they have more questions than answers.

SIMS: You're not immune, even if you're a young, healthy athlete, from the detrimental impacts of the coronavirus.

PINTER: So here’s what Priscilla knew: long COVID was giving her chest pain. But beyond that, the outlook was really murky. She had basic questions like, Was it dangerous? How long was it gonna last? If she kept training, would her heart be okay? And her doctors didn’t know. So they told Priscilla to cut back on her training while they figured it out. But good luck telling that to an Olympic athlete.

LOOMIS: I took it upon myself to train lightly, and I jumped. My heart rate got to 192. I'm like, what is happening?

PINTER: This kicked off a whirlwind tour of doctors’ visits. Priscilla went through test after test.

LOOMIS: Every step of the way, I thought, This is it. This is what's going to tell me what's happening. This is going to give me the answers.

PINTER: But her doctors couldn’t find the answers. And they were worried about the worst-case scenario: that Priscilla was dealing with something seen in other COVID patients.

BARRY LOWELL (CARDIOLOGIST): The virus can initiate an inflammatory condition.

PINTER: This is Barry Lowell. He’s a cardiologist in New Jersey. And he treated Priscilla as all this was happening.

LOWELL: This condition called myocarditis can just inflame the heart tissue to the extent that it doesn't function properly.

PINTER: Lowell says myocarditis basically short-circuits the heart’s electrical functions. It throws the heart’s rhythm out of whack. And in some cases, it’s fatal.

LOWELL: There's really no definitive treatment for it. The best treatment is the avoidance of COVID.

PINTER: On top of that, Lowell thought that if Priscilla did have myocarditis, it could be even more dangerous for her than it would be for you or me. 

LOWELL: She's an elite athlete. And when she does exercise, she pushes the limit, much more so than most common people. And if it were this myocarditis condition and pushed to such high levels of physical activity, it could initiate potentially even lethal arrhythmias.

PINTER: You can imagine why he’d want to play it safe.

LOWELL: I didn't want to be the cardiologist who granted her, you know, the permission to go ahead and have her have a lethal heart rhythm disturbance on the world stage. I just didn't want to be that guy.

PINTER: During all this uncertainty, Priscilla felt lost.

LOOMIS: I don’t know what I’m gonna do. I feel like I have no control over what’s going on or what’s happening in my life… I am just sad, I guess. I guess sad is the word. I just feel like a failure in so many areas. I just feel like I’m not good enough. Nothing that I’m doing is working… It’s difficult.

PINTER: Priscilla needed answers. And we’re gonna get back to that in a little bit. In the meantime, the Tokyo Olympics are still ramping up during the biggest health crisis of our time. Here’s Dr. Leroy Sims again. Last year, he helped design the NBA playoff bubble, which set the gold standard of safe sporting events during COVID. 

SIMS: Look at what's happening in India—we can't forget about that, that this pandemic goes on. Look at what's happening in Latin America and on the African continent.

PINTER: Overall, Sims is convinced that we can have large sporting events safely. He points to the fact that the NBA let spectators back into its arenas this spring.

SIMS: But, look, we have fans in our buildings, and at the beginning of the season we did not. So that's progress. And I'm all about the progress.

PINTER: Here in the U.S., vaccinations are up, COVID cases are down, and life seems to be returning to normal. Or normal-er, at least. And now each of us is facing this decision: how much can we just charge back into normal life?

For this story, we teamed up with ESPN. I mean, they’re the worldwide leader in sports. Like what more could we ask for? Pablo Torre hosts their podcast, ESPN Daily. So I asked him how it feels to see sports look like sports again.

PABLO TORRE: Yes, we should feel good and proud because, man, it took so much to get here and it was so weird and so strange. But I also don't want it to feel kind of like that last scene in Jurassic Park, you know, where it's sort of like the banner is sort of waving in the air, but there's still like a T. rex right there.

PINTER: What's your read on the Tokyo Games? Do you think they can pull it off safely?

TORRE: I think they can pull it off, and the word “safely” there is—that's the thing we gotta parse.

PINTER: In the months leading up to the Olympics, a COVID wave slammed Japan. The government declared a state of emergency in Tokyo. And vaccinations lagged far behind the U.S. and Europe, and other countries. A month out from the games, only about six and a half percent of the Japanese population had been fully vaccinated.

So it’s no wonder that in Japan, people are anxious about bringing in thousands of people from around the world. Opinion polls have found that as many as 80 percent of Japanese people don’t want the games to continue as planned. A national union of doctors in Japan called for the games to be canceled. And protesters and online petitions are demanding that the government cancel or postpone the games.

TORRE: The idea that the world is descending from all of these different places around the globe and they are meeting in this one city, it does feel like exactly the opposite of what any sort of sports scientist/central planner would want.

PINTER: But the International Olympic Committee says the games will go on as scheduled, starting July 23rd. Its leaders expect 80 percent of athletes to be vaccinated—and they are adamant that the games will be safe for both athletes and for Japan. For one—no spectators will be allowed into the Olympics at all.

Leroy Sims of the NBA says if the Olympics follows the kind of protocols that other sporting events have in the past year, it’s possible they can pull it off safely.

SIMS: Anything we do is going to have a risk, right? So we're never going to eliminate risk, but we can minimize and mitigate risk.

PINTER: Of course, it’s not just health at stake. Even in a pandemic, the games are very lucrative: something like 90 percent of Olympic revenue comes from broadcast rights and corporate sponsorships. So they’d be extremely expensive to just cancel altogether.

For now, the games are on. Athletes and countries—they’re willing to take the risk. Pablo Torre says that’s what sports have been doing throughout the pandemic.

TORRE: What sports has done is powered through in ways that are admirable. The bubble and bubbles are good examples of that. And also like semirecklessly. And we have athletes by—sometimes by the half dozen to a dozen contracting the virus. Them getting this thing and dealing with it and hopefully not derailing their whole lives as a result. That's part of the bargain that I think everybody in sports has made, for better and for worse.

PINTER: So how does an athlete decide what risks are worth taking? If you ask a hundred athletes, you might get a hundred different answers. But Priscilla Frederick Loomis says the Olympics are beyond her control. All she can do is treat COVID like another obstacle, like another bar she has to get over.

In March, when Priscilla was bouncing between doctors’ visits, she went for a test that she thought would tell her, once and for all, if she can keep jumping.

LOOMIS: It’s Wednesday morning. It is 5 a.m. I got to sleep in an extra 15 minutes. I have to head to Philly to get an MRI done of my chest… Ugh. I’m just hoping that everything comes back normal, and I can move on with my life.

PINTER: So later in the day, she goes to the hospital.

LOOMIS: You go and you slide into this little tube. It's a little claustrophobic, and they take images and it's really loud. And then they have to give me an IV, because they inject you with a dye so that they can see what's going on.

PINTER: The next evening, Priscilla was sitting on her couch, waiting for these test results. She’d worked all day and she was exhausted.

LOOMIS: So I took a nap and I woke up to my phone ringing and it said the doctor's name. And I said, This is it.

PINTER: Priscilla puts him on speakerphone so she and her husband can hear the test results together.

LOOMIS: I'm like, Hey, doc, I'm sorry, I just—I'm a little tired. He goes, No, I understand. The MRI came back, and I don't think you should train anymore. In my professional opinion, I think you need to call it quits.

PINTER: The MRI showed scar tissue on Priscilla’s heart. The doctor said all signs pointed to myocarditis and continuing to train could be life-threatening.

LOOMIS: You need to retire. You're done. Your Olympic career is over. We’re really sorry, but we need to be cautious. And I sat up. And I cried. I didn't know what to do. You don’t think of it. You don't think of the worst. You think, Whatever comes my way, I'll figure it out. I’ll cross that bridge when it comes to it. That call. It didn't seem real. It didn't seem right.

PINTER: Priscilla says she knew she had a lot to look forward to. Like a new husband,  a loving support system around her.

LOOMIS: But in that moment I couldn't think of anything else, because it was taken away from me. I thought about the people who had said that they wanted to follow my journey to the Olympics. I said I am worthless to them now because I'm not going to the Olympics. Who's going to know my story? I didn’t leave a big enough legacy.

PINTER: So what do you do when your biggest dream just disappears?

LOOMIS: So I do what any normal person would do. I got a bottle of rosé and some peanut M&Ms. And I sat on my couch and I was like, well, this is my life now. This is it. This is what I look forward to.

PINTER: But just two days later, before she even had time to let it sink in, Dr. Lowell calls her. He wants to get one last opinion from another specialist.

LOOMIS: I'm terrified because now I don't know. I was just told that I can't train anymore, and now there's a little bit of hope.

PINTER: When Priscilla finally gets in to see the specialist, he has big news about her MRI.

LOOMIS: He says, OK, I looked at the disc. I don't know what they see. I have no idea. I don't see anything. I don't see anything.

PINTER: Huh.

LOOMIS: And my mom and I both look at each other like, no lie, like, what the hell? How? What? How are you not reading it right, brah?

PINTER: According to Priscilla’s doctor, Barry Lowell, it was an honest mistake. He says a radiologist misread her MRI results.

LOWELL: This is relatively new technology, and certainly the study of the heart in the COVID condition is even newer to the field of medicine.

PINTER: Priscilla’s heart did have some scar tissue. But it wasn’t because she had myocarditis. It was just because... she’s an athlete.

LOWELL: It turns out that elite athletes like Priscilla actually have some scar tissue that sort of buttresses the heart muscle, probably as an adaptive response to the high degrees of exercise that they're commonly accustomed to.

PINTER: That means that even for doctors, it’s possible to mix up the benign scar tissue with the kind that signals myocarditis, even though they look slightly different. The doctors didn’t solve her chest pain. But they did rule out a dangerous underlying condition. So it’s safe for Priscilla to get back to training and to try to make up the ground she lost. 

That all happened in March. Since then, Priscilla is back to training with one goal in mind.

LOOMIS: I’m usually so good in the weight room, but I’m just dying in there.

PINTER: Do you feel like your jumping is on track right now to where you think it should be?

LOOMIS: Of course not. No, you can't just take two months off, three months off, and then be like, I'm back.

PINTER: So Priscilla has to fight just to get to Tokyo. She’ll qualify if she can earn a spot as one of the top 32 high jumpers in the world.

PINTER: How doable is it for you to get to the top 32 right now?

LOOMIS: It's going to require me to jump the best jump I've ever in my life. Which is to most people, impossible. Is it doable? Absolutely. Miracles happen every day. I'm a badass. I’ll definitely try it.

PINTER: Yeah. Swearing that the impossible is doable—I think that’s the mindset that makes an Olympian tick. But through all of this training, Priscilla is still dealing with that same unexplained chest pain.

LOOMIS: I've probably felt it twice during this interview.

LOOMIS: It's like a nagging ex-boyfriend. I ain’t got the time for you, booboo. I ain’t got the time.

PINTER: It sounds like there's been so much back and forth. Like you're not fine. Take this test. Take that test. Retire. Go a hundred percent. That sounds really tough to navigate.

LOOMIS: You are two million percent, correct. You are absolutely right. That's exactly how it happened.

PINTER: But I'm also wondering, given all of that, even though the latest that you've heard is that it's OK to go 100 percent, do you think there's any chance that that could turn out to be wrong and that you have to dial it down some of the way that even, you know, some doctor tells you again, actually, you might need to get the rosé and M&Ms out again?

LOOMIS: No, not even a little bit. I've worked so hard. And you have to be a little crazy to be an Olympian. Whatever doctor comes and whatever they say, I have to at least try. Until that word “fatal” comes back, I'm going a hundred percent. Is it the smartest thing to do? Maybe not. But I've been brought this far. I'm not giving up right now. There’s no way.

PINTER: You know, maybe it’s not surprising that Priscilla thinks of life as one big high jump competition. She can choose to keep the bar at a low, comfortable level—or she can aim high, knowing she might not make it over. And in her mind, if you’re not setting the bar high, then what’s the point?

LOOMIS: No matter what, at the end of high jump, the bar ends on the ground. Doesn't matter. Because you're always attempting something greater. The bar will always fall. How are you reacting to it?

PINTER: Alright, so when we first released this episode on June 22nd, that’s where the story ended. Priscilla was fighting for a spot in Tokyo. She flew to Antigua and Barbuda on her own dime to compete in the National Track and Field Championships. And we didn’t know how things would shake out.

Well, now we do know. On July 1st, the final world rankings came out. The top 32 high jumpers would make it to the Olympics. Priscilla was number 36 on the list, so she didn’t make the cut. So we checked in with Priscilla one more time.

LOOMIS: Right now, this is day two of me finding out. I am devastated. I'm heartbroken. I let my country down. I let my family down. I am a failure. I failed. I went for something and I failed.

Yesterday was really bad. I cried for just about 10 hours. All of the last five years, all of the effort, all of my sacrifices, everything, everything gone. But again, everything happens for a reason.

Since January, like, I've been unhappy. I've been scared that I was going to die. You know, it kind of puts it in perspective. I was learning from the journey, but it was always with the winds in the back of my head like, OK I'm going to win one day. But now I realize I'm alive, I'm healthy. I'm moving forward. And I have the opportunity to choose a different path in life.

Being a professional athlete, you have to be unrealistic. You have to think of every day that you go into a meet as being number one and you're going to win and all this kind of stuff, so I was very unrealistic. So looking ahead, it's a balance now ‘cause now I'm actually going to be in the real world. I’m not living in my selfish little bubble.

I’m very confident that I'll do something else that will make me happy and I'll be, you know, maybe not a movie star, but it might be something that unexpectedly makes me happy. And I'm OK with that too.

PINTER: That’s Priscilla Frederick-Loomis—still one of the world’s best high jumpers.

PINTER: If you want to hear more from Priscilla, check her out on Instagram, she’s priscilla_frederick.

Also, be sure to listen to more great insights from Pablo Torre at ESPN Daily. It’s available wherever you get your podcasts.

If you’re curious how other athletes are dealing with the pandemic, check out ESPN’s coverage. They’ve got stories about Japanese athletes getting the vaccine, and also the challenges a USA rugby player who works as a pediatric nurse faced during the pandemic.

If you want to know more about the Olympics, we also have an article for you on a 40-year curse that supposedly explains the Olympics' history of delays, boycotts, and turmoil.

That’s all in the show notes, right there in your podcast app.

And while you’re there, be sure to rate us and review us because that really helps other listeners find us.

CREDITS

Overheard at National Geographic is produced by Ilana Strauss, Brian Gutierrez, Laura Sim, and me.

Special thanks to our partners at ESPN: Pablo Torre, Eve Troeh, and Ryan Nantell. A version of this story also airs on their podcast, which you should definitely check out, ESPN Daily.

Our senior producer is Carla Wills.

Our senior editor is Eli Chen.

Our executive producer of audio is Davar Ardalan.

Our fact-checkers are Robin Palmer and Julie Beer.

Our copy editor is Amy Kolczak.

This episode was sound-designed and engineered by Hansdale Hsu.

This podcast is a production of National Geographic Partners.

Whitney Johnson is the director of visuals and immersive experiences.

Susan Goldberg is National Geographic’s editorial director.

And I’m your host, Jacob Pinter. Thanks for listening.

SHOW NOTES

Want more?

Follow Priscilla Frederick Loomis and her journey to the 2021 Olympics on Instagram @priscilla_frederick.

And hear more from Pablo Torre at ESPN Daily, ESPN’s flagship podcast. Leroy Sims recently appeared to talk about leading the vaccine rollout for the NBA

For more of ESPN’s reporting on the Olympics, meet the USA Rugby player who works as a pediatric nurse. And learn how Japanese athletes are getting the vaccine before the general public.

The Olympics has had a turbulent history. Read our story about it and explore if a curse could explain why the Olympics gets disrupted so often.

If you like what you hear and want to support more content like this, please consider a National Geographic subscription. Go to natgeo.com/explore to subscribe today.