The Olympic pole vaulter from Green High School is dealing with the same issues facing a lot of athletes who hope to compete in the Tokyo Olympics this summer.

Kelsie Ahbe spent Monday afternoon at GymTek Academy in Knoxville, Tenn., trying to squeeze in a final workout before the facility closed indefinitely due to the coronavirus pandemic.


Ahbe, an Olympic hopeful in the pole vault, also does some of her training at the University of Tennessee (which is closed) and a local high school (which is also closed).


With the Tokyo Olympics roughly four months away — or not, because who really knows at this point? — Ahbe is dealing with the same issues facing a lot of athletes.


“It’s like, ‘Oh, my goodness, what are we gonna do? Where are we gonna go? What are the next couple weeks gonna look like?’” said Ahbe, a former state champion at Green High School who competed collegiately at Indiana University. “We obviously understand it’s serious and at the end of the day, we want to play our role in protecting the health of people. A gymnastics gym and a workout area is like the No. 1 place to spread germs. I get that.”


But ...


“It’s just that it’s hard not knowing what’s going to happen with the Olympic Trials and the Olympics,” she said. “You can’t just stop training. You have to at least do your best and continue to move forward.”


Four years ago, at the Rio Games, Ahbe cleared a personal-best 4.55 meters and finished 12th while competing for Team Canada. (Her father is from Toronto.) The Tokyo Games were likely to be the last Olympics for the 28-year-old Ahbe, who got married to former Indiana University distance runner Joe Holahan last fall and who has put her life on hold over the last few years with an eye on qualifying for Tokyo.


Ahbe spoke by phone on Monday, talking about the last few days, as well as what’s ahead.


Q. You recently wrote in a Facebook post about how you need to adjust your mindset, from focusing just on making the Olympics to appreciating the journey. Can you talk more about that?


A. “Yeah, it’s definitely been a wake-up call for people in athletics, for everyone to slow down and think about what’s important. For me and my training partners, I think we’re all realizing that nothing is guaranteed. Even when you’re injured, you still feel like you have a little bit of control. You think, ‘Oh, if I train smart and eat well and take care of my body, I’ll have a lower chance of being injured.’ And you learn from your past mistakes and make adjustments. But with a pandemic, you can’t prepare. So it’s just a reminder that you don’t have complete control. Each day we can chase our dreams and try to go after our goals is a gift. A lot of my training partners, but also my competitors, have the mindset that we’re thankful for what we can do and what we’ve been able to do. We’ll just take each day as it comes.”


Q. Let’s say they push the Olympics to 2021. I know you’ve kind of put the rest of your life on hold to train for the Tokyo Games. Would you do it for another year?


A. “That’s a good question. I think everything is up in the air about that. There are a lot of factors at play. For me, I’m an older athlete. I’m 28. I’m married. I do have other things I want to do with my life. So, it would depend. If they push it back a year, I might be able to wrap my head around that. If they’re not going to have it and push it four years from now, I might have some decisions to make. Each person is in their own unique situation and it’s really difficult for a lot of people to make those decisions, especially female athletes. I know quite a few who already have children, but they’re still training and they’re planning to keep growing their family. This can totally put a wrench in their plans. Not that you can totally plan everything. I’m not sure what I would do, but for now I’m staying focused on continuing to train. It’s business as usual, as much as it can be.”


Q. How has your training been going?


A. “It’s been OK. I actually made a bit of a coaching change. It’s a long story, but it’s partly because it became pretty difficult to keep training at the level I wanted to because of the restrictions put forth by the university (Tennessee) as far as access to their facilities. I’ve been working with Jeff Coover at the University of Northern Iowa and I’m really happy with where I’m at physically. I saw some progress with my performance during indoor season. I didn’t jump as high as I ever had, but I started using a lot bigger poles than I have in the past with more ease. That creates its own set of challenges as you get better with certain things and other things get more difficult. I wasn’t necessarily pleased with how I jumped during the indoor season, but I’m happy with the progress I saw in other ways. I still think qualifying for the Olympic Trials is within reach if given the opportunity. The problem is, the NCAA season was canceled and a lot of the meets I had lined up were college meets. So now I have to rely on clubs and I don’t know if USA Track and Field is going to say that clubs can’t host meets. There are a whole series of meets planned at Bell Athletics in Jonesboro, Arkansas, that are outside the collegiate system. As far as I know, those are going forward, so I’m going to put forth a lot of competitive energy on those. Obviously, I can’t get to Europe and those competitions aren’t happening.”


Q. I’m not sure how to ask this, but if you can’t compete in the Olympics again, does the fact that you had that experience four years ago make that any easier, for lack of a better word?


A. “Not really, because it’s four years of my life that I’ve put toward that (2020) goal. I think as an athlete, you’re always pushing to that next thing. But no matter what happens and no matter how my career ends, I’m going to be proud and happy of what I’ve accomplished. I feel like I’m a pretty positive person and I look for the good in things. I was talking to my competitors and my training partners about what we appreciate most in this journey. It’s the people we’ve met and the places we got to travel and the courage we had to do this, to go against the grain and have a life that looks different than other people our age. That’s what I’m going to value as I move forward in life. I think I’ll have that perspective no matter what, even if I still go to the Olympics.


“I haven’t hit the Olympic standard yet and if they come out and say they think they have enough people who have qualified and they’re going to move forward, that would suck for me because I still want to do it. But at the same time, there are people on the flip side like Katie Nageotte, who was also a state champion in Ohio (from Olmsted Falls), and she’s ranked in the top five in the world. She’s already jumped the standard and she could go in and medal this summer. I don’t think I’m in a position to get a medal. I’m just trying to get there. I’ll be disappointed if they don’t go forward, but I’m trying to have a good attitude about it. Sports isn’t everything. It’s going to be OK.”


Q. How is married life going?


A. “It’s great. It’s nice to have a person in my corner. It makes training easier, I would say, to have that person supporting me. I don’t feel like I’m doing it myself. But even in terms of that, moving forward, whatever happens, there are two of us now making decisions about what’s best for us. So, in the long run, we’ll see. In the meantime, I’m going to be out running hills and doing push-ups. That’s all I can do.”


Reach Joe at 330-580-8573 or


joe.scalzo@cantonrep.com


On Twitter: @jscalzoREP