Would-Be Olympians and Paralympians on Their Shot at Gold Being Postponed

You can’t rush perfection. But can you put it off for too long?

It’s not exactly the world-class gym he’s accustomed to, but The Cave will have to do for Myles Amine of Brighton. The garage at his cousin Jordan Amine’s house is outfitted with mats, weights, and a speaker system blaring motivational music. Weightlifter Kate Nye of Berkley and softball player Amanda Chidester of Ann Arbor have made similarly crude but necessary shifts.

All three were supposed to have competed in the Olympics in Tokyo this summer. Instead, thanks to COVID-19 and the ensuing global shutdowns, they’ve got at least another year to prepare. The games are now planned for July and August 2021, assuming the pandemic has been tamed and such large-scale events can convene again by then.

All of this leaves these top Michigan athletes in limbo. On the cusp of the ultimate competition and the opportunity to bring home the gold not just to the nations they represent but to their home state too, they wait, hope — and work to stay in top condition.

Hour Detroit wanted to know both how they came to the threshold of glory and how they’re holding up in unusual circumstances that, for the modern Games, can only be likened to the canceled 1916 and 1944 Olympics.

Amanda Chidester: Softball

Thrown a curve, she sees a silver lining — time to build chemistry
Amanda Chidester softball olympics
Photograph of Amanda Chidester by Jade Hewitt

Amanda Chidester thought she’d already overcome the biggest hurdle between her and the Olympics. After a 15-year softball career that included being a two-time All-American for the University of Michigan and winning several international titles with Team USA, she failed to make the national roster in January 2019.

The 30-year-old Allen Park native was crushed — and motivated.

“I could either look for people to blame or figure out what went wrong,” the slugger says. “I took an honest look at myself and knew I needed to play better defense and take full ownership of my training. I became even more dedicated, working out every day of the week and creating better habits, which set me up for success.”

Chidester, a catcher and infielder, signed on to play for the Chicago Bandits, a team in the National Pro Fastpitch league — the U.S.’s pro softball association — and dominated in the 2019 season. She batted .374 in 45 games with 15 homers — a better overall batting average with more home runs per season than she ever managed in her four seasons at U-M and a clear indication that she’d returned to form.

That left her brimming with confidence at tryouts for the 2020 Olympic team. Opportunities to play Olympic softball don’t come along often; the sport was last featured in the 2008 games and won’t be part of the 2024 lineup.

Thus, the Tokyo games are almost certainly Chidester’s one shot at Olympic softball. At the tryouts in Oklahoma City in October 2019, she competed with 29 other women for 15 spots. On Oct. 6, she received the email: She was Tokyo-bound.

“I went into tryouts with a chip on my shoulder and ready to prove I belonged,” she says. “What a relief.”

The subsequent months saw the newly formed Team USA training, traveling, and playing exhibition games to tune up for the Olympics. They were in Seattle in March when the spreading pandemic halted the tour. Chidester headed to Orange, California, to ride out the start of the nationwide shutdown at her brother’s place. While she was there, the International Olympic Committee announced the 2020 games’ postponement.

“I was actually glad about the games being moved to 2021 because I started to think there was no way we were going to have enough time to really prepare as a team, and now we do,” she says.

Chidester stayed fit by running, playing basketball, biking, and practicing yoga. “I just kept moving,” she says.

She returned to Ann Arbor in late May before heading to Chicago to train with some of her Bandits teammates who, like her, have signed on to play for Chicago’s entry into a new pro softball league, Athletes Unlimited, that was scheduled to debut in August. The 2020 NPF season is canceled.

Then, she hopes, she and Team USA can get back to preparing for Tokyo.

“We should still have plenty of time to work together, build team chemistry, and be ready for the Olympics,” Chidester says. “We will be bringing a team capable of winning gold to Tokyo, no doubt.”

Kate Nye: Weightlifting 

This wait will be a test of her inner strength
Kate Nye weightlifting olympics
Photograph of Kate Nye courtesy of USA Weightlifting

As her 108,000 Instagram followers who devour her workout videos can attest, Kate Nye is strong. In February, one clip showed her lifting a 330-pound barbell off a pair of wooden crates to her shoulders. Last year, the 21-year-old squatted 400 pounds.

That strength propelled the Rochester Adams High graduate to an Olympic berth in the 168-pound weight class based on her performances at several 2019 competitions, including being named the International Weightlifting Federation’s Female Lifter of the Year.

Yet by the time USA Weightlifting officially chose her for the team in May, the 2020 Olympics had been shoved into 2021 by the COVID-19 outbreak. On Twitter, she wrote that she was “absolutely crushed.”

“It’s pretty devastating,” she told WOOD-TV. “You plan for four years; you train for four years just to have an event. … It’s pretty hard.”

A couple months later, Nye is trying to keep her spirits up and looking ahead.

“I struggled with the news at first because I had to change my training for an Olympics that was now more than a year away rather than a few months away,” Nye says. “I had to be sure I was staying motivated and not getting burned out training.”

To that end, Nye stepped away from her at-home weight room — the garage — in Berkley for two weeks in May. She walked her dogs, did yoga, and road-tripped to Traverse City with her husband, Noah, whom she married when she was 19.

“I was fortunate to be training full time at home, so that continued as normal,” she says.

An Oakland University student studying health sciences, Nye embraced the switch to online classes and scored a 3.7 grade-point average for the spring semester, she says.

In mid-May, Nye painted the Olympic rings on a garage wall, just below where her awards hang. There are many; last year, she took gold in the World Weightlifting Championships in Thailand, becoming the youngest-ever American world champion lifter.

“I thought painting the rings would give me something else to do while sheltering at home and keep me motivated,” Nye says. “Awards above the rings show how far I’ve come, but the rings are a reminder there is still so much more I want to accomplish.” 

Myles Amine: Wrestling

In a family of wrestlers, he’s not grappling with this alone
Myles Amine wrestling olympics
Photograph of Myles Amine by Kadir Caliskan/DPA via ZUMA Press

This was the summer that San Marino was going to have its first Olympic wrestling entry. Myles Amine, a three-time University of Michigan All-American and two-time state champion for Detroit Catholic Central, was heading to Japan on behalf of the world’s fifth-smallest nation, the birthplace of his maternal grandfather.

Amine, 23, finished fifth in the 189-pound class at the 2019 World Championships in
Kazakhstan last September to qualify to compete in Tokyo for San Marino, with which he holds dual citizenship with the U.S. Proving his mettle there, he bested two past World Championships medalists and the 2019 Pan Am Games gold medalist.

“Even though that was my first World Championships, I went in confident I could become an Olympian,” Amine says. “It’s a goal I kept written down. I could see how tough qualifying was going to be with all World Championships medalists in my bracket, but I just concentrated on getting through each matchup, and things ended up in my favor.”

Amine followed that performance with a silver medal at the 2020 European Championships in February in Rome just prior to Italy’s coronavirus shutdown. Then it was back to Ann Arbor to complete his business degree and prep for the Olympics at the Michigan Regional Training Center at U-M under supervision of two-time Olympic gold medalist Sergei Beloglazov.

That didn’t last long. COVID-19 shut down all university facilities in March, sending students home and moving classes online. Days later, the Olympics were pushed to 2021.

Undeterred, Amine shifted his training to the basement of his parents’ home in Brighton with his brother, also a former U-M wrestler, and to his cousin Jordan Amine’s garage. There, he also worked out with Jordan’s brother, Cameron, also a U-M teammate.

“I was lucky training continued to go very well even when the stay-at-home order went into effect,” Amine says. “I still had great outlets for training and quality training partners. I have never appreciated the workout areas at my house and my cousin’s more. The Olympics delay was tough at first, but I’m going to be better prepared with another year of training, so there’s no reason to be negative.”

Amine, who took last season off from the U-M team to focus on Olympic training, has one season remaining with the Wolverines because he’s going to graduate school for a sports management degree. That season will begin in November if the school doesn’t cancel or shift that, too.

“With the progress Myles made before the World Championships, it didn’t surprise me he qualified for the Olympics,” says U-M head coach Sean Bormet. “He’s very passionate and understands the great opportunity in front of us next season. Myles gets how important it is to just be present, enjoy camaraderie, and have fun in the midst of grueling training in order to truly be ready when special moments arrive.”

Amine intends to thrive when his Olympic moment arrives: “At first, my goal was to become San Marino’s first wrestling medalist. Then I was like, ‘If I’m good enough to win a medal, I’m good enough to win gold.’”

Paralympic athletes are stuck in limbo, too

The Olympics take up most of the quadrennial oxygen, but four metro Detroit natives were hoping to head to Japan this summer, too, for the Paralympics, which are held immediately after the main games take place in the host city. They, too, must now hold out for at least another year.

Here are the elite local athletes you need to know about:

Wheelchair Basketball
Darlene Hunter, 38, of Walled Lake

A Team USA standout who helped win gold in the 2016 Paralympics in Rio. She has a Ph.D. in family studies from Texas Women’s University and teaches about disabilities and social work at the University of Texas at Arlington. She also founded the Lady Mavericks wheelchair basketball team. She lost her ability to walk after a spinal injury at age 4.

Wheelchair Basketball
Matt Scott, 35, of Detroit

A four-time Paralympian who helped Team USA win gold in 2016 and bronze in 2012. Scott, born with spina bifida, began playing the sport at 14 and was nominated for an ESPY Award as best male athlete with a disability in 2008. In 2007, he appeared in an inspirational Nike “No Excuses” ad, and this year, The Undefeated has dubbed him the Steph Curry of wheelchair basketball.

Wheelchair Basketball
Mike Paye, 37, of Warren

A four-time veteran of the Paralympics for Team USA and a 14-year veteran of a German professional wheelchair basketball team. Paye, born with arthrogryposis, began playing at age 12 and won two National Wheelchair Basketball Association Intercollegiate Championships at the University of Texas at Arlington.

John Kusku, 36, of Commerce Township

A silver medalist for Team USA in Rio. Kusku took to goalball, a game played by people who are blind or visually impaired that involves rolling a hard rubber ball with bells inside through an opponent’s goal, at age 10. Kusku, who has the degenerative eye condition retinitis pigmentosa, is also a math and physics teacher at Oakland Schools Technical Campus-Southwest in Wixom.