Adeline Gray with the American flag after winning her fifth world title (Photo/Tony Rotundo, WrestlersAreWarriors.com)
Adeline Gray had the dates circled on her calendar.
August 2 and 3.
That is when Gray was supposed to compete in women's freestyle wrestling at the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan.
The five-time world champion was set to cap her Hall of Fame career with an Olympic gold medal.
But Gray's dreams, similar to those of athletes around the globe, were put on hold when the sports world was shut down during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Olympics were postponed to next year.
"It's obviously disappointing the Olympics didn't happen this year," Gray said. "It's been a challenge to stay focused and find training opportunities."
Adeline Gray works for the fall at the Pan American Championships (Photo/Tony Rotundo, WrestlersAreWarriors.com)
Gray last competed in March's Pan American Championships.
The sports world was virtually shut down in March because of the widespread impact of the pandemic. The U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, where Gray trains, has been closed since then.
Gray, 29, is one of the most decorated women's wrestlers in international history. She has won seven world medals on the Senior level in addition to capturing Junior and University world titles.
She fell short of medaling at the 2016 Olympics before storming back to earn world titles in 2018 and 2019 for the United States.
"I had gained a lot of momentum going into the Olympics," she said. "But it's a new territory with this pandemic and it being postponed. We've been off the mat and we haven't been able to compete."
Gray's return may come at October's U.S. Senior Nationals in Coralville, Iowa. She has already clinched a berth into the finals of next year's Olympic Trials. She competes at 76 kilograms.
"I'm thinking about competing," she said of the U.S. Senior Nationals. "It's been a while without any mat time and it's something I'm considering."
Last September in Kazakhstan, Gray became the first American wrestler in any style to capture five world titles. She surpassed the American record of four titles she had shared with John Smith, Jordan Burroughs and Tricia Saunders
"It meant a lot to be able to do that," she said. "It's always nice to be a part of history. I was able to put two good seasons together - it's awesome anytime you reach the top of the podium."
Tamyra Mensah-Stock, Adeline Gray and Jacarra Winchester won world titles (Photo/Tony Rotundo, WrestlersAreWarriors.com)
Gray was joined in the winner's circle at the 2019 World Championships by teammates Jacarra Winchester and Tamyra Mensah-Stock.
"It was awesome to see Jacarra and Tamyra win world titles," Gray said. "It was great to see them so focused and determined. Watching them wrestle, it inspires me and motivates me."
More performances like that are expected to follow with women's wrestling in the U.S. experiencing a significant jump in participation at all levels.
Gray has inspired her share of young athletes with her strong run of success and by being one of the sport's best ambassadors.
"It's really neat to see women's wrestling continue to grow," she said. "It's amazing to see how many opportunities are available now for girls. It's exciting to see."
For now, Gray and U.S. Senior-level athletes continue to play the waiting game with the pandemic numbers still high.
"There is a lot of uncertainty with not knowing our schedule - everything is still up in the air," she said. "We're ready to get back on the mat, but I'm just eager for the world to get back to normal. It will obviously be nice when we can get back out there and wrestle again. I don't want to rush - I want to make sure we're safe when we do come back. We need to understand the dynamics of everything."
Wrestling fans can follow Gray on social media on Twitter and Instagram
Craig Sesker has written about wrestling for more than three decades. He's covered three Olympic Games and is a two-time national wrestling writer of the year.