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Brown alums with Olympic aspirations remain committed to their dreams

Jordan Mann ’15 and Alex Miklasevich ’19 continue their roads to Tokyo

For three Brown alums, the Olympics had never been closer to reality — until the COVID-19 pandemic put a pause on their long-awaited dreams. On March 24, it was announced that the 2020 Olympic Games, scheduled to take place in Tokyo, had been delayed until 2021 due to the pandemic. Despite the postponement, Jordan Mann ’15 and Alex Miklasevich ’19 remain determined to compete in the Olympics. These athletes detailed their paths to the brink of Olympic qualification and their thoughts on the delay in interviews with The Herald in April. Five months later, The Herald checked back in with two of these athletes as they continue to pursue their goals in the face of unexpected challenges.

Jordan Mann 

From joining the Brown track and field team as a rookie walk-on to capturing second place at the Ivy League Heptagonal Championships two years later, Mann is no stranger to exceeding expectations and achieving long-term success. Mann graduated from Brown and joined the Providence College Friars in his final year of NCAA eligibility, where he earned a sixteenth-place finish at the NCAA Championships. Mann’s success prompted him to view the 2020 Olympic trials as an attainable goal. Although the rapid spread of COVID-19 put a pause on these plans for the immediate future, Mann remained committed to his training regimen and Olympic dreams. 

“With running, you’re able to train on your own,” Mann explained. Even without the presence of teammates, Mann has maintained an intense training schedule. The past six months have given him the opportunity to improve technical skills and gain physical strength to ensure longevity as a professional runner. “The long-term goals are always there. When you look at the big picture, those goals never really disappear,” Mann said. 

For Mann, any spare time during the past few months has been devoted to Japanese studies. His passion for Japanese language and culture has driven Mann to fully commit to becoming fluent. He spends time reading books and watching anime to immerse himself in Japanese culture. After six months of intense language studies, Mann is now able to watch anime without subtitles. “It is a reasonably large undertaking for a passion project,” Mann said. His Japanese skills could come in handy if Mann finds himself in Tokyo for the 2021 Olympic Games. Mann remains interested in his academic passions like learning Japanese, but his focus is still on the track. “You’re always passing up opportunities … I have other other ambitions, but I still have time in the future to do those things.” 

When he picked up rowing his freshman year of high school, Miklasevich found his passion. Under the tutelage of former elite rower Jay Hammond, Miklasevich improved rapidly before joining the team at Brown. As a first-year for the Bears, Miklasevich rowed in the varsity boat that finished sixth in the Grand Finals at the Intercollegiate Rowing Association National Championship. He continued to climb the ranks, and his senior year, Miklasevich won the Petit Final at Nationals. He graduated in 2019 and immediately headed to the National Team Training Center in Oakland, California to row at the highest level. But the outbreak of COVID-19 forced Miklasevich to return home to Barrington, Rhode Island. Regardless of his location, Miklasevich continued to grow stronger and pursue new interests during the pandemic.

While at home, Miklasevich explored his passion for cooking. He used a cookbook and watched YouTube videos to learn to bake bread and pizza. When Miklasevich was not cooking, he was backpacking with fellow rowers in Yosemite National Park. After returning from an intense backpacking trip, Miklasevich admitted that although this portion of training was on land instead of water, the experience prepared him well to return to Oakland. “When we came back, we were sore and tired. But mentally, we were ready to go,” he said.

Miklasevich was able to safely return to the National Training Center in May. Protocols due to COVID-19 pushed Miklasevich out of his comfort zone as his team was required to train in singles, or individual boats. Traditionally part of a larger squad while on the water, Miklasevich had the opportunity to gain confidence rowing solo. “It was exciting and challenging — everyone learned a lot during this period,” he added. 

Miklasevich continued to use the rowing machine while training in Oakland. Although he initially struggled to solidify an elite training program at home, returning to the team dynamic allowed Miklasevich to notch higher quality practices while surrounded by his teammates. “When I’m with a group, I thrive and am able to do my best,” Miklasevich told The Herald.

The start of formal competitions for Mann and Miklasevich remain unclear. But both athletes continue to train hard and set high goals for themselves during an unexpected time. One day soon, Mann and Miklasevich hope to represent both Brown Athletics and Team USA by competing at the highest level in the Olympic Games.

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