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How athletes are preparing for the Olympics amid COVID-19

Olympic Gold Medalist Hilary Knight joins Yahoo Finance’s Akiko Fujita and Zack Guzman to discuss training during a pandemic, and outlook for the Tokyo Olympics.

Video Transcript

ZACK GUZMAN: Welcome back to Yahoo Finance Live. A lot of attention has been paid on the delay in the Tokyo Olympics, of course, the pandemic pushing that back by a year. And all signs point to go. Obviously, a lot of sports fans are excited around that. But looking past it into the Winter Olympics in 2022, a lot of people are also keeping their eyes peeled on that, especially those who are training for it right now.

For more on that, I want to bring on our next guest. Olympic gold medalist Hilary Knight joins us here. And Hilary, I don't think it's looking past too far into the future here to focus in on the Winter Olympics. Clearly, I think you would agree. How has preparation around that maybe changed by the pandemic? And how difficult now is it to train for something like that if there are still questions around it?

HILARY KNIGHT: Well, we all find ourselves in a very unique situation, one that we've never been given a handbook or a playbook to handle before, but it's challenging. But I think our group has had to get creative, like many other countries. Fortunately, we are two years behind the Summer Games, which is now just one, but it's coming up extremely quickly. And we've got an amazing group of hopefuls ready to take the stage whenever that opportunity presents itself.

AKIKO FUJITA: Yeah, how has the pandemic altered the way you train? I imagine things are starting to pick up again, but if you look back to last spring, certainly, there were long stretches where a lot of athletes just had to stay at home and not be able to train. How do you make up for lost time like that?

HILARY KNIGHT: You can't necessarily make up for lost time. I think the biggest impact, especially from a team sports standpoint, is the touch points that we've missed on. We have this amazing culture. And a lot of that's continued on with these in-person touchpoints.

So we've moved a lot of our programming to virtual sessions, which has been great to be able to collaborate and continue to see one another. But there are things that you just can't replace from being on the ice together. But we're hoping that the learning curve is shorter. And when we do have the opportunity to get back on the ice safely together, then we'll be ready to go.

ZACK GUZMAN: Yeah, I mean women's hockey is one of those sports that's just exciting to see play out on a national scale-- on a global scale, because you guys are good. It's kind of like our soccer team, just very good. But you're also going to have the opportunity to play for the first time-- I think, right? That's for the first time ever, Madison Square Garden coming up in under a week here. Talk to me about that and the way that hockey has kind of advanced this idea of the women and the men being looked at on a similar scale.

HILARY KNIGHT: Yeah, you know, I think for many years, we understood how good we were as a group. And it was just connecting the visibility component that we've missed for many years, as many other women's sports have. We've never really been given the platform or the opportunity to compete on an equal platform. So, to be playing at MSG this weekend is an incredible feat. What an iconic building, historic building. We're all looking forward to it. It's going to be history in the making.

AKIKO FUJITA: Hilary, when you talk about the growth of sports for women, what do you think has been that tipping point? You look at the growth that we've seen in the WNBA. Women's soccer, of course, for many, many years, has garnered the same kind of interest we've seen in men's, or sometimes more. Do you feel like there's been a factor that has really pushed it in that direction? What do you attribute the growth to?

HILARY KNIGHT: I'm glad you brought it up because I feel like we're always chasing women's soccer because they've led such a great example, and then the WNBA. But you're right. I think it's big companies, big brands coming on board, whether that's partnerships or sponsorships. It's just having the credibility of larger organizations seeing value in what we do and then providing the stage.

It's expensive to have a broadcast and things like that. So when we can have those shared services equal to the men, the sport's just going to grow tremendously. So we've seen that success on the women's side in soccer and basketball, and we're looking to provide that for women's ice hockey as well.

AKIKO FUJITA: Olympic gold medalist Hilary Knight, we wish you the best of luck at Madison Square Garden, but also hope to have you back on the show before, or as we look ahead to the Winter Olympics next year.