BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Last year the Olympics were postponed because of COVID-19, and that delay actually helped Jessie Pegula. The extra year allowed the Buffalo-native to earn her spot on the U-S Olympic Tennis team. She says she wouldn’t have been here in 2020.
“I was doing well last year, but I wasn’t ranked high enough so that’s been bittersweet where I’ve been able to earn my spot given this extra year and I made the most of it,” Pegula said.
She definitely made the most of it. Pegula made the quarterfinals of the Australian Open and placed in the top four at another tournament in March. Now she can add Olympian to her list of accomplishments in 2021.
“Obviously I want to win, but it’s kind of like a reward like you get to go to the Olympics and have fun and play with a group of girls that you really like and give yourself a chance to medal and I think I’m using it as a fun experience and like a reward,” Pegula said.
Pegula’s one of the top-ranked female players in the country, and that gave her a chance to play for team USA. It was a huge moment when she got the call to go to Tokyo.
“I can add that to my Instagram bio and my Twitter profile,” she said laughingly. “I can have the little medal and say that I’ve done that. I think it’s going to be really cool. I mean there’s not a lot of words to really describe it, but it’s really special representing your country.”
As a competitor, the goal is to come home with a medal, but Jessie’s also going to enjoy the moment as she represents her country and her hometown on the world stage.
“It’s an experience and it’s a once in a lifetime sometimes opportunity so I just want to embrace the experience, have a lot of fun, just keep thinking positive and keep living in the present moment of ‘wow I’m here at the Olympics,’” Pegula said.
And no matter what happens, she knows she’s got a big support system back home.
“I get to take Buffalo a little more international which is always fun,” Pegula said. “It’s definitely special having them. I don’t think a lot of players have a Bills Mafia support system behind them.”
Tennis at the Olympics starts July 24th.
Paul Stockman is a sports reporter who joined the News 4 team in 2020. See more of his work here.