For one New Jersey native competing in the Tokyo Olympics, the games will be bittersweet.
Morgan Pearson had envisioned the moment he would qualify for the Olympic triathlon for years -- but it was a moment that earlier in the race looked as if might have slipped away. Pearson had fallen behind the lead pack after what he said was a bad transition, and said he tried not to think about it too much -- especially after falling short in 2016 and missing the Rio Olympics.
That failure led him to accepting and re-evaluating his future as a runner in 2017.
"It’s like Happy Gilmore: He wants to be a hockey player, but he knows he’s better at golf!" Pearson said.
His frame and his focus were a perfect fit for the triathlon. His older brother, Andrew, thought so, too.
"My older brother, that was a big reason I got into running and swimming," Pearson said.
USA triathlon recruited Pearson, and he was back on a path toward the Olympics. He was able to come back in the race, ultimately finishing third as he punched his ticket to Tokyo.
It was a moment he hoped to share with his brother. But it wouldn't happen.
Ten weeks before the qualifying race, Andrew was gone. He died in his sleep on March 1.
"He's with me every day, every hour," Pearson said. "It was never hard. Maybe that was him keeping me on the gas – that’s what big brothers do."
Pearson called it a "big moment" for his family when he qualified, and that it was the "first positive thing that happened since my brother passed."
His life’s biggest moment awaits now in Tokyo. And in his mind, Pearson knows he won’t be alone.
"I don’t want to be put on a pedestal. We’re people, everyone deals with life," he said.