Blog 5: Reflections on Day 5, Saturday, and looking to Day 6, Sunday (Women’s Prelims)
If you want to get chills, just watch this video. Pictures, stories, and an explanation of the qualification and medals process, for both the men’s and women’s artistic gymnastics programs . Thousand of views already, HERE IS THE YOUTUBE LINK!
For the best pictures, capturing amazing gymnastics and emotion, view the Inside Gymnastics picture gallery HERE.
As a summary for the Men’s Qualification Day, I wrote a pretty lengthy summary of the hits of the day (A REALLY good insight into Men’s Gymnastics, CLICK HERE to link and read!) So, I won’t bore you with too much more here. Instead, I figured I would try to get you “here” by taking you through a really neat journey. A few additions to the article that we completed last night:
- My heart goes out to Amir. His strength, courage, and passion are astounding. His injury devastating, and I truly wish him the best with his surgery and subsequent recovery. It is a long road, but his current state of mind is amazing. He says he will be back in 2020!
- The German athlete, Tova, did end up having an ACL tear. Even so, in excruciating pain, he proceeded to compete on pommel horse. His score did count, and helped Germany qualify for Team Finals. Absolutely amazing. The German team is actually thinking of having him do pommel horse on Monday night… what a show!
- After a 15 hour day yesterday, we are off to an even longer one today. Getting through these first 6 days is brutal – qualifiers, finals, all around. Then, it gets better with event finals and a bit of a break- for us and the athletes! Five flights of women today in the arena. No matter how well they do throughout the day, no answers until the last flight, We are in the 4th, so it should be nerves all day. Keeping the girls away from social media today is important, so that they can focus, but also not be aware of how other are doing, with relation to ranking, falls, success stories, etc.
What a day… full of sights and sounds. Psychologists say that there is nothing more powerful than your five senses to bring back memories- both of things that you may not like vey much, and have purposely paced in a small box in your mind, and of things that make you smile, make your heart beat, blush, or be calm. Today’s blog is going to be all about taking you through a journey of senses. So, sit back, relax, breath, listen, look, feel, touch…. And remember. Enjoy.
Crack. That is what was heard from around the arena when Samir Ait Said (France) completely broke through his tibia and fibula in his lower leg. After landing poorly, he laid there on the vault landing mat, grabbing the top part of his leg. It appeared as if he looked down, saw what he did not want to see, but maybe thought he may see, and then put his head down. Seconds of agony ensued waiting for medical staff. Then minutes to stabilize him and remove him properly to avoid further damage, off of the podium, into the back area, and eventually to the hospital. One of his teammates stated after the meet that they all wanted to finish the competition for “him and for us.” That sound, of course, leads to a feeling. Kind of like the one that you feel when you know a comedian is really tanking on stage? A gut-wrenching, when will it be over (for him) feeling. It triggered emotions of feeling bad for him, and then putting yourself in his shoes. The hours of training, the team competition that, if France had a chance, they needed him for. The I-just-want-to-hug-him-and-tell-him-he-is-still-great kind of feeling.
Counter this with the rush on endless energy, support, love, and country pride that you could hear, and subsequently feel, from what seemed to be the entire city of Rio in the Olympic Arena. Why were they going crazy? Brazil has never qualified a team to finals before in men’s gymnastics. Ever. Not only do they have a chance this year, but they are on the cusp of knocking it out of the part. It sounded like a soccer match, chanting, not just a “nice job, kid” sort-of-yell. The tables were shaking, flags were flowing. That sound could simply be penned in one word: pride.
No matter how good electronics gets with 3D televisions, Google glasses, and so much more, nothing beats seeing things in person… nothing. To see the floor carpet move on landings. To watch the springboard bounce in rebound of a massive hit, to zone in on just how close someone may be from falling. To watch the air near the parallel bars with chalk floating freely – a sign of callused and hard-working hands meticulously placed on each bar with gusto. These sights trigger other emotions, like fear, worry, pity, elation, celebration and more. For those of us involved in this crazy sport of gymnastics, many of these trigger past emotions from training, competing, and missing “this.” Missing the excitement, the pressure, the preparation. OK, maybe not. But missing the feeling of accomplishment that no one could possibly understand until they have let thousands of hours of training and sacrifice boil down to a 7 second vault. For real. To see the tear come off of the face of Brazil’s Hypolito as he knew that they had done everything that they could. Not only today… but every day in the last 4 years and in their lifetime, when this group decided that they really did have a chance to shine in their home country. To get there on their own will and talent. And…to make history.
Well, this one is a doozy. Rio has two smells. The first, which is what all media have reported on both truthfully and some sensationalized, is, well…poop. Yep. That is what it is. It smells at times like an outhouse does where the staff that was supposed to check off the boxes on that chart hanging on the inside, signifying that they “cleaned” it or checked to see how full it was, just didn’t. It depends on how close you are to the ocean, which is not that bad (or maybe the sense of hearing the waves rushing overpowers the nostril’s communication to the brain), or the inlet waters, empty land areas, and slums.
The latter one is the smell of spices, cooking, hard working men and women, who just want to show their culture of food, life, and love to the world. When walking on the beach where beach volleyball is played, or downtown Barra, the street vendor food emits a smell that makes you want to drink, eat, dance, engorge yourself, and then call an Uber because you are too full to walk. Anywhere.
To watch the nanoseconds and millimeters between catching a Kovacs … or quickly peeling flat to your back, reminds you of how important touch is. The friction of the chalk on your leather grip, on your hand, is one that you will never forget. When watching vault, you can almost remember instantly what that “covering” feels like. The sound it makes when your hand slides a bit on it, whether on beam or vault, it feels essentially the same. It exemplifies the hand-eye coordination and special awareness that is not perfected better by any other athlete or sport. Period.
Through touch, we are reminded of the brotherhood and camaraderie of these men. US Captain Chris Brooks hugging Jake Dalton, long time teammate and friend. The huddle that they have before competition, during and after. Just as it should be in order of importance, the Olympics are Team first, Individual second. And that is how the US teams are as well.
Pao de Quejo. That is essentially cheesy bread. Not cheese on bread, or cheese in the middle of the bread. But…cheese bread. There are a million variations of it here, and oddly enough, the one at the stadium is the best. Not much to bring you here, except the concept of food and its relative importance to culture. Through generations, cooking, recipes, family time in the kitchen, harvesting food, presenting plates at family gathering, and much more, have been a part of cultures- every one- since the beginning of time. Food here is a mix between African, European, and American, if you allow me to describe the namesake food of Brazil and specifically Rio. Feijoada is essentially an American picnic in a bowl. Start with pork or beef, advance that with black beans, and then add the cholesterol-ridden meat fest of bacon, pork ribs, jerked beef and sausage. It is like a choose-your-own-adventure with each bite you take. Sweet vegetables, like pumpkin, cabbage, carrots and okra are often simmered and added as well. So essentially, ribs, hot dogs, beans, steak, and sausage in a bowl. With rice, and the make-your-mom-proud-that-you-are-eating-it vegetable. HA!
Save the best for last? The country has a drink. The Caipirinha. It is made with sugar, lime and liquor made of sugar. It is just amazing. Like a mix of a Mojito and a Margarita. But it goes down as smooth (about as smooth as the water that the athletes get to drink before peeing in their cup for testing for doping).
At the end of the day, feelings of pride in the American men’s team. Energy mixed with fatigue after arduous preparation phase for the Olympics. There is a buzz around the Olympic area of people waiting to watch the best in the World. And, alas, medal ceremonies have started (what, there are other sports going on here?)
Catching up with friends happened ever so often. It is amazing how busy we can all be, yet be within miles of each other, thousands of miles from home.
Enjoy the Games.
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