Blog 6: Reflections on Day 6- Women’s Qualifying
Yesterday was epic. Five subdivisions worth of female athletes, vying for a spot to compete in the team (top 8), all around (top 24), and individual event finals (top 8 on each event). I was at the arena from 830A until about 945pm. To see the day in pictures, CLICK HERE for the PHOTO GALLERY.
We were lucky enough then to be able to pop over to see swimming with my friend, John Roethlisberger, who is here working with NBC. With how busy we have all been, finally getting to catch up was nice. The excitement of swimming is like no other. The silence exist when they take their marks, then, if it is a longer race, there is some cheering, but mostly watching of the timing to check and see what “pace” everyone is on. For the 100’s, and the relays, it is just utter chaos.
The US Men’s 4x100 came in second in 2012, and that was not OK with our team. They were back with a vengeance last night, and no one was going to stop them. Veterans leading newcomers. Coming together for another Gold, marking Michael Phelps’ 19th. The three guys on the deck raised their arms in elation, jumping up and down, screaming so hard their veins were popping out of their neck, and then, reaching down to get the 4th out of the water. One of the best things to have watched, however, is watching John watch Phelps. John is one of the greatest athletes the US has ever produced, and a wonderful person I may add, and to just see the excitement on his face, being in awe of the event and the history making that took place is really neat.
Like watching Jimmy Fallon laugh. Or having Tony Bennett say you sing well. Just great.
I also got to see Conor Dwyer swim, from close to us at home. A product of IL, he is one talented kid. His semifinals were last night, and he was on good pace. His family is here, uncle included, cheering him on as they always do.
- Between sessions of gymnastics, we popped over to a few other close venues for 10 minutes here and there, just to get out of the same scenery. After a while, you think you see green concrete on the streets when you walk, too! Our first stop was the velodrome.We did not get to see anyone racing, just practicing, tuning their bikes, and setting up. It looks crazy on TV, but it is WAY crazier in person. You don’t realize the pitch of the turns, and the height of the banks until you are standing right next to it.
We ventured over later in the day to see fencing, which I have never seen, ever, in person. The Olympics is not a bad way to start out! The set up here is really star-wars-esque. The floor has neon “rope” lighting, if you will. The athletes, of course, have masks on, and here… they were meshed in the colors of their country flags. To mark the score, they have electric scoring setups, machines that the athletes wear, essentially, that “senses” when the opposite person hits your “Lame’” which is the vest over the protective gear. Then, the lights “light” up on the floor. That is it. Pretty cool, and if you blink, you miss it. We were able to catch 3 minutes of the eventual Gold-medal winning American (Massialis) do his play in. And then the match up for the bronze between Safin and Kruse.
I had a “holy cow” moment yesterday. It doesn’t really happen when I am at gymnastics, treating athletes, or even the week before I left for Rio. I never really allowed myself to realize that I am at the Olympic Games. Until, last night. Watching Phelps swim was crazy. In seconds, history was made. I am not star struck at all, it is just part of my job, and they are just people, too. I respect and admire their accomplishments, grit, and determination, but they are not a diety to me, like some people shake and melt when around stars. Because it is so commonplace, I think I don’t let myself take in the magic that it really is. It hit me, in the arena, when I was watching the broadcast for the Olympic Broadcasting System (OBS) on the screen above me, and saw the NBC folks, and then realized that I was here. Just crazy. In addition to that, it is neat to have the official Olympic swag from shirts to polos, jackets to shoes. My sandals, however, I think are my favorite!
I am trying to keep in touch with home, though difficult, Wireless is on and off, phone service is only there if the wind is blowing in a certain direction, and time is limited, at least these first six days with the push. Yesterday, however, marked a really neat moment for me. I love my Mom with all of my heart. And, of course, my Dad was my best friend. Since he passed, just weeks after finding out that I was going to Rio, she has surprised me with her independence, made me proud of her perseverance, and I am in awe of how strong she really is. I have talked to her every day, she is following things from the US, and just wants to hear stories of what I get to do, and how cool it is to be here. Before Dad passed, she literally did not know how to use a computer or cell phone, let alone barely a remote control. Just not her generation, and Dad did everything electronic.
Mom is now texting. So cool! She sends me messages, and yesterday, accidentally texted my email (I have NO idea how that happened!) Not sure that she knows the subject line and body, but it came through. It made me cry, I just wanted to hug her and tell her how proud of her I am. In the midst of athletes achieving dreams, and parents watching their kids break records, I am reminded of how important family really is. No one is going to not live without a medal. No one is going to be lonely without a world record. But, without family, life is empty.
Speaking of family... I had a chance to catch up with Chris Brooks after the meet on Saturday. A rare opportunity for a 1:1 even if for a minute. You see, Chris lost his Dad in 2008 to a tragic car accident. His Dad was a gymnastics enthusiast and coach, and always wanted to see him succeed. Chris is the oldest on the team at 29, and has been through the most- both physically and mentally. He was lost years ago with purpose in life, and the combination of the death of his father, a true chance at competing in the Olympics as well as a camaraderie with the guys once he moved to train at the OTC in Colorado Springs allowed him to again, see the light. He knows about my Dad, and how important he was to me. I looked Chris in the eyes, and told him the story of the watch. The watch that my Dad got, and never wore, because he didn't wear jewelry. Not of the watch itself, but of what it signified. over 40 years of hard work, dedication, being humble, and doing his job making a difference in people's lives. 40 years of a commitment to one thing, carpentry. Nearly 40 years of wanting what was best for his daughter. Just like Chris, years and years of work and twist and turns in the road, but he is still here. And, that is for a reason. I told the team captain I wear this to remind me, when I am here at the Games at at any meet that I am fortunate enough to be a part of, that it came because of my hard work and grit, but it never would have been possible without my Dad. You see, if you ever forget where you came from, or who helped you along the way, their energy that stayed with you would be gone. Each giant is because of a word of encouragement, or a drive, or a dollar, or a smile. He smiled, we exchanged a good hug. I am willing to let Chris borrow whatever amount of mojo that watch brings. Or, I could just tell Dad from above to hang out with Larry and cheer him on like he was his own son. That seems like a better idea...
Of course, the main story of today is our Women’s team. TEN POINTS above the next team, three people in the top for the all-around, and so many medals still to win. Check out the detailed version of the day (CLICK HERE) that I penned for Inside Gymnastics Magazine.
The US team deserved its own article. Period. I am so proud of these girls, all eight including the alternates, and Rhonda, coach Aimee, Christian, Mihai and more. What. A. Program. Read the US WOMEN’S ARTICLE HERE.
There has always been a place in my heart for alternates. As they say, it is better to be 12th than 4th. If they gave four medals, fifth would stink. It is the difference between people knowing your name, and being able to say you were fourth at the Olympics on a resume. But the magazines don’t post pictures as much of you, and that stinks. Our team this year is amazing, all eight of them, and some that were left at home, too. People don’t realize how much the alternates work. They essentially parallel everything that the team is doing, here in Rio. Sleep, eat, workout, focus, just in a different place. My feature story on that, with wonderful contributions from my dear friend Kim Zmeskal, is one that will change your viewpoint. READ IT HERE !
Some quick random facts about happenings here…
- Hot water is apparently a commodity.
- You can’t flush your toilet paper. Just like a boat, you wipe and place ina bucket. This, potentially, is why the city smells like poop, in addition to the water. Yuck.
- The Brazilians, through friendly, are slower than the south. I mean slow. Like 20 minutes in concession stand.
- The roads here are crazy. Rio created new “Olympic” lanes for people directly associated with the Games. Credentialed, or driving around credentialed people. These “lanes” parallel the normal lanes. But to cross the road, you cannot just turn left (if you live in Chicago, kind of like Randolph street by the meat packing/restaurant district). Here, you have to go down, waaaaay further than you would have to, do a hairpin turn, and then come back. It is 5x the distance, and time. Not sure how else better to do it. I think, possibly, consulting a first world country traffic engineer may have been a good idea…
- Little house ants are everywhere. They are the size of dust, and they don’t go away. Gross.
- Security lines are nuts. There was swimmer yesterday whose parents missed the event because an hour and a half was not long enough to allow for the lines.
- There is always McDonalds. In the public area of Olympic Park, out stands a Mickey D’s. Funny.
Tonight is Men’s Team Finals. Our team legitimately has a chance for a medal. Although we are not 10 points ahead, like the girls, the guys are in the 3-4-5 mix. If we match our prelims night, and do a bit better, it may be epic. These guys have all worked so hard. Sam though his Achilles injury. Jake through his shoulder. Leyva through the dog bite and time off of training. Naddour sleep deprived with a newborn. And, of course, Chris, being 29, held together by duct tape and a prayer. But what binds them is an unbelievable love for the sport and dedication to the team goal, individual things to follow. Let’s see if Kind Kohei can put it together tonight for a spectacle for Japan, and the rest of the world.
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- See more at: http://medgym.net/blog/2016/8/4/day-4-thursday-aug-4th-womens-podium-training-t-1-day-until-opening-ceremonies/#sthash.hxnzNr0H.dpuf