The Olympic Games- Post 1
Training drudged on. It was simply evident that the newness of the situation had worn off. The newness of being together as an Olympic Team, the newness of impressing Martha was now becoming old at the ranch. Everybody was ready to get the show on the road. Still the ladies plugged away at perfection and even hit the target now and again. This is commendable on any last days of camp. The grind is necessary and proven to pave the way to success.
On the eve of departure Martha called the final coaches meeting. You could sense a bit of anticipatory tension in the air as the doors closed to her office. The announcement as to who would be named Head and Assistant Coach had been delayed as long as possible. Jeni was the obvious choice for one of the positions in that the Olympic guidelines mandate that one coach for Women’s Gymnastics Team must be female. I am so happy for her and her husband Howie. They have been producing international caliber athletes for many years and it is finally their turn to reap the rewards. (Howie actually coached Chow back in China prior to bringing his great talents to the USA). You don’t have to search too far to find other very recognizable names that got their starts with this outstanding coaching duet. Jeni got the nod as Assistant Head Coach.
Now realize that the title of Olympic Coach is more of a resume topper than anything else. It is an enviable title but with the USA system and the involvement of all personal coaches, it is just a very prestigious title. There are responsibilities that go with the assignment but the coaching duties at major international events are shared equally. At least that is my take on it. Martha announced that I was chosen. I can not explain the feeling but it was as if my mind immediately started rewinding my entire coaching career. Who would have imagined that teaching forwards rolls to kindergardeners in an after school recreational gym class at the age of 16 would lead to this. Honestly I’d like to say it is something I have always dreamed of, but in reality, the chances were so obscure that until recently, the thought never even crossed my mind. Yep it is one hell of a title, one that I will humbly wear with pride forever. I thanked the selection committee for the honor and appreciate the vote of confidence more than words can say.
In my excitement I did get into a little bit of hot water. Since the phones don’t work at the ranch very well, I thought I would let my friends and family know the news via a post on Facebook and twitter. Well I guess I was a bit pre-mature in that the national office and USAG president had yet to sign off on the decision, report it to the USOC, and to make their official announcement via the various media outlets. A breach of protocol. Lesson learned: Don’t beat USAG to the punch, even if it is the single biggest accolade of your 30 year career. USAG did do a great press release and again I was floored by the recognition.
The AM training session the day of departure is always one where you simply want to wrap your athlete in extra safe bubble wrap. Their minds will be on the trip so it is important to constantly remind them about focus and effort. We all survived an uneventful session and loaded the luggage for Bush International.
A simple trip to Houston turned into a bit of a challenge. Between flat tires and passport issues the delegation did their rendition of Key Stone Cops prior to departure. In the end all was well and provided plenty of humor material when this group gathers for future reunions.
12 hours later we were on the ground in London, headed for processing and the stage that every aspiring athlete dreams of their entire careers … The Olympic Games. The proven plan has been to arrive on site well in advance with the strategy being to adjust to the time change as well as rehearse transportation and logistical issues. Arriving a minimum of one day early for each hour of time change is the goal. Our team ran the gambit with team members from Eastern, Central and Pacific time zones (5-6-8 hours difference from London respectively). We arrived one week in front of our official podium training (basically the dress rehearsal for competition).
Ok I admit it, I am a bit materialistic. Stories of the trove of Olympic treasures had me anxiously looking forward to the USOC processing. Processing is where the apparel and gifts are distributed from all the sponsors. I am sure most enjoy this part of the games after all it is not everyday that you get a wardrobe of gear with the official US Olympic Team insignia stamped for all to see. A chest inflating experience I must say.
We were loaded up to the gills with some great stuff … watches, rings, opening and closing ceremony outfits, warm ups, jackets, t-shirts, shoes, sunglasses, bags, polo shirts, sundries and more. The processing took approximately 2 hours so that they could make sure everyone had the right sizes (some pieces specifically tailored on site). It is amazing how fast you forget how tired you are when people are showering you with amazing gifts. It was so cool watching the girls faces light up … way more than kids in a candy store … kids at the Olympics.
The Olympic ring is gratis but you can pay to have it upgraded to white or yellow gold and add diamonds if you wish. What the heck… its the Olympics so I splurged a bit. One for me and one for Kathryn (whoops that was supposed to be a surprise). Now I just need to find a place for my tattoo and the memorabilia will be complete.
Staying up all day in order to get quickly in line with the new time zone is key. The problem is staying awake that long after an exhausting flight, and the duties of the day. Martha required that we all attend the first scheduled training session (USA and Australia were the only teams present). Later it became clear that this was simply a method of keeping the girls up and occupied as long as possible. Training was basically seeing the layout of the gym (bright pink carpet), and feeling the equipment. We stretched the day as long as possible and when heads hit pillows that night it was lights out til morning.