Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Deck the halls.

I love to decorate.

The $1 section at Target is a place that I should avoid during all holidays. Individually- "Oh, its only a dollar." When you realize that there are 40 of those dollar specials in the cart already- "Ooops." Last year I adorned my whole apartment with little things from target. My favorite item being the sticky jelly-like window decorations. I stuck them to everything. The window on the front door. The mirror in the bathroom. Fabulous little things.

I even got my tree from Target. It was a great tree. But this year Brandon & Sus (my brother and his wife) introduced me to a far more interactive way to pick out a tree. We cut it down ourselves! (I am not sure where I would have been able to do that when I was living in the Los Angeles area?!? OK, I couldn't have. Unless I cut if out of someone's yard. And I bet I would have been thrown in jail for that.)

When we got to the farm and got out of the car, a man handed us a saw and pointed to the forest. Have at it! We trudged off through the snow in search of OUR tree.  
EUREKA!!!!


My job was to hold the little tree while my brother chopped it down. The gloves he brought came in quite handy. Those fresh trees threaten you with copious amounts of sap. Maybe they are crying because they are getting cut down. This tree didn't know how good it would look when I was done with it. :)
Conor seemed to be happy with our selection. But maybe happier to get back to the barn where the owners of the farm had set up heating lamps and all the popcorn you could eat. Then we strapped it to the roof of the car and took it home where I put my skills to use. 



I also love listening to Christmas songs. I have collected quite a library of songs over the years. (My playlist on i-tunes says I could listen to Christmas music for 10.6 hours. Overkill? I think not. No two songs are the same. And the variety allows for everyone to find something they enjoy. My favorite album right now is: Celtic Christmas. LOVE the bagpipes.) 


The endless stream of audio holiday cheer only served to invigorate my decorating juices. So I bundled up and headed outside in the snow to hang lights on the house. Using a ladder in the snow is not dangerous. That is what I told myself. I am not the kind of person who would sue the ladder manufacturer for not having the warning label big enough. If I fell it would be my own over-zealous holiday stupidity! Injury avoided. Joy spread!

We are ready for Santa!!!

Here comes Santa Claus....

I can't believe that Christmas is tomorrow!!!
My nephew is really excited about it!
(And so cute in his little hat!)
video

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Snow Days.

All bundled up and ready to play!

I think the last time I went skiing was almost 10 years ago. Which was about the same time I began training with the national team and realized that if I focused my energy, dreams may be within reach. What used to be a staple on my winter activity list, got sidelined until further notice. Logging hours of training in the pool became my top priority and going to play in the snow happened less and less often.

I was not the only one who didn't want all that effort to go to waste. Without fail, just before winter break in college, came the suggestions from the coaches to "be safe" and "to get your rest" during the time off because the last thing they wanted was an unnecessary injury. Later when I was playing professionally in Italy, my team went on a trip to the Alps. I was forbidden, by the club I played for, to do anything other than make a snowman and drink hot beverages in the lodges. (But I was in the most beautiful mountains, with perfect snow for skiing!!! Alas, receiving my salary every month trumped my urge to fly down the slopes.) It is hard to be in a winter wonderland when you can't do anything in it. Especially when skiing was something that I did every year growing up.

For the last two weeks I have been spending time in Seattle with my brother and his family. I had no idea I would find myself in the ultimate winter wonderland....and I think (if the foot of snow outside does not disappear in 24 hours) my first white Christmas! :)

There still has been no skiing....but the abundance of powdery white has offered many other forms of entertainment. And I am certainly not afraid to frolic like we all did when we were 5!

video video



We took a long trek through the neighborhood...threw a few snow balls at each other. Made our angels. Enjoyed the way the whole world lay quiet with the blanket of snow covering it. No better way to experience your first snow than from a baby bjorn. My nephew, Conor, was trying to figure out exactly what all this white stuff was. Big round eyes taking it all in.
When we got back to the house, my friend Monkey and I, shoveled the driveway to uncover the cars and then made a snowman! (No, we were not confused as to what holiday is coming up. But why let a festive decoration go to waste?)


That was two days ago....it kept snowing and now.....SO MUCH SNOW!!!!!!

Monday, November 24, 2008

It wasn't on the list. But should have been.

Ever since the movie The Bucket List came out, you KNOW you have put thought into what would be on yours. You may have written it down. Maybe not. I put mine on my blog. While it isn't in ink....cyberspace is keeping it warm for me. And while it exists somewhere, that means I am accountable for it. I have this overwhelming urge (especially because I am not engaged in some type of organized training right now) to start crossing things off it, right now. Why wait?  

Two of the things on the list have to do with being up in the air. Hot air balloons and skydiving. I used to have dreams when I was a kid that I could fly. Only I wasn't flying....I was swimming breaststroke in the air. That was probably the closest thing I could imagine the sensation of flying to be like. Being weightless in water is surely what those birds feel like, when they catch a current and seemingly float in the air unmoving. I have always wanted to feel that.

Is that why I dressed as Wonder Woman for Halloween? She has an invisible plane at her disposal. No, I picked the outfit because it came with a cape.  :)  Which maybe I could wear when I eventually do go skydiving. 

Until that opportunity comes around....I got the chance to go in a helicopter!!!! Which is another thing I have always wanted to do, but never have. Being cautioned profusely by my family that I may hurt myself and risk my chances to play at the Olympics, I have blocked it out as a possible activity. (I think what my Mom was really saying was..... "Helicopter tours in Hawaii have a very bad crash record. I would prefer that you stay alive. Do not go on them." Thanks for helping me see the light Mom.) Going in some random flying vehicle, one in which I do not know the maintenance record or attention the particular pilot pays to the details of his bird would make the experience far more stressful and thus subtract from actually absorbing the feeling of flying. So I am glad I waited!

A very experienced helicopter pilot, one who owns his own chopper, happened to be the father of one of the girls I coached this high school season. He offered to take me for a ride around the San Francisco Bay Area when the season ended. I told him that I may pee my pants (with excitement). He may not have been so excited to take me after that, but he took me anyway. :)

Pretending to be the pilot.....
San Francisco & The Golden Gate

GO BEARS!!!!

I should have had "taking a ride in a helicopter" on my list. It was amazing. If you are not afraid of heights or have vertigo or something.....then everyone should think about going up in one. Of course, my mom was right, only with a trusted pilot and healthy aircraft. :)

Saturday, November 8, 2008

More Swim Photos

Team Water Polo staying warm in the ferry. Here we go!
Leaving solid ground. Bye SF!
Passing Alcatraz on the way to the GG Bridge.
Just keep swimming.
I made it to the beach and didn't loose the ball!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

I swim because I can.


Last Saturday was our swim in the Bay! This illustration was hanging in the window of the ferry on the way over to the Golden Gate, to give us an idea of what we were about to get ourselves into.
My first thoughts were, "This drawing is really done well. The colors, shading....and I sure hope it is drawn to scale. Jump in here- swim to here. Not too bad. Lets do it!" Then the fine print on the right caught my eye. OH....58 degrees, huh? That is kinda cold. I was quickly reminded by my good friend Mel, fellow water polo player and a teammate of mine from Cal, that we are tough. We play polo. Good on ya Mel. You are right. :) Thanks for setting me straight. We don't need wetsuits. We can handle it. Over that hurdle, now I needed to know what slack water was. Apparently it was going to happen at 10:20 and if it was written down I was thinking it was probably important. Luckily we had a resident SF Bay expert on the boat with us. He knew everything about the Bay and explained to us that "slack water" was the precise moment that the direction of the current switched from heading OUT of the Bay to going IN the Bay. Which would be a huge advantage to all of us swimmers when we jumped off the boat. We would wait about 10-15 minutes after the switch, then off we would go. He said it would be like surfing on into the beach. (We definitely got a little nudge, but I wouldn't say surfing per say!)

Before we even got to the swim, we started the day off by dropping our cars off at Chrissy Field, where we were going to finish. A shuttle then took us to Pier 9, for the pre-swim logistical stuff. (sign in, get your cap, write your number on your hand in black ink, and mingle with all the other participants) On the ride, we got out a sharpie and began to write the names of people we wanted to honor during our swim on our water polo ball.
Later we announced to all the swimmers that if they wanted to add a name, they were welcome to do so. 
Here is a close up of one of the panels. 


The ferry ride over to the Golden Gate lasted about an hour. One of the organizers of the swim, Janel Jorgensen (an Olympic Swimmer) gathered us together to talk about why she started this charity swim here in the Bay Area and how cancer had affected her life. Following Janel's lead, many people got up and told stories of loved ones, some defying huge odds, others who had lost their battles.  Some of the stories were about names that had been written on our ball earlier. There were tears. And the stories infused us all with a fire to get on to the swim. To do something for the people we were learning about. 

My friend Mel, got up and spoke on behalf of our team of water polo players. At the end of what she was saying she told us to remember...."We swim because we can." We are healthy. We have the ability to get out there and do something, like swim in a blastedly cold body of water. So why not? Everyone should have that right. To be healthy. To physically do as they wish.
Jump. Dive. Hop. Slide. Skip. Anything! We were swimming for the people that could not join us due to a nasty disease. We also were swimming WITH people who beat it and were able to keep swimming! 
I was very proud that our little team of water polo players raised almost $10,000!!!! 
(So many THANK YOU'S to the people who donated!)


Friday, October 3, 2008

Swimming in San Francisco Bay!



In two weeks, I will jump into the San Francisco Bay and swim 1.5 miles, under the Golden Gate Bridge, around one of the pylons and then back to Chrissy Field Beach! I am really excited!!!

I figure since I am in great physical shape coming home from Beijing, there is no better way to put my skills to use than for a cause in which I am very passionate! I will be swimming with a team of water polo enthusiasts the whole way....we are even going to bring a water polo ball along for our little swim! :)

There are three reasons why this organization hits home for me. The first, because I love to swim. My skills as a swimmer have provided me with opportunities beyond my dreams- traveling the world, three amazing Olympic experiences, and most importantly, lasting friendships with my teammates, coaches and supporters. Secondly, donations from this event will go towards supporting the Children's Hospital in Oakland--the hospital where I spent the first two weeks of my life. I was born 8 weeks premature and without their help and resources, I would not be the person I am today. And thirdly, proceeds from Swim Across America will go towards supporting cancer research, treatment and patient care--another cause with which I have a very personal connection. My Aunt, Bonnie Sauter, has had a long standing battle with cancer and I have always admired her strength in battling this disease. I hope that in a small way, our swim can impact the families with their own battles and one day we can completely eradicate the disease.

If you would like to learn more about the organization, Swim Across America or donate to our Team, I encourage you to click the link below.


I know that right now, with the financial issues we are all facing, it may be difficult for you to donate. But know that even the smallest amount can help! THANK YOU!!!!!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

How many people can you fit....

in the cockpit of an airplane?

In this picture you can see 8 of us and the very nice pilot, Brad. The entire team was squished up front. 13 + a pilot= 14 people in one VERY small space. I snapped this picture from my scrunched up fetal position. Squished between the tiny front windshield, a few million weird buttons, and the pilots strange joystick like-steering wheel. Here we all are....


I met Brad while we were waiting at the gate to board our flight from Chicago to Los Angeles. (Yup, this was the, most uncomfortable, fever ridden, last leg of our trip home from China that I talked about in an earlier post.) We had our medals out to show some of the kids and parents that were sitting around us. Brad walked by, to go do his pre-flight pilotish things, and then came right back to ask if we could take a picture with him on his phone. Anything for the man who was going to get us home safe. :)



Once inside the plane, just before take off he announced to the plane he wanted the WHOLE Olympic Women's Water Polo Team to come up to the cockpit for a photo before takeoff. On time departure? Um....maybe Brad's next flight. Because we proceeded up to the front, with medals on, sharing the beauties with people along the way. Then ensued the mayhem of getting us all inside there. After the photos were taken, we did finally leave Chicago.....due to Brad's stellar flying skills we landed 10 minutes early. No one at the receiving airport had to know we left a little late. ;)
I had never been in the cockpit of an airplane. Thanks Brad!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

A Closer Look!

I thought maybe I would start with a close up of our medal. This has become the symbol of our team's journey these last four years. It is a beautiful medal. The pictures do not do it justice at all. 

Between the years of 1896(the first modern Games) and 2000, all of the medals had the same design on the front. It featured the Goddess Athena and the Olympic Stadium. When the Games came back to Athens in 2004, the design was changed to the one you see below. Still the same basic elements, just a little different. Medals in the future will all have this new design on the front. I am lucky to have one medal with the older design, and now two with the new one. (Eventually I will get a picture of all three medals together!)

The back of the medal is designed by the host country. That is a ring of light green jade. The gold medals have white jade in them and the bronze features a darker (most common in jewelry) green jade. The lighter the shade of jade the more rare.
The ornate Chinese design used to hold on the ribbon looks cool but is not made with practicality in mind. The edges are rough in the places were the ribbon comes in contact with it. Putting the medal on and off, or taking it out to show people and let them hold it has caused the ribbon to fray on the edges! I don't like that it is happening but that will not stop me from sharing it with everyone!

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Finding Normalcy.

It has been quite a while since my last post. I am sorry to leave you all wondering what has been happening since we won our medal. While I thought it would be a leisurely return to the States and back to normal life (wait, what is that?)....it has been anything but. 

When we first touched down in America, on our flight from Beijing to Chicago, I realized I had caught a nasty flu and brought it along for the ride home. By the time I was on the plane from Chicago to LA, fever had set in and all I wanted was to be home and laying in my bed. 
Which is where I stayed for the next two days once I made it to my apartment. Nyquil and Ambien helped to keep me asleep or simply mask the symptoms until I was ready to face the world. At which point, I began my battle with jet lag. I was awake in the  middle of the night and sleeping during the day. Not having a practice to go to or a real schedule threw me for a loop. I found myself waking up and feeling late for something. Or wondering where my teammates were. Separation anxiety? After about a week of that, then the crazy post-Olympic Media fest had begun. Which was great because having things down on my schedule gave me motivation to do even the simplest things. Like LAUNDRY! Yes, my bags from China sat on my floor unopened for over a week. If I could only describe the smell when I opened the bag! I had brought China home with me- not good!  Don't worry, now everything smells like Tide, all happy and fresh! 

Now all clean and ready to get back out there with our silver medal, I have gotten to do a few awesome things, which I will go into more detail very soon. Pictures and all, since the restrictions on blogs from the Olympics are over!!!
Things to look forward to:
  • Being honored at the LA Sparks Game
  • Throwing out the first pitch at the Giants Game in San Francisco
  • Being on the OPRAH SHOW!

NOTE:  The Oprah Show that all the Olympians are on airs on Monday September 8th, 2008.
Which is exactly one month since the start of the Olympics. Watch out for us on TV!!!!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

We WON a silver medal!!!!!

This is just a quick lil post to let everyone know how grateful I am for the support these past days, weeks, months.....all of your wishes had a huge impact on our teams success here in Beijing.

Now that the competition is over, I am going to spend a few days in Beijing relaxing with my family, exploring the city and remembering our journey with my teammates. Once I get back to the US, and the blogging restrictions on athletes are lifted, I will post all sorts of pictures and stories from our adventures here. So if you are interested check back and enjoy!

THANKS AGAIN!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Blogger Of Note!?!

Oh my! Last night, just as I was finishing my post on our bears, Nat walked into the athlete lounge and asked what I was doing. I told her I had written about our Build A Bear adventure. I had just closed my web browser, and was about to shut down my computer when she asked to take a quick peak at the post. So I re-opened Safari to get at my blog. I have my homepage set to a customized iGoogle page displaying the "widgets" that interest me the most. Things like: 
  1. The weather in cities that pertain to me.
  2. The National Geographic Picture of the Day (I am in awe of what they capture!)
  3. Latest updates on People.com (I am a total sucker for that stuff.)
  4. World Clocks (So I know what time it is in other countries where I have friends.) 
  5. A calendar (Because I never know what day it is.)
  6. Blogger of Note
I added the Blogger of Note widget when I first started my blog because I thought it was such a cool way to see what people out there had to offer. Being new to the blogging world I figured these pros had things to teach me....I was amazed by what was out there. Over time, as I saw cool  things on other blogs, I added elements to my own. There are still things that I have no idea how to do, but hopefully when I have more time I will be able to learn. I really just wanted to share my stories! :)

Boy was I surprised when as I re-opened my web browser to show Nat my blog. My eyes went right to that Blogger widget as it has ever day for over a year..........and there was The Dish!!!!!!!!

THANK YOU SO MUCH BLOGGER!!!!!!! I can not tell you what it means to me to have my blog selected for this honor. My blog was started to share my life, in my sport, with friends and family. Now Blogger has helped to share water polo with so many more people. On a day that is so important for our sport, for female athletes, and for me.....it really touched my heart and helped make this time more special.

Thanks for reading and for all the support!!!!
We have just about 24hours left until we play our final match. We had practice to cover our game plan. We had dinner and massage/treatment time. We are ready.

Now is the time to think about something else. To relax. Because thinking about playing tomorrow will only wind me up. Which does not help in the sleep department. I started a book two days ago, The Last Lecture, and I will surely finish it tonight. It was given to me by a great friend, our athletic trainer from the Athens Games in 2004, Elicia Leal. She likes to share good reads with me and she has never let me down. This book is phenomenal. If you haven't read it-ask around, borrow it, go to the library or your local Barnes and Noble- just f ind it. I hear the actual lecture that he gave can be found on YouTube. Once I am done reading the book I would like to watch him give the speech. I think he would be a fascinating lecturer. One of the themes that he keeps stressing is realizing childhood dreams and in doing that, really enjoying life in the moment. I have found his words popping in my head in those idle moments riding on the bus or laying on my bed resting. I have enjoyed having water polo in my life. I think it definitely keeps me enjoying the things happening to me right NOW.

Before we left for China, we had a few games against Australia in San Diego. My roommate on our little road trip was Betsey Armstrong (our goalie). We got back to the room after our first game and I noticed that the maids had been there while we were gone, to tidy up. First thing I saw was this adorable red, white and blue, squishy fluffy bear wearing a little patriotic swim suit sitting on Betsey bed. My first thought was: "Who brought that in here?!" My eyes scanned my bed. Nope. Nothing there. Only one bear. What enthusiastic Olympic fairy came in here to pump up Betsey while we were gone???? At which point I voiced my confusion. Pointing at the bear, out came: "Where did you get that, Bets?" She smiled and laughed at me. (That is why I love Betsey) She explained that her friend had made it for her, for good luck, at the Build A Bear Workshop. And it's name was Betsey. Cute. Right then I knew I wanted one too.

Now instead of waiting patiently for someone to make one for me. I wrangled up my teammate Natalie and we went on over to Build A Bear to make ourselves cuddly reminders of our patriotic mission in the coming weeks. Nat built mine for me and I built hers. Then we picked out outfits....which actually took a while because we wanted them to be perfect. Finally we named them. My bear is named Chyna. (Pronounced China) Natalie's bear is named Olive. (After the olive branches we received in Athens when we won our medals- it is one of the original symbols of the Olympics)

Now you could say we are silly for such shenanigans, but I believe that things like this reinforce the pure joy you can get out of doing the most simple of things. Making a teddy bear..... playing a water polo game. What are you going to do today that will make you smile????

video video

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Team.

I am at a loss for words. It is hard to describe what is going through my head right now. (I think I have spent 10 minutes just starting at the screen.) 

We beat the Aussies. We are one step closer to our goal. In two days we could be Olympic Champions!?!?! 

Yeah, I know I have been in situations similar to this is the past....but this isn't a feeling that gets old. I can safely say that instead it just intensifies. I am ecstatic. And I am so proud of what we have done to get to this point. Believe me the path has not been all kittens, puppies and all things fuzzy and nice. But when it comes down to the final wire it takes the whole team to get it done. 

In the game against the Aussies, I got an ejection early which earned me a primo spot on the bench for a little while. I was jumping out of my seat, itching to get back in the water. But I know that my defense (I love defense) will be needed at the end of the game, so I must wait patiently for the green light from the coach to go back in. It is the very hard to sit there and wait. Physically you have no control. But mentally I found myself to be rather calm. I am so lucky to be a part of a team with such incredible depth. Each and every person out there contributes and if we run our system correctly there will be someone open, no matter who it is, that person is capable of getting the job done. Someone pointed out today that every person on our team has scored. And both goalies have made saves. Oh that makes me so proud and CONFIDENT! :)

Bring on the Netherlands and lets bring home the gold!

Oh! And today was Patty's Birthday! Talk about a great birthday present! 

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Guess who just came into the athlete lounge?

I was sitting in the athlete lounge with my teammates Natalie Golda and Jamie Hipp when Meredith Vieira and a camera crew from the Toady Show walks in. She was interviewing one of the USA Shooters, Corey Cogdell, who won a bronze medal at the start of the Games. Corey was showing her around the lounge, giving her a rundown of all the amenities we have here in the 2nd floor of our apartment tower- Internet, closed circuit TV showing all the events, telephones that allow us to call home for free(!), snacks, drinks, and couches to relax on. (The USOC provided us with this lounge and it is just for US athletes. There are general international lounges in the Village but they are really crowded and this gives us a little space of our own. It is also decked out with red, white and blue things and Getty Image photos from the games this far, to pump us up.)
Corey brought Meredith into the room we were relaxing in and she chatted with us a bit. So look out for us on the Today show! Nat decided it was a great time to announce on television that I was single, since Meredith asked us about athletes hooking up during the Games. I am pretty sure I turned red after that. Sweet. Totally embarrassed on national television. :) But hey, maybe people will remember water polo now!

Friday, August 15, 2008

I'm glad I play water polo.

Two days ago I sat next to Daniel Cormier, who is an American Freestyle Wrestler in the 96kg weight class, on the bus from BNU (our training facility as described in a previous post) to the Village. The ride was about 20 minutes and we had a very nice chat. I learned a few things about wrestling and he asked me a few things about polo. For example: How on earth do the goalies jumps out of the water to block balls. She MUST be standing on something, right? - Nope. :) It is eggbeater and breaststroke kicks that allow her to come out of the water like that. The pool is way to deep for any of us to touch. It is all swimming and treading water! 

As I sat there and talked to him I noticed he was holding a small to-go box in his hand. It had a chicken sandwich in it. Just two pieces of dry bread. One piece of grilled chicken. One piece of lettuce. So I asked him if that was dinner, or just a nighttime snack. Thinking for SURE it was just a snack for the bus ride! He looked at me and said "No, it's dinner. The last time I ate was at 9:30 this morning."

WHAT!???!!!! Ok, so now I was utterly starving for him. This man was a big, muscularly strong man. How on earth was he able to sustain himself on just that? He told me about how he eats very little, especially when preparing to make weight. Then how after he makes weight he drinks tea and eats soup to expand his stomach before he can eat regularly. He will gain about 30 pounds in the time before he competes. Good lord I could not do that! I started laughing because I told him I ate like fifteen times what he did. He said that wasn't possible. Want to make a bet!

He asked what I had just ate for dinner. Now, the food at BNU is awesome. It is like being at home....actually better than home, because someone else is cooking it for us! That night I had eaten 5 BBQ chicken skewers, half a plate of grilled vegetables, a pile of potato wedges, a salad, three cupcakes, a plate of fresh fruit, and later when I was still hungry a grilled cheese. Yes. I eat a lot. 

It was his turn to laugh. Looking at me he said how is that possible....you must only weigh 140lbs....heck no, try 168. Then he said "Well, you must burn a lot of calories, but when you are done you better watch what you eat girl! You can't keep eating like that!" Don't worry I will. :) But for now....all that food is what helps me swim fast and sustain my energy for a whole game. 

While on the topic of food....tonight the chef made scallop and shrimp kabobs, lemon broccoli and twice baked potatoes!!! Talk about gourmet!!!! YUM!!!! For dessert I put rice pudding on top of an english muffin. It tasted like a churro!!!! 

Playing for a medal.

WE WENT OUT FIRST IN OUR BRACKET!!!! Which means we go directly to the semi-final game in four days. We will play the winner of the Australia vs. China quarter-final game. We have the morning off tomorrow so I will give you all a better update then. I am just so excited right now and wanted to get this out as soon as I could! 

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Very Impressed.

Dad, Me, Mom, Uncle George, Aunt Nora, & Linda

While we are competing we have very limited time to see the family and friends that have traveled all the way to China to cheer us on. After the game finishes and we have warmed down and showered we have about 30 minutes to see them. I try and get as many hugs and kisses in as possible, then we swap stories on life as we know it in China. (I always bring my dad a mini Snicker's bar from the athlete lounge by the pool. It makes him smile.)

Our family and friends have been doing a great job in the cheering department. The Chinese have hired whole sections of people, wearing yellow shirts equipped with noise makers and practiced chants to make a commotion during the games. But our throng of proud supporters always manages to be heard above the rest. And with their own personal flair!

This is Natalie Golda's posse: family friend Mary, brother Zack, and fiancee Eric.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

A win is a win.

Game #1. Check.

For those of you who may have missed our first game....we played China last night. We won! 12-11. It was a close game throughout the match and at one point we were even down in the final period. We capitalized on two opportunities in the last minutes to put us up by one. At the final buzzer we walked away with a "W".
Everyone we talked to said that it was a great game to watch. The crowd was in to it. China, playing at home, how could it not be? Our fans were battling with the multitude of Chinese people to see who could be louder. Our media director Greg, informed us today that it was the highest scoring game in Olympic history. That's right! Setting records and dazzling fans all in one!

Not everyone was so happy about it. The first thing my mom said when I saw her after the game was "Please don't do that again. I still feel a little nauseous from being so nervous." I just smiled. Oh, Mom. It's OK. Really. A journalist asked me if I was surprised the game was so close. No, not really. I believe all the games are going to be close. If you expect that going into a match than you can relax and just play. Personally, I think it is fun to play in close games. All that adrenaline pumping. The opposing team giving you their best and you battling back with yours. In the end, even if it is only by one, a win is still a win. :)

Tomorrow we play Italy. It will be another close game. Their team has a lot of experienced players, returning 8 of their 2004 gold medalist. Lots of good water polo to watch! Cheer loud! Go USA!

Sunday, August 10, 2008

RAIN.

It rained last night. Big, fat, warm drops. It had been threatening a torrential downpour all day. Teasing us with light showers and heavy misty air. But after practice when we came out of the pool area to walk to the locker rooms it was dumping. People were gathering around the windows and an open door to watch the water flow down the stairwells and form pockmarked puddles in the courtyard between buildings. 
I stopped in my path to the changing rooms. I was already wet from being in the pool and in my bathing suit. Never again would I be able to dance around in the rain in china. My bag went to the floor and I was out the door. It wasn't cold. It wasn't hot either. (finally!) The drops were coming down in thick sheets. Looking directly up at the gray sky, I had to half close my eyes, so my eyelashes were woven together as protection against the invading drops. Abandoning that, I just focused on splashing around in the puddles until my teammates came out to play with me. 
Today the rain has past and with it has gone the heat. I actually wore something with long sleeves today! I'm going to go lay down.....GAME TIME in a few hours! China here we come!

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Bring on 08.11.08

Oh there are so many photos I am itching to show you! Alas, those will have to wait. :)

Highlights of the Opening Ceremonies:
  • Wearing wool pants and a wool blazer with a long sleeve blouse and a scarf wrapped around my neck in 90 degree/high humidity/no breeze weather. BUT, we looked good! (Not a bit of my clothes were dry after six hours.)
  • The lighting of the torch was AWESOME. I hope you have all watched it on TV by now....but this man ran/flew the torch around the rim of the stadium in order to light the cauldron. I filmed him doing it and it took over 8 minutes! That takes incredible skill and core strength to move like that, while being dangled in the air AND not have your face singed off by the flame in front of you! (I got chills-despite the sweating- and almost cried)
  • We met and took pictures with the President of the US! He seemed to know a little bit about water polo! Even if his staff had just told him about us, I don't care.....he still made us feel special!
  • I took a picture with Kobe Bryant. Later on the field, after we marched in, the whole team at one point surrounded him to keep the hundreds of eager fans at bay and give him a moment of reprieve from picture taking. I give him a lot of credit for being so gracious to every athlete that came up to him and asked for a photo. He was incredibly nice to everyone and even chatted it up with Brenda in Italian. It was awesome for us all to just be athletes together. 
  • Meeting Jason Kidd (a fellow Golden Bear) and talking to Coach K.
  • We used an excellent exit strategy and made it onto the 3rd of about 100 or more buses leaving the stadium back to the village. (Basically we were like little duckings following our 6'8" bald assistant coach, as he weaved through the masses pouring out of the stadium, like he was playing Frogger.)We got home quickly and made our coach very happy.
  • I got a picture of the countdown clock at exactly 20:08:08. I wish they didn't use military time. It would have looked cool. But it is still a moment frozen in time. 
  • We got mini-snickers in our snack bag as we entered the holding arena before the parade. It is the little pleasures. :)
I took a lot of video since this time I wanted another form of recording my memories. i think the sounds and moving images will be powerful to watch as the years go on. I have no idea why I never brought a video camera before. Maybe it is because they were so bulky. My Flip Cam is smaller than my normal camera!  So after this is all over maybe I can post some video too!

Now that the Games are open it is time to focus on the competition at hand. Practice bright and early in the morning and again in the afternoon. Last opportunity to go over the plan for China on the 11th! Can't wait till the games start!

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Full of Pride.

The countdown on the side of my blog says there is just over ONE day left until the Olympics start. Well, that is according to California time. Here we have just about EIGHT HOURS left. Kind of fitting that I am finally about to sit down and blog with that mystical number of hours left. :) So tonight we will all be decked out in our Opening Ceremonies Outfits (provided by Ralph Lauren) ready to march out into the stadium when the say "The United States of America" over the loud speaker. While the festivities start at 08:08 pm, we will not come out for over an hour after that. I believe they told us we will be the 139th country to enter!

I have become increasingly aware of the fact that whenever I think, speak, or write about the opening ceremonies and think about what we will be representing during it....I get the chills. Full on goosebumps all over my body. No matter where I am. Walking around in  this heat i marvel at my body's ability to create those little bumps when I am already burning up and sweating up a storm. Talk about a the power of the mind! 

I know that I am a patriotic person. Right before I left I painted my toenails with the American Flag. (So did my teammates Natalie Golda and Brenda Villa!) I brought an American Flag with me to the Games and have it hanging in my room. I have stars tattooed on my wrist which is the part of the flag I stare at when our anthem is playing before a game.

But today I got a new thrill when I walked up to the tower of apartments we call home for these two weeks. Never before in my Olympic or Pan American (the two major tournaments in a quad) experiences was our delegation allowed to have flags hanging on the outside of the buildings. It was a security precaution. They didn't want people to immediately know where we were. But every other country has flags hanging from their balconies, windows and stairways. Brazil has a flag so big it hangs down three stories of their building. We were the only buildings NOT to have decorations. But today walking back from the bus after training I looked up to see OUR FLAG proudly waving off every balcony. I dropped my bag and jumped over to hug our trainer, who almost fell over because her equipment bag was so heavy. It was such a beautiful thing to see! (And yes, I got goosebumps again.)

Monday, August 4, 2008

From Daxing to The Olympic Village.

We woke up yesterday morning for our last training and found that it was the hottest day since we arrived AND the most humid. I took my camera to the pool to get a shot of the pool we have been training at. As you can see, there is so much water in the air the flash reflected off of it making the picture all hazy. Pretty impressive you can get a visual of the thickness in the air without actually being here!

So after our last three hour practice with The Netherlands (I'm not sure if I explained that before....the whole reason we came to Daxing when we first got to China was to go to a place where we could train while we got acclimated to the time difference. The Netherlands in not in our bracket of play during the preliminary rounds, so we invited them to train against us. We had two "official" scrimmages- official as they could get while running off someones wristwatch since the game clocks were missing! , two practices where we played "man-up and man-down situations" against each other, and a few solo practices for fine tuning.) we got all packed up and ventured out into the sauna to load the bus. I think it took three seconds for my favorite shirt we got to be completely soaked through. My wrists were sweating before I even reached down to grab my bag and haul it into the baggage compartment! Wrists sweat? I mean I am an athlete and work out all the time. This place is hot!

But that of course didn't put any sort of damper on our enthusiasm to get to the Village! We had coordinated matching outfits for the trip so that the team arrived looking great and tough. Black has a way of doing that. And if you look close the lettering is in gold. That has to be some sort of subliminal message to the world, right? Well, no need for subliminal.

And now we are here! This Village is incredible. The buildings and surrounding gardens (yes, beautiful Chinese gardens filled with flowers, ponds, and statues!) are gorgeous. The food is great. And there are so many amenities for the athletes. Now I would love to show you pictures of all these things but when we got here we were better informed of all the restrictions placed on blogs during the Games. And there are many! The biggest let down for me is that there can be no pictures of anyone but me from now on. Which is a huge cramp in my style since where ever I go my teammates are sure to follow and I love taking pictures with them. AHAH! I am still trying to make sure I have all the guidelines straight before I post something that gets me in trouble! So after looking through the almost 100 photos I took just yesterday after arriving her shortly after 3pm....there is only 1 photo of just me. Here I am with the HUGE mascot of the water sports located right next to the dining hall!
Oh and one more thing. I act like a kid in a candy store, all star struck by the other athletes. My teammate, Patty Cardenas, was sitting next to me at lunch yesterday. We had almost finished when she made a squeak I have never heard come from her before, a smile spread across her face and she pointed behind our table. I looked up to see the back of a Spanish athlete as he walked away. What Patty? That is the tennis player Nadal! OH gosh Patty. SWEET! Wimbledon Champion and all around awesome tennis player! She was sooo excited to see him. She is a huge fan. I was like "Lets go get a picture!". So we chased him down....and despite the fact that he was on his phone, and probbaly bothered by the many fans that were coming up to him, he took a picture with us. The smile didn't leave Patty's face all night. That is what the Olympics are all about!

Sunday, August 3, 2008

You've got mail.

So I thought I would try something out.....

Who wants a postcard from the village?

Now, I know I could be getting myself into something crazy because I am really not sure how many people are actually reading this. Which is why I am putting a time limit on this. According to my world clock it is 6:15am in California on Sunday, August 3. Here in China it is 9:15pm. We practice tomorrow morning one more time before we HEAD TO THE VILLAGE!!! (Can you sense my excitement?) Once we get to the village I will try and check my blog. If you want to receive a postcard from me, from the village, just leave your address in a comment at the bottom of this post. We have the day after that off, giving us time to explore the Village. At which point I will get postcards. But if your comment comes too late....than the window for mail will have closed, because I will need to simply concentrate on competing after that.

Recap.
Comment before the wee hours on Monday, August 4th = snail mail from the Olympic Village.


*****NOTE*****
Thank you all for reading my blog! The time has now run out. All the comments posted thus far should look out for a post card in the mail soon!
Again, thanks for the support and may you enjoy all the future stories!

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Feeding the masses.

Meet William. He is the chef that has been cooking for us while we are in Daxing. He is employed by the USOC (United States Olympic Committee) for the duration of the Games, to cook for the USA Athlete delegation. We are lucky enough to have him with us for this week, while we are training here.

When we move to the Village tomorrow, he will go back to BNU, a university that the USOC has commandeered in Beijing. There, the USOC has manufactured an Olympic Training Center complete with an "American" style cafeteria (that is where William comes into play), training facilities for all sports, a weight room powered by 24 Hour Fitness, and business center for athletes and coaches to utilize for preparation purposes. It is supposed to mirror facilities you would find in Colorado Springs, thus giving us a place to feel "at home" while we are competing here. 

When William isn't cooking for us he is working at the Miami Marriott, in Biscayne Bay.

Fun Facts I have learned about William:
  1.  Largest group he has cooked for- 1,500 people! 
  2. He fed a Pro Football Team of 75, who was in Miami to play the Dolphins. They ate enough food to normally feed 400 people. 
  3. He can cook an entire meal using just those small cans of chemical fire that you put under trays to warm them at a buffet. (This technique has been utilized during the hurricanes in Florida)
  4. While in China, cooking for the US athletes he is not allowed to use butter. The only thing he has in the kitchen that is even a little bit fattening is extra virgin olive oil. Ha!
 The 13 of us are definitely not creating a big enough challenge for him!!!! This must seem like vacation.