Dan Klatt's Road To London
UC Irvine head women’s water polo coach Dan Klatt will be traveling to London as an assistant coach with the USA women’s water polo team. Klatt, a UCI All-American who competed for the U.S. men’s water polo team at the 2004 Olympics in Athens, will blog his experiences from London.
Hi Everyone -
I hope you have all had a good week. I have been home for a few days and am a little behind in getting the last email out to everyone. I guess I am
trying to keep the Olympic Dream going for a little while longer. I have never been part of a gold medal winning team before, but I have seen how
fast the Olympics can away after the Games have come to a close. It isn't anyone's fault, that's just the way it is. Our society moves quickly these
days, and America will be looking for something new to inspire them. The upcoming Presidential election, football season, whatever your pleasure.
the world keeps turning. It was a crazy thing to experience the first time around for me. You focus your attention on this single event for so long,
and then it comes to an end. It is hard to assimilate back into regular life. The Olympics and the village are such a utopia of sport that checking back into reality can be difficult. Much more difficult as an athlete I think. My life doesn't change much. I am excited to back in Irvine with a new team ready to start our own process together for the next year.
Day 21 started a little bit earlier than the last few. We had all decided that we wanted to see the last men's game the night before. They played
the first game of the day at 10 AM versus Australia for 7th place. We all rolled out of bed around 9 AM and were on our way to the pool by 9:40. Everyone grabbed something from the food hut outside our building to eat on the way. I stuck with food as my second night in a row of McDonald's was still sitting around in my stomach. We walked through the Olympic Park to the pool one last time. I did my best to enjoy the atmosphere as much as possible. As every day there were some great outfits. My favorite was an American Flag body suit. I am sure there is another name for them, but we've all probably seen one before at a sporting event. It's the full body spandex that covers the body from head to toe and looks like spider man's suit. The guy was putting on a little show of his own for his final day in the park with a little dancing and yelling. We got to the pool right at the start of the game, but missed Australia's first goal by the time we had emerged from the hallway behind the stadium seats. I was glad to be there in support of our team, but it wasn't a very good game. The U.S. team struggled to find a rhythm and eventually fell to the Australians 10-9. They seemed far more motivated to win the game than we did. I feel for the guys who will finish their careers after this Olympic Games. They have had great careers, but had a tough time finding their game in London. Regardless of their result I am proud of them and will remain one of their biggest fans.
After the game Adam, Chris, and I hustled out the front gate of the Olympic Park to catch a train to the USA House at the Stratford International Station. Adam hadn't been yet and wanted to check out the gift shop. As had become the new norm we caught the Javelin train to King's Cross and the Piccadilly Line to South Kensington station. We didn't have much time there, but I tried my best to enjoy the scenery on the way by the museums and Royal Albert Hall. When we got inside everything in the USA Store was 50 % off. The stuff still wasn't cheap, but it prompted me to buy a few things I liked. There was a huge line. You tell people they're saving 50% and they think they're getting a bargain no matter what the price. I got sucked in just like everyone else. It
reminded me a time my first year coaching in college when Christine Hunt came to practice with a new pair of sunglasses. I don't remember the brand, but I remember telling her they were nice and she said, "Yes they are, and I got them for $200. They were marked down from $500." I laughed at her for a while after that. What a hypocrite! I helped myself to the gourmet food and dessert bar to make myself feel better. We didn't stay long. Just long enough to stuff ourselves and then raid the M & M jar sitting on the bar on our way out. When we got back to the station Adam and Chris headed for the village and I took a different line to the P&G House. You might remember that I went to Natalie and Kelsey's flat the day before to pick up a suitcase. Well, I forgot that at the P&G House the night before. I had to go back and get it because we were checking in for our flights in just a few hours. Everything worked out perfectly. I
got there quickly and I ran into the Dries family in the station who showed me a faster way to get to the house. They had my suitcase in a back room. Once again I was amazed by the kindness of the people working there. Always happy to help. I didn't waste any time and headed straight back to the station to head to the village. I got in to the village 20 minutes before the scheduled check out time for my flight. They had set up a remote check in center in the basement of our building. I stuffed the remaining items in my room into the empty bag including my comforter and took everything downstairs. I didn't worry too much about organization. I always wash everything when I return from traveling. I just made sure I had my clothes for the night and the next day. I had three bags filled with stuff. When I got downstairs there was a line so I left my bags and went back upstairs to catch the first quarter of the gold medal men's water polo match. After checking the score of the men's basketball final I went back downstairs. The timing was perfect and my flight number was
called just a few minutes after my arrival. I got in the fast line, which never happens to me, and I passed up people who had been far ahead of me
in line when I first came down. That never happens to me. I am usually in the slow line or slow lane of traffic, but I took it this time. Since they allowed us 6 checked bags each I didn't feel bad about my three. Our boarding passes and baggage claim tickets were already printed out. They weighed our bags and loaded them on a truck. It was that easy. I was able to catch the second half of the men's gold medal match and watch my old coach Ratko Rudic take a swim after the game with his Croatian team. I was very happy for him. His team played great. He has now won four gold medals as a coach for three different countries, and also one gold medal as a player. That pretty much solidifies him as the greatest of all time. The rest of the afternoon was spent hanging around the room waiting for the closing ceremony to start. This time everyone was allowed to walk. We had to meet in the front of our building at 8:45 p.m. to walk from the village to the stadium. We all got dressed in our closing ceremony gear and headed down early so we could get plenty of pictures. The girls all proudly showcased their medals for the world to see. Truth be told they won't wear their medal too many times after this. If fact other people will probably spend more time with it draped around their neck. At 8:45 they herded us out the gates of the village nearest the bus station. The
closing ceremony is far less formal than the Opening Ceremony. They do their best to keep the countries together, but celebration time has began.
You don't march into the stadium behind your countries flag, which is much quicker, because they shepherd us in all together. As we walked in surrounded by Russia, Spain, and Netherlands the volunteers surrounded us on either side smiling and giving every participant a standing ovation. Incredible! These people who had donated their time to Olympic Games to enhance our experience and make sure everything ran smoothly, were clapping for us. They may have never seen an event the entire time they were there, but they were clapping for us. Thankfully we got our chance to return the favor later. We walked into the stadium and they guided us into specific areas. Originally me and a few others were cut off from the larger American contingent, but we weaseled our way back to be together with the team. If you saw the Closing Ceremony they set us up in various areas of the field to make the pattern appear as the flag of Great Britain from above. One of the first events of the evening was my favorite. They brought several volunteers up to receive awards on behalf of all volunteers at the Olympic Games. The applause was one of the longest and loudest I have ever heard. And it was well deserved. I was proud that all
the men and omen competing in the Olympic Games were acknowledging that this event they had worked so hard for would never take place without
these selfless human beings. As I said before, the world could learn a lot from the Olympic Games. Every Olympic games has a theme. For London 2012
the theme was Inspire A Generation. I thought that was extremely clever from the first time I saw it. The goal was to inspire the next generation
of Olympic athletes by creating dreams through amazing performance. It took on a very different meaning for me at that moment. I realized that the athletes weren't just inspiring a generation to be great athletes, but also to be great people. That was a wonderful moment. I am proud to have been part of a winning team, but I am even more proud of that.
After that moment the party began. The theme of the Closing Ceremony was celebrating British rock and pop music from various decades. There were performances by George Michael, The Spice Girls (which was clearly the favorite of the girls), Queen, The Who, Fat Boy Slim, Duran Duran, and several others. There were tributes to John Lennon, The Beatles, and Willy Wonka. The ceremony was concluded with a speeches from the President of the London Organizing Committee and the President of the IOC. Then the Olympic Anthem was played as the Olympic flag was lowered in the stadium. This was followed by the playing of the Brazilian national anthem and a presentation celebrating Brazilian culture. For those who aren't aware this is the passing of the torch from London to Rio where the Games will be held in 2016. The final event was the extinguishing of the Olympic Flame. The torch came down the same way it had gone back up and a phoenix appeared over the flame out of the ashes. Not long after The Who began playing and we were ushered out of the stadium. Once again we were surrounded by volunteers applauding. Before heading to bed Adam, Chris, and myself decided to sit in the chairs at the front of our building which faced the central park to enjoy all the athletes walking by one last time. The village is an amazing place and this is a fun time. Although it is late there is good energy. Everyone is done with their competition and whether they achieved their dream or not there is a sense of relaxation. After about an hour of awing at the best in the world we headed to bed for a few hours of sleep. It was going to be an early morning and a long day.
The next day came early enough for me, but most of the team and staff had departed a few hours before us. They were taking a 10:30 a.m. flight to LAX
direct from London. Five of us had decided to take a flight to Orange County via Chicago that didn't leave until 12:20 p.m. We still had to be at the bus station by 7:15 a.m., but it provided a few extra hours of sleep. Before leaving the village I decided to dig myself a deeper hole with one last indulgence in the free McDonald's. The five of us hopped on a bus with about five other people and headed for the airport. I am pretty sure they took us on a special route to get one last look at London on the way out. We drove by Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, and many other popular attractions. It was a nice drive that took about an hour and 15 minutes. When arrived they took us to a remote security facility set up specifically for the Olympic Games. There was a counter for every airline with small lines and a security check point with six different scanners. They will all open and none had a line. Unlike most of the experiences we have at the airport where there are 5 check points, but only one is open with a huge line. When we got through security the loaded us on buses and dropped us off directly at the terminal. We entered the airport right by the gate. That was a nice parting gift from the organizing committee.
While we were in the security area a few reporters who were clearly waiting for some English speaking participants asked us our thoughts on the Olympic Games and the remote check in set up by the organizing committee. The gold medals garner a lot of attention and I eventually had to pull Tumua and Courtney away from the swarm so we could get to the terminal. Once we were inside we headed for the Star Alliance Lounge for some rest and some food. We all have gold cards as a result of the amount of miles we have flown this year. It is very convenient when your are on an international flight. When the time came we walked to our gate and onto the flight. It didn't take too long until the flight attendants were privy to the fact that they had gold medalists on their flight. About 2 hours in they invited us up to the first class cabin to hang out with them and the passengers. The first class passengers had decided to give up their ice cream sundaes in exchange for us coming up to their cabin to hang out for a while. I was more interested in visiting with the passengers. They were amazing, and so excited to talk about the Olympics. One family had been to the Olympics and attended 19 different events. They planned the trip years in advance. I am embarrassed because I specifically wrote their names down so that I could include them in my message, but I somehow lost the paper. I do remember that the son and daughter were Taylor and Casey and they were from Chicago, but unfortunately that is the extent of it. I also met
a lovely woman from London who was headed to Chicago on business. She was proud that we left London with such a wonderful impression. The flight
seemed to go quickly and we were in Chicago in no time. When we arrived to Chicago they met us and the gate and walked us to a special customs line
they had set up for Olympic participants. We avoided a huge line that was the combination of many international flights arriving at the same time. After we received our luggage we needed to change to a domestic terminal. Once again we received incredible treatment as a representative walked us to the terminal and put us through a special security line. Once we got into the terminal we found the finest restaurant available: Chili's! So I treated the ladies to burgers while we waited for our last leg. Our last flight home was easy. Courtney was the star of the show in economy class. She was the lone gold medalist left. Tumua got off in Chicago to spend time with her sister and family. I got lucky again! Because of my status with United resulting from the mount of miles we have flown I got moved up to first class. They had overbooked the flight and needed room in economy. I tried to give my seat to Courtney, but she was enjoying time with her new friends in economy. I spent the time there watching a movie and writing my previous email. We were served another
dinner, which I couldn't pass up because...how often will I be in first class? Yes, that is called gluttony. This flight went quick as well and we were in Orange county before we knew it. It was a long day, but when you are coming home from a successful trip time isn't important. When we got to baggage claim there was a greeting party waiting for Courtney which included many family members, some reporters, and Wild Wing (The official mascot of the Anaheim Ducks. Courtney's favorite sports team). Wild Wing presented her with her own personalized jersey. We grabbed the luggage while Courtney embraced her fans. I made her put on her medal on the way down the escalator, but she gave me a hard time for not alerting her it was going to be a big greeting party. My lovely fiancé came to pick me up, and that was the end of it. We were back in California. What a journey! The experience of a lifetime.
That pretty much wraps up the Olympic journey. I want to thank
all of you who have been a part of my life, supporting me
throughout my career, who
made this experience possible with your love and guidance. I wanted to share this with you because I believe it is as much your experience as it
is mine. This Olympic journey is just another example of how fortunate I have been in my life to be surrounded by exceptional human beings. THANK
YOU! I wish you all a great remainder of your summer and I hope I will get the chance to see you all soon.
Hi Everyone –
I hope that you all had a great weekend. I wanted to make sure I kept you updated on the post competition events of the team and myself. As I told you in my last message the celebration after the gold medal game lasted into the morning. It was extremely fun, but when I woke up on day 19 I was reminded that too much champagne will make it feel like someone is playing the drums inside your head the next day. Regardless of the way I felt I got up around 10 a.m. after about 2 ½ hours of sleep. The girls had a Today Show appearance with several other medalists at 11 a.m. Luckily the remote set they had set up for The Today Show was just outside the village gates so it didn’t require too much effort. They had the women’s soccer team, women’s water polo team, and a few other athletes load onto a bus about 100 yards away from the set and drive up. Then they interviewed the teams and individual athletes for a few minutes each. It wasn’t that extravagant, but I wanted to be there to support the girls. I am sure the big highlight for the girls was that they all got to meet Ryan Seacrest. Most of them were a lot taller.
After that Adam, Chris, and myself had a much-needed lunch at the BBQ spot. Chris saved my life with some Advil I desperately needed and we downed as much water as we could. When lunch was finished I sent a message to Natalie and Kelsey and we decided to meet at the USA House near their place before a team celebration we had scheduled arranged by Dwight and Julie. Chris and I took the Javelin Train to King’s Cross Station and then the Piccadilly Line to South Kensington. It is hard not to be impressed by that area of London. There are several beautiful museums and a beautiful walkway between them. The natural history museum has a beautiful courtyard in front where many people were sitting to enjoy the beautiful weather. There was an art exhibit displayed in the courtyard. We walked by Royal Albert Hall and into the entrance of the USA House. Natalie and Kelsey were inside when we got there. We didn’t do much while we were there. We ate again and tapped into the houses water supply to continue hydrating. The food there is good and a nice change from the village. The food isn’t bad at the village, but we are eating the same thing most days. The men’s water polo game versus Spain was displayed on the 120 inch TV. I knew this was going to be a tough game for the guys. They had talked so much about winning a gold medal and now they were out of the medal round and playing classification games to decide 5th through 8th place. It was a close game, but Spain had the lead for most of the game. At the end Spain got the win 8-7 meaning the men’s team would play on the last day of the Games for 7th place.
We hung around and chatted for a little while longer and then started our walk toward the Connaught Hotel. We took the train to Hyde Park Corner and walked the rest of the way. The hotel is in a very nice area near Hyde Park. Something like the Rodeo Drive of London. We discovered that because Natalie knew the name of all the shops and I didn’t know any. The Connaught Hotel was a beautiful place. When we arrived they escorted us to a private room downstairs where all the families and supporters of the team had gathered. The room had an incredible spread of food and drink. There was something different in every corner. One corner had four types of gourmet risotto, another had a full sushi bar, the third had a large selection of high-grade Italian meats, and the final corner had a bar. In the middle of the room there was a giant USA Water Polo cake much like a wedding cake with four different levels, and various desserts surrounded it. This was the perfect setting for the families to celebrate the success of our team in a comfortable environment. The night before was exciting because we had just won, but it wasn’t the best environment for all of the families to interact. Dwight and Julie have been so gracious to our water polo family. They have made things possible, through their love and support, that wouldn’t otherwise be possible. They have many great qualities, but what I appreciate most is how personable they are. I could sit and talk to them for hours. The make you feel comfortable. They make you feel like family. Our team is so lucky they came into our world. Natalie, Kelsey, and I spent about 5-6 hours working the room and talking with everyone. We ate, drank, and enjoyed being with our USA family.
Around 10:30 p.m. everyone decided to relocate to the Porterhouse Brewing Company where the New York Athletic Club was hosting a party. It took a little while to convince Natalie and Kelsey to come along, but I think they were glad they did. We continued to enjoy each other’s company, and visit with some of the other athletes that were there to celebrate their success at the Games. Natalie and Kelsey decided to head home and Chris, Adam, and I decided we would go dancing with Charlie and Teresa Steffens. By the time we got to a club that allowed dancing we only had about an hour of good dance time left so we hit the floor immediately. It was fun and we were all a sweaty mess when we left. I had my backpack on because I had been carrying mine and Chris’s things from earlier in the day so my dance moves were restricted. When the club shut down we took a 40-pound cab ride back to the Stratford station, but before we did we sang American Pie in the street with a toothless British man. I am not sure why, but I remember that it happened. Unfortunately Stratford station was the closest the cab could get us to the village. We had to walk about 15 minutes before getting to the cafeteria where we finished the day with another serving of McDonald’s. This time we went for McNuggets and fries since it was still dark outside. The sun was coming back as we walked back. I don’t think it took 5 seconds for me to fall asleep once my head hit the pillow. It was another good day of celebrating our team’s accomplishments. The first gold medal in USA Water Polo history!
On Day 20 I was able to stay in bed until 11 a.m. It wasn’t a ton of sleep, but it was better than had been doing. Once I was out of bed I hung around our flat for a little while to communicate with Kelsey and Natalie about where to meet up to spend the day together. We decided on Buckingham Palace. I needed to get some food so I decided to head over to the cafeteria. On my way out the door I saw Merrill Moses, the goalkeeper for the men’s team and one of my oldest friends. Merrill and I were teammates on the Men’s Junior National Team in 1997 in Havana, Cuba. That was my first exposure to National Team competition, where I fell in love with representing the United States as an athlete. We were so young, but the friendships we made during those summers have lasted a lifetime. Merrill and I decided to have lunch together. I was excited since it was a long time since we had talked. We talked about the last few men’s games and his frustrations with the team’s performance. There was no finger pointing by Merrill, he was just really bummed out that they hadn’t been able to figure it out in their past few games. Merrill is the type of guy that would go to war for his friends in a heartbeat. He is one of my craziest friends, but I trust him with my life. We talked a lot about the future for him and his family. He has a baby girl due with his wife Laura in October. He is extremely excited but torn about what he wants to do. One thing I know about Merrill is that he will figure it out and put his family in a great position. I enjoyed that conversation. I was able to talk about the things I have been doing and what the future holds for me now that I will be starting a family. It is a great time in my life and I enjoyed sharing it with him. He will have a young child, but I truly hope he will be at my wedding. We have shared a lot of life together thanks to water polo and this was just another moment water polo provided for two great friends to be together. It would be wrong if I didn’t mention that Merrill was one of our women’s teams’ greatest supporters throughout the Olympic Games. Every day he wished us luck and he was there and cheering loudly at the final game with several other guys from the team.
I made a quick stop by my room after lunch to grab my things. Adam was still asleep and everyone else was gone so I headed out immediately. Shannon, our athletic trainer, and her friend Katie were heading the same direction so we walked to the Stratford International station together and took the Javelin train to King’s Cross and then the Victoria Line to St. James. Thankfully Shannon and Katie were with me because I would have taken the wrong train. I wanted to get on the Jubilee Line. I guess I’m still not an expert. It probably takes longer than three weeks to memorize the London mass transit system. As we were leaving King’s Cross I thought to myself that I was bummed I hadn’t explored around the area a little more. Unfortunately I was always in a hurry to get somewhere else. The station was incredible and it looked like a nice area of town. Most things in London have a lot of history. All the buildings are beautifully designed and many are made with red brick. It reminds me of being near Harvard University in Boston. Once we got off the train the girls walked me through the park to where Natalie and Kelsey were camped out on the grass. We were able to locate them using Viber. Another very cool invention that allows people to text and call for free using the internet. On our way to meet them we walked by right by Buckingham Palace. It is a massive building with a black gate surrounding the grounds. Two of the Royal Guards were standing out in front marching back and forth over and over again. I got board watching them so their job must take extreme mindfulness in order to keep concentrated. There was a large section roped off in the front where the race walkers and marathon athletes course went directly in front of Buckingham Palace. I thought that was a great idea. From what I understand the course ran by several of London’s beautiful sites. I know those men and women are fully focused on their race, but it must be nice to see something else besides road to take your mind off the pain. I think of it like swimming. If the scenery was more desirable than a black line and some tiles it might be easier to get after it on a daily basis. Truthfully I wasn’t that impressed by the outside of the Palace. I have seen castles and palaces all over Europe. I’m sure the inside is amazing, but my favorite castle I have ever seen was in Slovakia. It was beautiful on the inside, and it also had an intricate cave system underneath. It was something out of Batman. The girls and I sat on the grass for a while and people watched the masses touring the area surrounding Buckingham Palace. Once again we were blessed with beautiful weather and there were people everywhere. After discussing our plans we decided to walk up the street to see Westminster Abbey before heading to the P&G House to cheer my fellow Anteater coaches on in the women’s volleyball gold medal match. Westminster Abbey is in a beautiful area of London near the river. It sits very near Big Ben and Parliament. We were pressed for time so we didn’t get to examine those too closely. We decided on Westminster Abbey because both Natalie and Kelsey followed the royal wedding along with every other woman on the planet and had dreamed of walking down that isle to get hitched. It isn’t cheap so you have to enjoy the visit. I think it was 16 pounds per person. They have preserved the building extremely well. With your entrance you get some kind of audio device that gives you an audio tour of over 30 different spots in the Abbey. Actor Jeremy Irons narrates the audio and you use a map to distinguish where you are and then push a button on the device that looks like a 1990’s Motorola flip phone. You have to hold the device up to your ear in order to hear it. That’s probably better than having it on blast. You’d probably wake the dead. And let me tell you, there are a lot of dead in there. I expected some tombs in there, but there are hundreds. There are also a lot of monuments to important figures in English history and multiple chapels built throughout the years. It was very interesting to hear all of the stories about the Kings, Queens, and other nobles buried throughout. My favorite part of the Abbey was Poets Corner, where they paid homage to influential poets, play writes, and authors. William Shakespeare was among the recognized Englishmen. At the end we finally got to the area Natalie and Kelsey recognized as the place they had witnessed the Royal wedding. Mission Accomplished! We had to rush through the final part, but I was thoroughly impressed and content with my visit. You could spend a week there and not see everything there is to see in that amazing structure. We made a quick stop by the flat near South Kensington where Natalie and Kelsey stayed with Sara Azevedo during their time in London. It was perfect for the ladies and in a safe neighborhood. I’ll let Kelsey explain the flat in her own blog. We stopped for a cookie and some milk at a delicious cookie shop they had discovered a few days before. We all have a bad sweet tooth in that group. The reason we stopped by was so that I could pick up a suitcase I asked Natalie to bring so I could fit the stuff I kept accumulating at the Olympic Games. We just keep getting more and more stuff every day. It is incredible. From there it was off to P&G for some dinner and a volleyball match. We met Adam, Chris, and many of the girls and their families who were there for the same reason. At about 8:30 p.m. we decided to head back to the village because Chris Lee had tickets to the women’s basketball final and the girls had to be up early to catch the tube to the airport. I kissed my fiancé and wished the girls safe travels back to California. I was so happy they could be there with me. They are two of my biggest fans on this planet. They have been great supporters of this team and me. I am a lucky man to have so many wonderful women in my life.
The guys hustled back to the village so we could catch the second half of women’s basketball. When we arrived to the arena everyone was leaving and we were a bit confused. There was no way a basketball game could have been played that quickly. The handball finals had been moved to that final, which Norway won, and the basketball finals had been moved to a larger arena in a different part of town. We were bummed, but not when we got back to the village and saw the score. I would love to watch those women compete, but I am not sure France competed. I think they were content with the silver medal. We slowed our pace as we walked back. When we first got to the room there was talk of going out to meet the girls, but after about 20 minutes and a half bag of pistachios that wasn’t looking so hot. We have a pistachio sponsor so we always have an abundance of them. Supposedly they are the healthiest nuts in the world. Probably not in the quantities we have been consuming. They’re addicting, what can I say. After a little TV Chris Lee was passed out, and Adam was down for the count, so I decided to head to bed. I needed the rest. That was a full day and I felt fulfilled. I had to prepare for the last day in London.
Have a great week and I’ll get you the report on the last few days soon.
Hi Everyone -
It is crazy to think that we are getting close to the end of our time here in London, and more importantly the end of a four year commitment to a
common goal. I thought about this for a while this morning (Day 16) when I woke up. It is rare the people stay focused and committed to a purpose as
long as these women have. That is what makes me so proud of them, and so proud to be some small part of it. Sport is not the only place this
happens. There are artists, scientists, explorers, researchers, inventors, etc. that display the unwavering discipline it takes to arrive at their
goal. Regardless of the passion there are distinct commonalities between them. Intelligence, work ethic, passion, and talent. There is no question
that these women are talented, but the fact that they have worked intelligently is what has brought them to this point. The pinnacle of their sport.
On our final preparation day of the Olympic Games everything was the same. That is the way you want it to be. We had our first bus at 11:30 a.m. to
train at Eton Manor. Before leaving I went to breakfast at the dining hall with Chris Lee. Once we got there we found a few of the girls from the
team to sit with. Before to long almost the entire team was occupying our table. The dining hall is set up just like a cafeteria in primary school.
The food service areas are all around the outside of the building and the center is covered with tables and chairs. In the very middle they have
areas to pick up trays and utensils as well as rubbish stations to put your trash when you are finished. The orange box is for compost, green is
for recyclables, blue is for utensils, black is for liquids, and at the end there is a pile for the trays. They have a good system going. It was
great to sit with the girls and chat for a while. Contrary to what you'd think we don't get to spend that much time doing that. There is a lot of
freedom to eat and rest when you want outside of mandatory team activities, so everyone is on their own schedule dependent on their needs.
It is far more important for the girls to spend time together. We hang out a lot as a staff, which is great, but I love those moment you get to spend
with your athletes so I have to take advantage of them. I have always loved that part of coaching. The athletes are what make my job as a coach
so great. I waited until the last of the girls was gone before I headed out of the cafeteria.
After breakfast was over we grabbed our stuff and headed for training. The girls took the 11:30 a.m. bus while most the staff walked. Along the way we
saw many happy fans heading to various events. There was also a good number parked on the grass patches having their lunch. We walked by a few
police officers on horseback that were talking to some families and allowing the children to go in and give them a pat. There are quite a few
of these officers on horseback. I think it is just for aesthetics because there are so many people in the park I think they would trounce hundreds
if they had to get anywhere quickly. The families enjoying seeing them and especially the children. The bad part of having horses around is that they
go to the bathroom whenever they feel like and you have to watch where you are walking. There are two jobs I have seen that I definitely wouldn't
want at the Olympic Games. The first is the worker who has to follow the horses path and shovel up their pooh. The second is in the village. There
is a small pond at one end of the village. Some green mossy substance accumulates at the top of that pond every few days and a man has to climb
in there and clean it out with a net and his hands. You can have those jobs if you want. I'll scoop the french fries at McDonald's. Once we got
over to Eton Manor we had a one hour training with a brief tactical session and a walk through once we were out of the pool and dried off. It
was good to get the girls thinking in the morning. The Australia game was exciting and can leave a hangover so it is important to get moving on to
the next thing.
We walked back to the village again and stopped by the BBQ place on the way in. It is right by the entrance to the village from the Olympic Park.
This is the easiest way to go. Adam, Chris, and I had lunch and then headed back to the room to catch the men's quarterfinal matches on TV. The
first match was Montenegro versus Spain. This match was controlled by Montenegro who ended up winning 11-9 in the end. At some point during the
match Dwight and Julie, our teams greatest fans and supporter, and their children Jackson and Devin stopped by the village for a tour. People are
allowed into the village with guest passes if requested by a resident. They require a passport number and background check for everyone. They got
to see how we live here. I think they really enjoyed seeing how it all works.
I went in my room for a bit to do some work and then came out to watch the end of the Australia-Serbia match. Serbia is the top ranked team in the
world and Australia was beating them 8-6 after the third quarter. Serbia woke up and scored the games final five goals to win 11-8. It made for a
little excitement in the water polo world. After the game I headed to the gym for and got a quick run in on the treadmill. The sport of the day was
field hockey. I barely saw any of the match or OT that was played between New Zealand and Netherlands, but I the interesting part was the shootout.
In water polo shootouts as most of you know you have to be on the 5 meter line to shoot a penalty. The official blows his whistle and you must shoot
the ball in one single motion. If you violate this the ball is turned over. In field hockey each player has :08 to attack. The shooter and goalie must start at a specific spot, but afterwords they are allowed to converge on each other. The shooter can make multiple moves to try and beat the goalie as long as they don't go out of bounds. I enjoyed watching. It was far more entertaining than our shootouts.
After my run I went straight to the video session. I was a sweaty mess, but it is no bother. One of the nice parts about the closeness of team is
that we are like family. We see each other on our worst days. We waited until the guys exited their meeting to wish them well in their quarterfinal match versus Croatia. We had an hour long video session to cover all the phases of Spain's game and then it was time for training session number two of the day. We walked over to Eton Manor for the second time to train at game time 8-9 p.m.. Unfortunately this was at the same time as our men's game, but as I told you before you must focus on your own competition to be successful. Fortunately there have been technological advancements which allowed us to have the game running while we trained. We had one iPad and one iPhone going at the same time. They had the live internet feed from BBC. It was not a good match for the U.S.. I was in the pool roll playing again so I didn't see much of it, but from what I understand the Croatian defense was stifling. That's not a surprise based on their coach and leader. Ratko Rudic, the current Croatian coach, coached the U.S. team in 2004 when I played on the Olympic Team. He knows
our team very well and has a deep appreciation for defense.
When training had finished we headed back to the village for for dinner and bed. It was another team meal in the cafeteria. You can feel the closeness of our team as we approach this final game. I can't wait. Although I am always tired at the end of the day I can't stop watching the various competitions at night. I am especially attracted to the team competitions. Chris Lee and I watched one 30 minute half of team handball before bed. It is the closest sport I have seen to water polo on the land. From the rules to the physicality, to the execution. We looked up rules and facts on the internet as we watched. Croatia outlasted Tunisia in the match to clinch a birth in the semifinal. Once handball was over it was officially time for bed. As you all know the biggest day of all would start when we all got up.
I am sure some would think that day 18 would be different some how from the other days of competition, but it wasn't. We prepared exactly the same
as we did for each game in the Olympic tournament. We had our first bus at 8:30 a.m. with a dry land activation and warm up session to follow. The best
way to be successful in the gold medal match was the same exact way we did it from the beginning. After a bit of tactical work at the end of the training we headed back to the village for rest. Chris Lee and I walked back to the village and stopped by the USOC athlete service center to sign up for some tickets for the days following our competition. The athlete service center is a place designed to help the athletes feel comfortable in the village. There are various services available including computers, private phone rooms, snacks, drinks, lounge area, etc. The walls are covered with for recognition for the U.S. Medalists from the current Olympic Games and pictures of amazing moments from past Olympic Games. Another service that is available to the athletes is a ticket request desk. This allows the athletes and staff to request tickets to upcoming events. The USOC then contacts the organizing committee and attempts to acquire the requested tickets. They don't always get the tickets they request, but they always make the effort. It all depends on the size of the venue and popularity of the event.
Then is was back to the room to stay busy for several hours until the game. I have always felt that would be here and that we would be successful, but that still doesn't help the anxiety of waiting for the game to start. I spent a good deal of time writing and then headed over to the BBQ spot to get some lunch. Both Adam and I sat with Terry Schroeder, the head coach of the men's team. He talked a bit about the difficulty the men had in their quarterfinal match the previous evening and the challenge he would have moving forward and keeping the team motivated to finish the tournament well. I faced the same fate in my Olympic Games experience in Athens and I was very interested to hear his perspective. There is no question that those games are difficult to play, but you are still representing the United States and that should always be taken seriously medal or not.
After lunch we watched the women's classification games on TV. Italy beat Great Britain 11-7 for 7th and China beat Russia 16-15 in overtime for
5th. Even though the games don't have a medal on the line I enjoy watching. It keeps me come for our game and I always feel like I can learn
something from watching the coaches and players. Once the games ended it was time to get ready for our pre game meeting. The team meeting was short
and simply outlined the parts of our game plan we had already discussed in our video sessions. The girls had some nervous energy, but it was easy to
tell that they were ready. When it was over we had a few minutes to head to our rooms, grab our things, and relax for a few minutes. The bus ride
came next and there we were back at the pool warming up for the final time in this Olympic cycle.
Adam and I went up to the stands to watch the bronze medal match between Australia and Hungary. Heather always stays with the team during warm up
and keeps them aware of the time until introductions. I can't watch the team warm up - there is too much anxiety and I need to keep my mind
occupied. Adam only lasted about a quarter before he went back to the warm up pool. He likes to sit in silence before the game. I watched for the
first three quarters and then headed down. Australia controlled the game, but they couldn't put the Hungarians down. They kept lingering, and that
can be scary because they are incredible shooters. As we were sitting downstairs we watched the final quarter of regulation on the TV screens
they have set up in the warm up area. With :10 left in the game Australia was up by one and made a save on what everyone thought would be the final
shot attempt. While the goalie swam away from an attacking defender the Australian bench exchanged high fives and hugs all around. They still had
a timeout remaining but no one on the bench was paying attention while another Hungarian player came up from under the water in front of the goal
keeper, stole the ball, and threw it in the cage as the final buzzer sounded tying the game and sending it into overtime. The Australian team
was able to regroup in the overtime and eventually get the win. This created an interesting situation for our team as well. Before the end of
the previous game players from the teams playing the next game must get out of the water and report to the ready room for introductions. Now that
the game beforehand was going into overtime there was more time for warm up. Our team immediately got back into the water together and continued
warming up. The Spain team wasn't sure what to do. Originally they stood on the deck, but then they started watching our team to see what to do and
decided to get in the water as well. This was the moment I knew we were winning. We had a process, we were prepared, we were calm, we were in
control, and the Spanish weren't sure what to do. Toward the end of the overtime period the players again exited the pool and prepared for
introductions. We walked in the pool for our final game with a great crowd cheering for Spain or the USA. The players were introduced, we had our huddle, and the starters entered the water for the game to begin. The media is in full force for the gold medal matches. We always get in a tight circle before
the game to show our support for one another and remind ourselves that we are in the together. As we got into our circle I felt something hit my
foot and a camera on a stick appeared at the bottom of our huddle. We laughed and continued with our business. The game started, and as we did
in every game we went down early 1-0. We answered back with a goal of our own before Spain scored again to go up 2-1. From that point on the game
was never the same. It was pure domination for the rest of the match. We scored the next four goals of the half to go up 5-2. After halftime we
added another 3 goals to go up 8-2. The officials got involved late and the major foul count went from 6-5 in our favor to 11-7 in Spain's favor.
Spain scored the last three goals of the match but it didn't matter. Team USA had already closed the door. As the game ended Adam turned back to the bench with a smile and I ran out to meet him on the side of the pool. I know how much of himself he has put into this and I am so proud of him and so grateful for the opportunity I have been given. Kami Craig was already in tears before the final buzzer sounded. The remainder of the bench joined us on the side of the pool and someone gave the final push that led to us spilling us into the water. We were all still embracing so it was an awkward fall. Adam's momentum carried him over my head and right on top of the lane line. I had to check that he was okay before going to celebrate with the girls in the center of the pool. Apparently that wasn't our only folly during the celebration. When entering the pool our film analyst Chris Lee jumped on our trainers
head. Fortunately everyone was okay. The video has since gone viral and has made its way around the world. I can't tell you what was said or how
many kisses and hugs I handed out. What I can tell you is that we were all experiencing euphoria.
The girls got out and had some time for a few pictures and interviews before being rushed into the locker room to prepare for the medal ceremony. They don't mess around when it comes to that. We were already behind because of the overtime and they had a schedule to keep. The cameras stay on until the medal ceremony is done and they didn't want to keep the people waiting. They marched the girls from all three teams out and we went to the other side of the pool where they had an observation point for the staffs to observe the ceremony. They went through the Australian team one player at a time and then the same for the Spanish. I applauded each player. They are the best in the sport and they are all Olympic medalists. Then it came time for the USA. As they announced the team they stepped onto the podium holding hands and raising their arms into the sky together. My eyes were watering but I didn't completely lose it just yet. I clapped so hard for each girl that my hands hurt and watched them put the medal on each neck one at a time. Along with the
medals they hand each player a bouquet of flowers. After the medals and flowers it was time for the flag raising ceremony. The flags are strung
side by side on a poll and lifted int the air as the gold medal team's national anthem plays. Throughout your career with the national team you
hear many national anthems play from various countries you visit and compete against. My favorite times have always been in Italy. The people
there love to sing their national anthem. It starts with an instrumental section and when the vocal piece begins the entire crowd starts to sing.
It has always impressed me. We are more the silent type in the United States. We watch the flag respectfully and listen to the anthem. I always
sing. I never sing out loud, but I always say the words. It is a great reminder of what we represent. This time was different. By the time we got
to "by the dawns early light" my emotions had already overcome me. Primarily because it was the greatest moment in my sporting life. We finally arrived and as Olympic Champions we won the right to hear our national anthem played to conclude the competition. But secondly, because every American in the stands who had come to support our team was signing the national anthem for all to hear. I know I will have greater moments in my life when I am married to Natalie and when I have children, but I also know that moment will be something I remember and cherish for the rest of my life.
After the medal ceremony was complete the girls called us over to take pictures with the team. Each athlete put there medals around Adam's neck
until he had all 13 on at once. I know that was a special moment for him. The medals are impressive. They are quite large as medals go and very
heavy. The front side of the medal is always the same. They have been the same since the beginning of the Olympic Games. The back side can be
designed at the host country's discretion. These medals have the symbol of the London 2012 Olympic Games. The bottom of the medal says the event:
Women's Water Polo. Once the girls had changed we waited around for about an hour while the athletes who were randomly selected to be drug tested
finished up. This happened after three separate games during the competition. While we sat in the athlete lounge I sat in silence and observed the girls
being proud of themselves. I love that part of coaching. Seeing the pride on the athletes faces when they have succeeded. I was so proud of the
girls that they chose to wait for the teammates at the pool. They wanted to leave the venue as a complete team. It is another great example of
their commitment to each other. As we waited a group of 10-20 volunteers came into the room with a certificate that read Nicest Team at the
Olympics to present to the team. It was another special moment as a coach. Knowing that your team conducted themselves with class and took the time
to treat the people around them with respect. Although I loved hearing it I wasn't surprised. That has always been a character trait of this team.
When the group was complete we headed to the village for a quick change of clothes and walked as a group to meet our families at a gathering that was
organized in the bar of the casino in the Westfield Mall. I think everyone was emotionally exhausted, but the celebration that didn't start until
12:30 p.m. lasted until the morning. Adam, myself, and several of the players walked to the village McDonald's from the casino for breakfast at
7:00 a.m., but I didn't want the night to end. I was so excited to share that part of the evening with Natalie and Kelsey. It meant a lot to have
them here to be a part of our teams success. They have been been huge supporters of my involvement with the national team and that means the
world to me. I finally got to bed about 7:30 a.m. What a great day!
Thanks to everyone who sent messages and support throughout the
tournament. This gold medal belongs to all of you. It belongs to
Your support and positive thoughts were felt by this team all the way and carried them through the competition. You're the best. Have a great week!
Hi Everyone -
I hope that your week has started well. Our Day 15 was almost exactly the same as our day 13 spent preparing for the quarterfinal. It was like the movie Groundhog Day with Bill Murray. We were trying to get it a little better than the day before since we are now in the medal round. If you haven't seen that movie before you should. Even you young people. It is a timeless comedy. Bill Murray is one of the best. We had another 11:30 a.m. video session after a late evening. Preparing for Australia is tedious because they have a lot of talented and aggressive players. There is a lot to go over. After about an hour in the meeting room the girls had more rest time.
I decided to go for another gym session to kill some time. I put in my usual 30 minutes on the stair stepper. The gym is like a ghost town in the afternoon, but it is crazy until about noon. Just like a 24 Hour Fitness or even the ARC at home I guess there are peak hours. Mostly I think many athletes use the gym to warm up for their events. I am not quite sure how other sports work on the day of competition. Especially land based sports. We need water to warm up properly so we have to go to a pool. A land based sport athlete might just be able to use the gym facilities to get a proper warm up without leaving the village. Truthfully that is a lot more convenient. You aren't reliant on buses and training schedules. You decide what's best and make your own schedule. I try not to work out in the morning because I believe the athletes should have priority. Not that the stair stepper is a popular machine, but they don't need some has been getting in the way of their preparation for competition. While on the machine gymnastics was the sport of the day on the TV screen. Men's rings was the event. The strength of those guys is incredible. Holding yourself in some of those positions as steady as a rock seems impossible to me. Being short definitely helps too. I'd like to see someone with my length hold themselves in that position for that length of time. I'm not saying it isn’t possible, but you'll never see me doing it. It was the final eight athletes and the competition was won by a Brazilian. I'm no judge of gymnastics skill, but I thought his routine and landing were the best. After the stair stepper session the women's uneven bars came on, and our American superstar Gabby Douglas was in the mix so I decided to move to the treadmill to keep watching. Gabby was last so I watched the whole event, but there was no medal for her this time. The gold went to a Russian. I had a hard time telling the difference between the various routines in this event. They all looked similar to me. I think our sport is difficult because of the influence the officials can have. I can't imagine being in a sport where it is so close and the judges determine everything.
After the gym I grabbed some lunch and headed back to the room to watch our men's team play Hungary. It was a very important match for the team. If the team won or tied they would finish second in the bracket behind Serbia. If they lost they would finish fourth in the bracket and have to play top seeded Croatia in the crossover match. The match didn't go so well for the USA. The Hungarians are three time Olympic champions, and they came out playing like they were looking for four. The have amazing shooters on both sides of the pool and they were all hot. The final score of the match was 11-6.
As soon as the game was over it was time to leave for practice. I decided to walk with a few other staff members to Eton Manor. I dropped some laundry off on the way. The laundry system is interesting. Everyone is given two mesh bags: One for color and the other for whites. Each bag has an ID tag on it. You put your laundry in the mesh bag and turn it in to the laundry service. The scan you credential and the bag ID tag so they are grouped together. Your laundry is then washed right in the bag. This way they keep it together and they can wash multiple bags at the same time. If you drop it off before 10 a.m. you can pick it up the same day after 6 p.m. If not it is available the next day. The same people have been working at the laundry service the entire time. That job has to get old at some point. I don't like doing my own dirty laundry.
After our walk to Eton Manor, which included a few rain drops, we had another two hour training session. Again, we gambled that the men's teams who had previously played that afternoon wouldn't show up for their training session. We started with a walk through of some important tactics and then the girls got in the pool. Once again was called upon to do my best impersonation of an Australian women's water polo player for our tactical training. After training we walked back to the pool. As we went through the lobby of Eton Manor I looked at the new Wenlock drawings that cover the wall. Now that you know what a Wenlock is it is much easier to explain. At the front desk they have a stack of small papers with a Wenlock printed on them. It is just like a coloring book where the borders are drawn. While you wait for your bus you can color your own creative Wenlock. I haven't participated, but I have enjoyed looking at other people's creations. There is Darth Wenlock, Obie Wenlock, Lucy and the Seven Wenlocks, various country Wenlocks, Voldemort Wenlock, synchro Wenlock (who is drawn upside down and under water), and many others. I will let you imagine what those looked like on your own. Two of my personal favorites are invisible Wenlock, where they have turned in a blank page with nothing on it, and Wenlock in the dark, which is a blank piece of paper colored black. Everyday the staff votes on their top three and posts them on a miniature medal stand on the reception desk. I thought that was a creative idea to keep the athletes entertained while they wait.
Now that all new Wenlocks had been observed we headed back to the village. We caught the first half of the Spain-Italy men's game before heading to our second video session of the day. It was much shorter than the first so that the girls could get to sleep early. Our schedule for the semifinal is much different so the evenings rest was very important. Chris Lee and I headed to the dining hall for a quick dinner and then back to the room to shut it down for the night. Unfortunately rest would have to wait as the women's soccer team was just headed into the first overtime period in a semifinal match versus Canada. The score was 3-3 and stayed that way during most of the overtime. During the second overtime period several Canadian players started going down with what appeared to be terrible injuries as they rolled around on the ground. The interesting thing was that after a short meeting with the trainer they would spring back up and start playing again. I can't be sure, but I thought it might be some sort of tactic to use time and push the game into a shootout. I don't know soccer well enough to know what was going on. I am sure they were tired and dehydrated as well. Because of all these injuries three extra minutes were added to the overtime. Just as the time was running out the USA scored a goal on a cross that was headed into the net. Our apartment went wild. The U.S. team will now have a grudge match with Japan in the final. They can avenge their defeat in the World Cup. After that game it was really time to go to bed. Day 16 was going to be a big day.
The next day (Day 16) started a little earlier than most game days. All of our games to this point had been in the evening session of the day. Just to make it clear there have been two separate sessions in the women's water polo tournament - each with two games. If you wish to see all four games in a day you will need to have tickets for both sessions. Our semifinal game was scheduled for 3:30 p.m. local time. This can be a little nerving for the coaches because once your players get on a routine you want them to be able to keep that routine throughout a competition if possible. Australia had the opportunity to play a game during the first session so they had experienced the schedule as a team. Truthfully, the preparation wasn't much different. The time table had simply moved up. The first bus to our morning warm up session left at 7:30 a.m. The staff chose to walk and meet the team at the venue. This was one of the easier walks I've had.
Although I enjoy the people watching as you walk through the park, most of the time you have to dodge people and zig zag to get where you need to go. There are so many people. I think it is worse than a busy day at Disneyland. On the way in I took a long glance at the huge water polo figure on the side of our venue. It is just so cool to have a venue of our own. Even though the building will be completely removed when this is all over I love to look at the figure that shouts, "This is a water polo building."
After their dry land activation session the girls had a training session from 8:30-9:30 a.m. in the warm up pool. Mostly these sessions are used for the girls to do what they need to get themselves ready. They are professionals, and at that stage most have figured out exactly what it takes to be at your best. On occasion there are mild tactics toward the end of training. After training we headed back to the village. Once again the staff chose to walk. This time we weren't as lucky with the crowd so we shuffled along with the masses headed to see their countries play. Our time at the village was much shorter. Where normally we had our meeting sometime between 4 and 5 p.m. today we met at 3:30 p.m. There was just enough time to catch a few kayak races on TV and have a lunch before our meeting and departure. Chris Lee and I ate at the outdoor BBQ place with a few of the men's staff. You would think we get to interact a little bit more, but everyone is working and has their own schedule. The trick with the Olympic Games is not to be distracted by all that is going on around you during your competition. You have to stay focused on what you need to do just like you would at any other water polo tournament. The pre-game meeting was short as they usually are: 10-15 minutes max. This isn't the right time to pump players head full of information. It is just like studying for a class. You will retain more information if it is gathered and filled away in your brain over time. There is too much time between the meeting and the game so if you cram you will forget.
When we got over to the pool there was a classification game starting between Italy and China. In our sport you continue to play out the tournament even if you are knocked out of contention for the championship. You see this at many different levels including NCAA and club. Most other sports don't do this. Once you lose and can no longer win or play for a medal you are out. Classification means that you are classifying the bottom four spots in the tournament. The winner of the match would play in the 5th place game and the loser would play in the 7th place game. These games aren't easy to play. I had to play in a few of these at the Olympic Games in Athens. Although you are still representing your country it is much harder to focus when you goal has been to win a medal and that dream has faded. It wasn't a very good match right from the beginning. China seemed to be okay, but Italy had a tough time putting it together. China ended up winning 14-10, but the game was never close after the first quarter. I like to sit and watch games before we play. It keeps you occupied and there is always something you can learn.
After the game ended it was time to walk into the stadium for our biggest match yet. The crowd was equally divided with Australian and US supporters and it was loud. I always like to watch the video board to see the girls walk up on the platform as they are introduced. If you haven't seen that part of the game, rather than being in a straight line to begin with as we do in the US the girls are introduced one at a time to step up onto the platform to wave to the crowd. The girls are asked to remove their caps so the fans can familiarize themselves with each player. We are always standing behind the girls so we don't get a good look at them. But by watching the video board I can see their faces. After the introductions and handshakes we have a short huddle in our team circle and then the fun begins.
Another part that is very different in international water polo is that you shake hands before the game and not after. You can shake hands after if you choose to, but it isn't an organized requirement. The game started and we got down to another 2-0 deficit to start the first period. After that point we controlled the game the rest of the way. I am sure you all are thinking that since we went into overtime it is hard to believe that we controlled the game, but we did. International water polo is funny that way. Most games are decided by one goal. There are such small differences between the one team and another. There are occasional lopsided victories between the top teams, but they are far more rare than one goal games. If you know water polo you will know what I mean by controlled. We controlled the ball more, had better team defense, and had more opportunities to score (even if they weren't all realized).
We ended up winning the game in overtime 11-9 and the US is headed to the gold medal match. For those who watched the game and are wondering about the controversy at the end of regulation the officials made the correct call. In FINA events when a team calls a timeout without clear possession of the ball a penalty throw is awarded to the opposing team. We called a timeout before we had clear possession. What this situation did was give our team the opportunity to reveal its character to the world. And now you all know something about these women I already knew. They aren't only physically talented, but they are also some of the mentally strongest human beings on this planet. They weren't shaken for one moment. Adam has prepared this team for these moments. Over four years he has worked tirelessly to create an indestructible group with unified purpose. In that overtime this group of women took on the character of their coach. There were a lot of great plays in this match. Maggie Steffens scored another four goals to lead the offense and Betsey Armstrong had another solid performance in the goal to lead the team defensively, but the most incredible performance to me was turned in by Lauren Wenger. Truthfully she has been amazing all tournament long. She has been given one of the toughest defensive assignments every game and every game she has dominated the match up. She is an extremely talented offensive player and has been the team’s leading scorer on many occasions in the past, but she has committed herself to doing whatever was asked of her to help the team win. She scored her first two goals of the tournament in this game and dominated Australia on the defensive end. It was the most dominating defensive performance I have seen in a long time. As it was an exhilarating victory there were some hugs and excitement after the game, but there is no question these women are ready to face their final test in the final match. Spain later won the other semifinal against Hungary 10-9.
We will meet Spain August 9 in the gold medal match at 8 p.m. local time.
After the game everyone shared some time with their families outside the venue. We have a great group of supporters. After various conversations I escaped with Natalie and Kelsey to the mall for a quick dinner before heading back to watch the Spain-Hungary game. We had pizza in the Westfield Mall attached to the Olympic Park. We got a seat right away which surprised us since the mall is so crowded. We had a great conversation for an hour. I got to hear about all the things they have done and what they plan to do in the next few days. I am glad I have had the opportunity to spend some time with them while they are here. Even if it just a little bit.
After dinner I re-entered the park to watch the Spain-Hungary game live. There was a lot of good play, but Spain controlled the game most of the way. When the match had ended Chris Lee, Heather, and I walked back to the village. The rest of the team, including Adam, watched the game on TV back in their rooms. I do like watching the games on TV, but when you are there you can see the demeanor of the benches and individual players and you can feel the atmosphere. I am glad I went. Once we got back to the village it was dinner, a little beach volleyball on TV, and then we headed for bed. I skipped the part where Adam and I sat around and made fun of each other for a while, but you have to be here to enjoy that.
It was another great day in London. The men have an important game versus Croatia in the quarterfinal August 8. If you can tune in to watch their game at noon California time. Let's get another team in the medal round.
Have a great day!
Hi Everyone -
I hope your weekend went well in California. I haven't been checking on the weather around there. The first week was one of the nicest of the year in London, according to the locals, but the second week has had far more irritable weather. There has been a fair amount of sunshine, but there also has been heavy winds and some occasional rain showers. The women's marathon was today and they ran a good portion of it in the rain. I'm not really sure if that is a good thing or a bad thing for a long distance runner. I can tell you that if I had plans to run I would just stayed inside and watched TV.
Our 13th day was another day off. If you haven't figured it out by now we play every other day. We alternate days with the men's tournament. After a late meeting we opted out of our 8 a.m. scheduled training session. We don't schedule our own trainings. The location and time are predetermined based on your game time. The morning was catch up time for video and other work. We had our first video session with the team at 11:30 a.m. so that gave us some time to prepare a good video session and get some other things done. When the video session was finished I headed over to the international zone to check out the official merchandise store and sign the Pillars of Peace. The pillars of peace are a set of several crystal structures (probably some type of plastic, but it looks like crystal) in the heart of the international zone that they have asked each participant to sign in their support of the Olympic truce that encourages world peace and prosperity. Peace is the foundation of the Olympic movement. And I will tell you that the world could learn a lot from the Olympic Games. I was thinking that I would try to describe the crystal pillars to you, but the only thing I could come up with was to compare them to the crystals in Superman's cave in the Antarctic in the original Superman movies. Since most of you are too young to have seen the movies or aren't a sci-fi junkie like me I decided to attach a picture instead. You sign with a white pen that shows up against the crystal. I had to search for a spot because many participants had already made their way to the pillars. You won't find many participants that don't believe deeply in the ideals and philosophy of the Olympic movement. Once I found my spot and signed my name I headed to the merchandise store for a few minutes. I already knew what I was after so I didn't waste much time. The merchandise would be extremely overpriced if it were dollars, but the prices are in pounds. I don't know the exact exchange rate, but I can tell you that I spent 31 pounds and saw a 48 dollar charge on my credit card bill. What I was after is a stuffed version of the official mascot of the 2012 Olympic Games. They had a few options. I chose two of them and got out of there before anything else started to look appealing. This year’s mascot is a creature called Wenlock. It is a one eyed creature created chosen by the organizing committee to be the official mascot. Again, rather than explain I have, once again, attached a photo. In my opinion they were inspired by the minions from Despicable Me.
Once I got back to the main village, I dropped my Wenlocks and headed for the gym. While on the treadmill I watched Serena Williams crush Maria Sharipova in the women's tennis final to win the gold. I have always respected Serena Williams for her abilities, but I have always had trouble being a die-hard fan. I have been more of a Venus fan. I can't explain exactly why, but Serena just seems so cold and hard to me. After the win she jumped around for 10 minutes like a carefree child and then proceeded to crip walk and salsa dance for her fan base. That was something I needed to see. Go Serena! When my workout was finished it was off to the BBQ spot for lunch and back to the room for a bit of men's water polo before heading to our only training of the day. Our training was scheduled from 6-7 p.m. at Eton Manor, but we took a chance that the two teams before us, who were men's teams, wouldn't use their training slot because they had a game earlier in the day and showed up at 5 p.m. Even if you have a game in the morning you are still given a training slot later in the day. There are no women's games in the morning, but because there are three additional men's teams in the tournament they have an extra morning session with two games beginning at 10 a.m. Our gamble paid off and we had the pool for two hours. The second of which was shared with the Hungarians. We spent the time preparing for our quarterfinal match up, the Italians.
Following training several of the staff headed across the Olympic Park to attend the men's game versus Serbia. This game was highly anticipated as Serbia is the number one ranked team in the world and we upset them in the semifinal game last Olympic Games in Beijing to reach the gold medal match. We made it just in time for the start of the game. Our goal keeper Merrill Moses had another outstanding game, but our offense struggled to get going. Serbia has incredible individual skills, and they continually created opportunities through excellent ball movement. Many of their attacks were stopped by Moses, but there were far too many. The final score was 11-6 Serbia. The men are still in a good position to advance second in the bracket and draw a favorable match-up. They have a big match against Hungary Monday.
After the game I jumped on a train with Jen Adams to make our way to the P&G House. Natalie and Kelsey had arrived earlier in the day and I wanted to see them for a little bit. Family time is limited at the Olympic Games for athletes and coaches. Especially in water polo because we play through both weeks. We arrived to the P&G house about 9:30 p.m., and weaved our way through the building until we found them. I was happy to see them. I have been looking forward to sharing this experience with them and having someone else see the things I keep writing about. We sat around and chatted while watching the 10K race on the big screen. It was crazy to watch the finish. For most of the race the athletes stay in a fairly tight pack, but on the last lap you see who has something more. At the end it was one British and one American who broke away from the pack. The British runner won the gold, but it was cool to be with the fans and see how loud it got in their support of our American athlete. If I haven't said it before, the Olympics Games are a beautiful thing. We took a few pictures to celebrate being together in London and then headed for the train. It was a short visit, but well worth the trip. We took the same train line but were headed in opposite directions. Jen and I got back to village about midnight and headed straight to bed. That day seemed to have a lot packed into it.
No one had to be reminded that day 14 was a big day. The first big game was finally here. We had already played three games, but in reality they didn't mean much. They basically seeded teams for the quarterfinal. We had our bus at 8 a.m. and our first training at the competition pool from 9-10 a.m. Everyone warmed up and there was some tactical preparation at the end. I got to play an important role on the scout team during tactical preparation. From time to time when there is a specific role that Adam needs in training I will play and simulate a specific player. I do my best. We took the bus back to the village after training and had a walk through session in the basement of our building. Our basement isn't exactly a quiet or private place. There is a ton going on down there. There are meeting rooms, an athlete recovery center, laundry, and the cleaning services main base of operation. Not to mention we share the basement with several other buildings and countries. Truth be told it is not really a basement at all. It will be an underground car port when these buildings become whatever they are meant to be after the games. Any village that is built for the Olympic Games usually has a purpose after the games. From what I understand this area was an underdeveloped area of London, and they used the Olympics as an opportunity to improve the east side. This will undoubtedly become some type of apartment community and business center. Getting back to the team there were all kinds of distractions that occurred during our walk through, but not one of them distracted the girls from the information being given. It was only 10:30 a.m. and they were ready to play the game right then.
We headed back to our room and I spent some time reading about various Olympic triumphs on the internet. Michael Phelps’ final swim in the 400 medley relay was the main story. It has been great to watch his transformation at this Olympic Games. Not for everyone else's sake, but for his own. He has been able to enjoy the experience and what the Olympics is all about. He allowed his experience to be humanized. Instead of just being a machine like he was forced to be in Beijing, he got to feel every part of his final Olympic experience, and in the process he probably helped many young swimmers enjoy theirs. I also checked up on Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh Jennings. I think their run is equally impressive as Michael Phelps accomplishments. Because they only have one competition and win one medal team sports aren't as celebrated, but to have an opportunity to win three consecutive gold medals is amazing.
I headed to lunch after I got tired of reading. My blood sugar was low since I didn't eat much breakfast or have dinner the night before. I allowed myself some french fries, or chips as they are called here in London, for the first time. It reminded me why I have to stay away from that place. Those fries are good, but you can taste them clogging your arteries. After lunch I headed back to watch some Olympic events on TV. I was able to watch most of Andy Murray's gold medal performance against Roger Federer in tennis. I am usually a Roger Federer fan, but I found myself routing for Andy Murray. It is awesome to see him win a gold medal in his home country at Wimbledon. I have watched a few documentaries on Murray and he has worked extremely hard and always come up short in the final match of big tournaments. I can't think of a better way to break the curse. I am not a tennis player, but I would trade in any grand slam championship to win a gold medal in the Olympic Games - especially in my home country. And to do it beating Djokovic and Federer: Does it get any better? That match was simultaneous with the Hungary-Russia semifinal match so I spent a lot of time with remote in hand flipping back and forth. Hungary was the first team to advance to the semifinal. I'm not sure many people would have picked that, but they are very talented offensive players and found the back of the net enough times to win. The next game was China-Australia. This was the game of the day from a spectators prospective. It was a back and forth offensive battle that ended with a shootout. Although many of their best shooters had fouled out of the game, which disqualifies you from the shootout, other players stepped up and they found a way to get the win. The final score was 20-18. We watched the first three quarters from our room at the village and then were forced to leave to catch the bus to our game. We missed the fourth quarter, but we were able to watch the overtime periods and shootout live.
Australia ended up winning the match 20-18. The final score after overtime was 16-16. In water polo the penalty shootout goals are added to the total score.
There was still a good amount of time before our match started. The girls were warming up and the coaches chatting amongst ourselves to keep occupied. I didn't get nervous until we were just about to enter the competition pool for introductions. The butterflies started to gather deep in my stomach. This isn't an unwelcome feeling for me. If I was nervous because I thought we were unprepared that would be different, but I was nervous because it is important to me to see these women do well. The introductions happened and the game began. The crowd in the arena has been great. We have a wonderful support group that traveled from the US, and I also think the Great Britain fans are partial to the red, white, and blue as long as Great Britain isn't involved. We went down 2-0 on a penalty shot and outside goal within the first minute. The girls stayed composed and the crowd stayed loud. The rest of the game was controlled by our team. We dominated at both ends of the pool. Melissa Seidemann, Kelly Rulon, and Betsey Armstrong had particularly good games. Even when the Italians found an opening Betsey closed the door. The final score was 9-6, but Italy scored a goal on their last possession with :10 left in the match. At one point we went on a 5-0 run from 3-1 Italy to 6-3 USA.
The girls were excited to win the game, but more importantly I think they were excited about the way we played. It was by the far the best game we have played in the tournament. Everyone got a chance to visit with their friends and family after the game outside the venue. While this took place the final game of the day was going on. Great Britain put up a great fight, but Spain won the game 8-5. I think it was a much tougher match than Spain was expecting. I spent a few hours with Natalie and Kelsey walking Olympic Park and getting them some food. The each ordered some food from the Mexican booth outside the basketball arena. The British need to send some people to California or Mexico to investigate what Mexican food is. That might have been edible, but it wasn't Mexican. As we sat hundreds of people were sprinting by us to get to the lawn area I described previously near the river. If you remember I mentioned there are two huge television screens facing either side where people can sit and enjoy whatever event is displayed. Apparently a British sprinter was in the final of the 100 meter race. It was incredible how many people poured in to watch 10 seconds of action. We didn't see the race, but there was a loud burst of noise for that 10 seconds as the race went and then silence. Silence because the Jamaicans finished first and second and the USA finished third, fourth, and fifth.
When we were finished eating we headed for the exit along with every other person in the Olympic Park from all the venues. BAD TIMING! I think we stood in lines for 30-45 minutes just to get into the mall in order to wait out the crowd. I am sure more than 100,000 people were pouring into the subway stations. We decided to visit for a while longer in a café rather than wait in a jam packed subway station. After about 45 minutes we headed for the station. I got Natalie and Kelsey on their train and then found mine. It was only one stop for me to the other side of the mall and straight into the village. I should have eaten, but I decided to go straight to bed. My fatigue from the day outweighed my hunger. I have some fatty stores I could live off for a while if need be. I did a quick check of the JO scores to see how SOCAL was doing and then headed to bed. That was a great day!
Hi Everyone -
Day 11 was another work day in preparation for our game against China. After another long night of video following the Spain game we got up for a quick breakfast and a team video session. Mostly, we have been moving forward and studying our next opponent, but we felt it necessary to revisit some of our mistakes from the previous night. This team is filled with women who are true students of water polo and they enjoy reliving moments from their previous battles so that they can learn from them and adjust in their next training session and competitive opportunity. After the video session was complete we headed to the Olympic bus station to take another long ride to Becon Tree. I don't think I have done the Olympic bus station justice in my previous emails. It is a massive area in front of the village where everyone catches buses to their various destinations. And when I say everyone, I mean everyone. All Olympians and staff headed to every venue at the Olympic Games. If you remember I said their were 15,000 participants at the games. Most of you have never been to a large Greyhound station, but maybe you have been to a large train station like Grand Central. There are platforms, and trains, and people everywhere. If you stood in the middle and just watched it is organized confusion. It looks like chaos, but everyone seems to know where they are going. If that doesn't do it for you just think of water polo alone. There are 20 teams between the men and the women, and each of us have either two trainings or one training and one game per day. Each team gets there own bus. That is over 80 different bus trips a day for water polo alone. Now multiply that by a couple hundred. That is a day in the life of the volunteers in charge of coordinating buses for the participants. Transportation is an incredible undertaking at the Olympic Games.
As I said previously the ride to Becon Tree can be anywhere from 45 minutes to 2 hours. This trip took about 45 minutes getting there and one and a half hours getting home. They don't have a freeway system like we do in California. They are extremely reliant on the underground system to travel throughout the city. Where we have 5 different freeway options to get oto ne place they have 5 different underground routes. We had a one hour training session and returned to the village. We had a team lunch at the BBQ spot and then everyone went for a rest. After lunch I visited with John Speraw for a while in front of the USOC village offices. There is some nice patio furniture that overlooks the main park in the center of the village. It is a cool place to sit and watch the worlds greatest athletes come and go. The U.S. delegation has a prime location for our building. We are close to the gym, laundry services, the cafeteria,
athlete services, and the international zone. As a result most participants will walk by there at some point in time. I'm sure our location isn't a coincidence. Once John had to leave for his game I headed upstairs to catch a little men's water polo on TV. Needless to say I would be a junkie if I had that option in the U.S.
We reconvened for a team meeting at 7 PM. Before starting a planned team exercise we watched the semi final of the 50 freestyle as a team in the main USOC lobby. Anthony Irvin and Cullen Jones represented the USA and were two of the top three qualifiers for the final. Then, in a tribute to USA softball, the girls posed for a picture in their softball jerseys in front of the Olympic rings. For those that don't know the International Olympic Committee (IOC) voted to remove both softball and baseball from Olympic competition after the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing. After each Olympic there is a meeting where it is decided which sports will be added and which will be removed from competition. Water polo has been in the discussion for removal before, and it is a scary thing for our sport. There is a vote that takes place at every Olympic Games to select athlete representatives that will sit on the IOC board. It is hard to tell what anyone's agenda will be, but we encourage all water polo athletes to vote in hopes that the candidates selected will be good ambassadors for team sports and water polo. So as you can see, even though we say politics aren't present at the Olympic Games, they are still very much present. I thought the picture was a very classy thing for the girls to do. USA softball demonstrated some class of their own by signing a team poster that is displayed in the athletes lounge wishing all athletes great luck.
Following the completion of our team activity and another video session, this time focused on China, we had the opportunity for an early night. I, of course, decided to watch men's volleyball take it to the Brazilians before calling it a night. I also watched the men's basketball team demolish Nigeria for a quarter before I decided that wasn't fun anymore.
The following day (Day 12) we played our final bracket game versus China. We had the final game of the night so we had the opportunity to watch all
other games throughout the day. As you have become accustomed to we started our day with a training session to warm up for the evening game. We trained from 9:30-10:30 a.m. with a dry land warm up session led by our strength trainer beforehand. I decided to walk both directions. That is a
large part of my exercise routine these days. There isn't enough pool space for me to swim. I am looking forward hitting the lanes these days. The park was packed. With field hockey, track and field, swimming, water polo, and basketball going on at the same time you can only imagine the foot traffic. I like to be places where I can walk in a straight line. That wasn't the case. It was shoulder to shoulder. As much as I am not a big fan of crowds it is so cool to see all of the people excited to watch their country compete at the Olympic Games. Just like with any major competition there are the conservative fans and the extreme ones. There is something better about seeing people find creative ways to where the countries colors or flag then watching a lunatic at a Raiders game with black and silver face paint and spikes coming out of his shoulders. The outfit of the morning went to three Netherlands supporters (all men) dressed as dutch maids, but with bright orange outfits. If you haven't seen the Netherlands compete before their flag is actually red, white, and blue striped but their competitive colors are orange and blue.
After returning to the village I headed over to the gym with Adam for a workout. He hit the treadmill and I battled the stair stepper. For those that think the stair stepper is a joke I recommend you put in 20-30 minutes sometime. It crushes me every time. Technology is a beautiful thing. While on the stair stepper I was able to watch the semi-final tennis match between Roger Federer of Switzerland and Juan Martin del Porto of Argentina. It was probably one of the greatest Olympic tennis matches of all time. In grand slam tennis the men play the best of five sets, but in the Olympic they play the best of three. My guess is that in the interest of time they need to keep the matches a bit shorter. This match would not be contained. After del Porto won the first set 6-3, Federer battled back to take the second set 7-6 in a thrilling tie break. The excitement was only beginning as the two fought for 34 games before Federer finally broke del Porto's serve in the 35th game. The final set was 19-17. If you lack general knowledge of tennis the final set of a match must be won on games. There is no tie breaker and you must win by 2 games. Federer is an incredible champion and I wish him the best. I have watched him play many times and he made more mistakes this time than I have seen before, but somehow he found a way to win. The people of Wimbledon, where the Olympic tennis is being played, love him, but I don't think he'll be the crowd favorite in the final as he plays Great Britain's Andy Murray.
After the training session we watched the first two women's games of the day featuring Spain versus Hungary and Russia versus Australia. The Spain-Hungary game was mostly controlled by Spain, but it got close toward the end. Spain ended up winning the game by two on a last second goal that secured them the top spot in our bracket based on goal difference. This meant we were automatically the number two team regardless of our result against China. In the second game, Australia secured the top spot in the other bracket with a win over Russia. Once these games finished it was once again time to prepare for our game against China. After a short meeting we hoped on the bus a headed for the pool. We had some pre-game entertainment this time since Great Britain and Italy played. We would play the winner of the match in the quarterfinal Sunday so it was worth watching. Great Britain fought hard, but they couldn't find enough offense to compete with the Italians losing 10-5.
Our game with China was closely contested throughout. We had a difficult time scoring to begin, but we were playing great defense. We were down 3-2
at halftime, and although goals were tough to come by I felt good about the way we were playing. At some point during the second half we took a 6-3
lead and eventually won the game 7-6. Although our shooting wasn't great it was by far our most consistent defensive effort of the tournament, and I think we were all satisfied with that part of the game. After the game the girls got a chance to visit with their families outside the water polo venue. No family yet for me, but I had a few surprise guests I was excited to see. An old swimming friend and 2004 bronze medalist Gabe Woodward and his wife Staci were in London to catch some swimming and were able to make it to the match. They had to leave today to get back to their family, but I felt blessed to have the opportunity to visit with them for a while. Gabe is a great man and his wife Staci a wonderful woman and it is always a pleasure to talk with them.
When the time came we gathered the team and had a short meeting. Adam and I walked back to the village, had dinner, and finished off the day with a
shake. As I told you before their is a McDonalds inside the village cafeteria. It is always the most crowded section. I have steered clear of the fries and chicken nuggets, but the shake was calling my name. We didn't spend any time watching video and still didn't get to bed until midnight. It was off to bed to prepare for another busy day.
I'll be in touch soon.
Hey Everyone -
I hope everyone is having a good week. Day 10 started the same as most days. We got up, had a quick breakfast, and were off to the pool for a morning warm up session. We were at the competition pool so it was a short trip. The girls had a one hour training with a short tactical walk through at the end. After the training the girls got back on the bus and headed for the village to rest. I decided to wonder into swimming for a few heats and had the pleasure of watching Rebecca Soni swim her preliminary swim in the 200 breast. She went 2:21 and looked to be smooth and controlled all the way. I remember thinking and later telling Adam, "She is going to break the world record in that for sure." Sure enough, she did in the semi-final heat later that night going 2:20.00. Moving that quickly swimming breaststroke is incredible.
When the 200 breaststroke heats were finished I met Jen Adams at the Stratford International underground stop just outside the village exit to head across town to check into the USA House. Our path was the same as when we headed to meet Dwight and Julie before the opening ceremony. We exited the central line a few stops later at South Kensington. This is where Natalie and Kelsey will be staying when they arrive. You are officially in Westminister when you exit. It’s a bit different than the Westminster in California. There are many monuments and national museums. A few of which we were able to see on our walk. The USA house is in the Royal School of Art right next to the Royal School of Music and Royal Albert Hall. There are a lot of royal things here in case you were wondering. We didn't get to see inside any of those buildings but they are beautiful on the outside.
The USA House is pretty fancy. They have a store where they sell a lot of the Olympic Team gear at prices that will bankrupt a person. There are a few things that the athletes got I really liked, but I can't bring myself to spend a month worth of food on a sweatshirt or jacket. I have plenty of USA gear in my closet. The house is a nice place for Olympians and their families. Athletes have a full guest pass and get four one day guest passes for their families. Retired Olympians get a full guest pass and 2 one day guest passes. Coaches don't get a pass, but the USOC awards each NGB (USA Water Polo) an allotment of passes they can issue at their discretion. Besides Olympians and their families sponsors are awarded passes to the USA house for their generous contributions to the Olympic movement. As an Olympian I was able to get a pass for myself and sign up Kelsey and Natalie for one day guest passes. While Jen made an exchange at the store I cruised through the house and pillaged the food service area. They had an excellent spread of foods and gourmet desserts. I tried a little bit of everything. Before I left I ran into Jaime Comer who is a 2008 silver medalist in water polo and is in London representing lululemon. I think that is how you say it. I have known her forever. She is the sister of my college roommate and teammate Dan Hipp. She is such a wonderful woman. I was so glad to see her. I also ran into the Thornton family who were there to see Brian and attend a volleyball party in the banquet room. I spoke to them for a while and headed out to meet Jen.
We snapped a few quick pictures on the way out, but hurried to the underground station. We wanted to make it back in time to see Hungary play China on TV. We tried a new path taking the Javelin train from King's Cross station back to Stratford International. It seemed to work alright. There were plush seats like an Amtrak, but nicer, and it had no stops between. And yes, if you are wondering, King's Cross station is the very station they reference in the Harry Potter novels. And no, I didn't see anything strange. It is still summer so I am sure all the witches and wizards are on vacation or at home with their families. We made it in time for the last three quarters and Hungary won 11-10.
When the game was over it was time to get ready for our game with Spain. We had our usual pre-game meeting and then headed to the bus. There was no game before us to watch so there was a lot of down time. I sat in the athlete lounge and watched Venus Williams lose her quarterfinal match to a German player. I think there was a lot of anxiety leading up to this match because we lost to Spain the only time we played this year. Game time finally came and once again we marched into a packed stadium. We started slow and ended slow in the match but played great in the middle. The final result was a 9-9 draw. After being down 5-3 at half we had a 9-6 lead late in the match, but let it slip away. Spain is a good team and although I feel we should have won, Kami Craig was the star of the day with four goals and several earned exclusions. Our goalie Betsey Armstrong also had a good day with 11 saves. The final games of bracket play will be Friday to determine the seeds. At this point we could be anywhere 1-3. China is automatically the 4 seed based on win loss record and other criteria.
After the game we had a long dinner with much discussion about the positives and negatives of the game. We then decided to head back to the room and watch the game in its entirety. Sometimes it is good to do that to see if your general impressions about the game are correct. You can't pause, slow motion, and replay in live time. Once the game had finished it was about 1 a.m. and that was all anyone had left in the tank. We called it a night and went to bed. Have a good Thursday.
Hi Everyone -
As I do every day, I hope you are all well. Our ninth day was mostly uneventful from a spectator’s point of view, but filled with coaching duties. If you read the previous email you might remember that I said we were up the previous night after our first game watching video until about 1 a.m. It was right back to video in the morning. We had our first team video session at 10:15 a.m. Afterwards we immediately headed out for our first training of the day from 12-1 p.m. at the Eton Manor pool. These are the five training pools for aquatics sports I described previously. Adam and I had to get in to ensure there were enough bodies to run the drills he had planned.
When practice was complete it was back to the village for lunch at the outdoor BBQ spot and then back to the room to watch men's water polo on TV. We missed the first exciting game of the day between Hungary and Montenegro which saw Montenegro upset the reigning Olympic Champions 11-10. We settled in just in time to watch Greece and Italy play to a 7-7 draw. In the bracket games or pool play there is no overtime. Teams receive 3 points for a win, 1 for a tie, and 0 for a loss. At the end of the pool play teams are ranked based on their points. If two teams are tied in points they use head to head to determine the higher seed. in the advancement games that follow the pool play there must be a result. If the match is tied after regulation there are two 3 minute overtime periods. If the match is still tied after overtime their is a penalty shootout with five shooters from each team. Back to Greece-Italy: I think Greece is a very good team and has the potential to cause some disruption in the brackets. They qualified by bringing back many of the players that finished on the fourth place team in Athens 2004. They are good players with a lot of experience.
Following the water polo game I was able to watch a good portion of the men's volleyball match versus Germany. That is one of the teams I work hard to keep tabs on since there are two Anteaters on the squad, David Smith and Brian Thornton, and one of my best friends, John Speraw, on the coaching staff. I have been fortunate enough to spend a little time chatting with each one at some point throughout our Olympic stay. As most of you know they are all great men. I took a 20 minute viewing break to watch video with the D team. This is the group of defenders we have on the team Elsie Windes, Jessica Steffens, and Mel Seidemann. We had to keep it short because we had one more video session as a team and I didn't want them to be on video overload. After the session I watched a bit more volleyball. It was well under control when we headed for our final video session of the day.
We headed straight our last training of the day after video from 8-9 p.m. and then back to the village. The big excitement of the day came when I discovered I had left my swim suit, which they call a costume in Europe, at the pool. We decided to walk back to Eton Manor and took a path we hadn't been on yet. We walked by the basketball stadium, field hockey pitch, and the indoor cycling race track. Along our walk we saw the giant double sided screen Samsung has set up in Olympic Park. There is a lawn on each side for people to relax and enjoy whatever is playing. The weather has been perfect for this type of thing. For all the talk I heard about rain there has barely been any. There is a river that runs down the center of the park. There aren't any boats because of safety concerns, but there is a beautiful path on either side with flowers and well-manicured gardens that are open to anyone in the park who wishes to enjoy it. At the far end of the park from the water polo venue near the field hockey stadium there is an amphitheater where live music plays in the evening. As we walked by there was some reggae playing and on the way back some country. Again there is a grass area for people to hang out and listen. I really like how they made the park a place where people can hang out and enjoy time with friends and family. They don't have to watch the events and feel the need to leave immediately.
To make a long story short we found our way and retrieved the suit. It can be challenging to get around. There is security everywhere with multiple check points and varying levels of access depending on your accreditation. After our return we ate dinner and headed back to the room. I made a call to Natalie on Skype and headed to bed.
Thanks again for all the love and support. There will be more to tell tomorrow. Have a great day.
Hi Everyone -
I hope all is well and you had a good weekend. I had to look what day it was yesterday. Most days are the same when we travel. I can tell you the date and what game or training we have, but the actual day of the week becomes insignificant. We don't really have a weekend. The competition controls your schedule. Today lacked a great deal of excitement. We started our day with a video session at 10:30 a.m. A little refresher on the Hungarian team. We played them in four pre-Olympic games in the United States in early July so they weren't that far removed from the teams memory banks. Following video we had our only training session of the day at a new site called Becon Tree. An indoor training facility in a different part of London. The bus trip without traffic was 45 minutes. That is tough when you only have 60 minutes in the pool, but the bus ride is a good time for the players to spend some time in thought. Most put headphones on and slip off into their own world. All our bus trips are on the red double decker buses you see in the movies. They seem more narrow than a normal bus, but I think it is just because of the height. We got through our training and hopped back on the bus. Traffic wasn't so kind on the way home. It took about an hour and 15 minutes to get back to the village. Again, everyone just did their thing to pass the time. Adam and I looked at store names and street signs and found ways to make fun of each other twisting their names. Just because we are the coaches that doesn't mean we are always behaving like adults. In reality we are actually some of the lucky ones when it comes to travel to and from training and our competition venue. Some sports, such as men's and women's volleyball, have bus rides as long as two and a half hours to get to their matches. That's every game. Our normal bus ride is 10 -15 minutes. We don't even have to leave the Olympic Park.
When we got back Adam and I rushed to our room to watch the live feed of the Hungary-Serbia men's water polo match. I am not sure if I mentioned it before, but there is a live feed from every venue. We can watch any sport we want. The Olympic Broadcast Service (OBS) has a tremendous staff and great camera shots for every sport. This is the greatest time to watch water polo. First of all, it is actually on TV, and secondly the various angles on the cage and field of play along with the slow motion replays are incredible. If we had this all the time it would make the sport much more exciting for spectators. Everyone always asks, "What goes on underwater?" The OBS gives you a regular look throughout the match. The Hungary-Serbia match was exciting for a while, but the younger Serbian team took control and won easily 14-10. There was some incredible shooting.
After a late lunch/early dinner we had a team meeting to pump the girls up for our first game. We also went over the game protocol for the day so the girls know what to expect. The Olympics has a specific routine because of media and this was our first time going through it. After the game we turned on the USA men's water polo opening game versus Montenegro. It was a very exciting opening match that featured outstanding goalie play by one of my longtime friends and former roommate Merrill Moses. There was also a little Anteater sprinkled on the win with outstanding play from three of my best friends Jeff Powers, Ryan Bailey, and Tim Hutten. I was proud of them for their contributions and excited to see Team USA succeed. The U.S. team won the match 8-7 and secured an important bracket win on the first day of competition. When the match was over we turned on the swimming finals and watched the 4 x 100 freestyle relay. It was a great race. The U.S. led after the third leg, but France's Yannick Agnel overtook us in the final leg to secure a gold medal. There is no shame in that. He is arguably the best sprint freestyler in the world.
It was time for bed once the swimming concluded. First, I made a Skype call home to my lovely fiancé. She was out shopping for Bridesmaid dresses so it didn't last long, but it was great to hear her voice. We have internet access in all the rooms here. That is a great convenience for all the athletes. There are so many things they can use to contact their loved ones while spending very little money.
The eighth day wasn't much different. We had an early bus to the competition for our morning warm up. I stopped by the hut outside our building that serves to go food and coffee. Besides the main cafeteria and BBQ place I have mentioned before there are several huts set up around the village manned by the food services staff. They have yogurt with granola, various fruits, muffins, some vegetables, and sandwiches in the afternoon.
They also serve several types of coffee. It is the village café. I am not a coffee drinker, but I know they don't have any of those fancy drinks that are chilled or have caramel or pumpkin in them. They do have tea though. I have been eating breakfast there most days. I am not in need of the all you can eat breakfast on a daily basis. The girls have a land based warm up they do for 20-30 minutes with our strength coach before hoping in the water, and then they are on their own. At this stage they should know what they need to get prepared. After training we headed back to the village. I walked back through Olympic Park and then headed into the village gym for a little workout. They have a strength training facility on site for athletes and staff to use. It is sponsored by Technogym, and is probably a little small to handle the peak hours. Many teams use it for their warm up or for sustaining their strength throughout long competitions. There is a ton of cardio equipment. There are also a lot of coaches in their trying to stay occupied. The Olympic Games can have a lot of down time for staff depending on your role. The athletes are maximizing rest in most cases, but the staff needs something else to do besides sit around and let their anxiety build. I put in some time on the cardio equipment and then headed to my usual spot for lunch. After lunch the staff settled down in front of the TV to watch the first two women's matches of the day. Spain versus China, which was dominated by Spain, ended with a 10-6 result, and Australia versus Italy which the Australians won 10-8.
When these games were over it was time to get ready for our match. Everyone showered and got on our staff gear. In water polo all staff members sitting on the bench are required to wear matching outfits. Our team leader and videographer usually follow suit in order to look official. They made me tuck in my shirt which I am not accustomed to while coaching, but in retrospect I thought it looked fine. We had a final team meeting to prepare tactically and then headed over to the venue. Just after our arrival the third game of the day between Russia and Great Britain began. It turned out to be a pretty exciting game which was won by the Russian team 7-6. The British crowd was amazing. You can tell there are a lot of people who don't know anything about water polo, but they never stop cheering - all 6,000 of them. After the completion of that game we had 20 minutes before the showdown between USA and Hungary. You try to sell your players on the fact that this is just another water polo tournament, which it is, but you can't hide the fact that is BIGGER. The media coverage and build up, the public interest, and the professional look of the venue. There must be 100 separate pictures of the Olympic Rings to remind you where you are. After watching the other games of the day you just know there is going to be nervous energy. They have played water polo thousands of times, but never like this.
As expected the game was tightly contested. We were ahead for most of the game, but our lead varied from 1 to 3 goals. There was a lot of good offense and a lot less good defense. The Hungarians were fired up and they are an explosive bunch. They played with passion and never stopped coming after us. We showed great composure and found a way to win the game in the end 14-13. Especially because we finished the game with only seven field players, losing three to major fouls. Maggie Steffens, the youngest member of Team USA at 19, finished the game with seven goals. This tied the Olympic record for one player set by a Dutch player in the 2008 gold medal match. She brought incredible energy to the match and never backed down from any situation once the first whistle blew to start the match. Courtney Mathewson notched four goals of her own with three coming at big moments in the fourth quarter. All in all it was great first win, but we can be better.
Following the game the girls had a half hour to visit with their families. Mine isn't here for a few more days so I mingled with everyone. One of my best friends Genai Kerr, who was a teammate at UCI and on the 2004 Olympic Team, showed up to cheer on the USA teams. It was great to spend a few minutes with him. He is one of the best people I know. He is as selfless and kind as a human can be. And he is one of Team USA's biggest fans. I am a lucky man to have him as my friend. After enough time had passed we had a short team meeting and Adam and I walked back to the village. We ate dinner in the cafeteria and then spent a few hours looking at video and talking about the game. We finally called it quits a few hours later at 1 a.m.
Thanks to everyone who sent emails of support and congratulations. It means a lot to me and everyone else. Our next game is scheduled for Wednesday at 6:20 p.m. versus Spain. That is 10:20 a.m. in California. Keep cheering for Team USA and watch the game if you can. I'll keep you updated.
Hi Again Everyone -
Our day 5 was the official beginning of the Olympic Games marked by the opening ceremony. As I said before only one staff member was aloud to go from our entire National Governing Body (NGB) which is USA Water Polo.
Adam, our head coach joined the team. It was the logical choice as the entire men's staff had the honor of attending in previous Olympic Games.
It was also the right choice because he earned the right to be there. He has been there everyday since the process began in 2009 working through the more challenging times and enjoying the successes with all of these women.
We started the day with a morning training session at Eton Manor. This is a row of 5 tented training pools set up side by side for all aquatics athletes to prepare for competition. All pools are temporary pools made by Mirtha, but that is the norm these days. They are nicer than the permanent pools and they will by taken apart and resold for later use at another site. The middle three pools are for swimming, span 50 meters, and are equip with lane lines and flags. The outside pools are 33 Meters with one set up for water polo with goals and the other set up for synchronized swimming with all necessary pieces. There are 20 different water polo teams here so as you can imagine it is quite a chore to find two one hour training sessions for each team. That is why there are several training facilities for water polo alone including the competition and warm up pools. The field players did some swim conditioning while the goalies did some leg work and shooting drills. After the conditioning the athletes had some shooting time. I got in to help provide field blocking assistance. I took one in the face from one of our best shooters Courtney Mathewson. Since the Russian and Italian coaches were watching I had to pretend like it didn't hurt. I cried later when I got back to my room. She throws hard! After training we headed back to the village for some food and a quick nap before a long day.
At 2:30 PM Heather Moody, Jen Adams (our team leader and a graduate of UCI), and I headed across town on the tube to meet our gracious sponsors for the evening, Dwight and Julie, at their hotel near Hyde Park. Hyde Park is the Central Park of London. The tube system here is incredible.
It's much like New York City if you've been there. There are 10-15 different lines that will take you anywhere in the city. It takes about 1 hour 20 minutes to get from extreme east to extreme west. After a few minutes visiting and pin trading with Dwight and Julie's children, Jackson and Devin, we were back across town where we came from to enter Olympic Park to watch the opening ceremony. We got off the tube at Stratford station. This is the closest station to the main entrance of Olympic Park.
There is a strategically placed mall complete with hotels, sponsor shops, restaurants, beer gardens, etc. I am sure a few pounds will be made in that place. The mall was shut down in anticipation of the heavy foot traffic from the 80,000 people attending the opening ceremony. The volunteers herded in to the security center like cattle. No one without an opening ceremonies ticket was even allowed into the mall. After we cleared the security area we joined the masses in the food court for a boxed sandwich and a flap jack. (For those who don't know, and I didn't until 3 days ago, a flap jack in Great Britain is like a granola bar with oats and syrup holding it together.) Then it was time to head in to the stadium for the event.
Heather Moody and l sat together in second tier of the B section. The others were in a separate area. When we entered the stadium the scene on the field was a old English village. My guess would be late 1600's. There were dirt roads, several fenced in pastures, and a stone one room house in the middle with a smoking chimney. There was a large green hill on the end closest to us with a single tree coming out of the top. It was like something out of Braveheart. Each seat had a removable black box in front of it with an electric cord coming from the bottom which ended up being the life blood of the continuous light show that was part of the ceremonies from start to finish.
As we waited for the start of the event several massive clouds moved across the stadium controlled by people holding ropes underneath like the balloons in the Macy's Day Parade on New Years Day. Others herded in live stock such as sheep and cows to roam the pastures. More and more people started migrating into the fields and games started up in multiple areas.
Soccer, cricket, and the game where you everyone holds a ribbon attached to a pole in the center and goes around in a circle. I've seen it in the movies, but I never played. Feel free to look it up and let me know what it is called. A pre-ceremony MC addressed the crowd to explain how we would have an interactive role in various parts of the show using our black box. When instructed we would wave it in various patterns to assist the lighting effects. After the MC was finished a British folk star sang a few songs from the top of the green hill and then the show began. There were several parts, and as this entry is already long I will try to sum them up as simply as possible.
The title of the Opening ceremony was Isles of Wonder Directed by Danny Boyle.
First came the countdown which culminated with the ringing of the bell.
Apparently the largest harmonically tuned bell in the world. Afterward British army jets with red, white, and blue smoke flew overhead.
Green and Pleasant Land
This was song and performance that celebrated the country side that once existed. They utilized the preexisting set for the backdrop. They had songs that represented each of the four countries that make up the United Kingdom. Scotland, England, Ireland, and Wales.
This segment celebrated Britain as the birth place of the industrial revolution. They simulated political upheaval and cultural change as people poured out from everywhere, including under the tree on top of the hill. They transformed the set in front of your eyes as smoke stacks came out of the ground, and, in an organized fashion, the people removed the lawn and pieces of the countryside until it became an industrial center.
The workers built medal rings that were eventually raised to form the Olympic Rings.
Happy and Glorious
The Queen was introduced to the audience in this segment. They ran a skit on the huge TV screens around the stadium with her majesty and Daniel Craig (the current James Bond). Two helicopters them flew overhead and parachutists jumped out. Based on the skit these were supposed to be the Queen and James Bond.
Second to the Right, and Straight on till Morning
This piece celebrated what they called two of Britain's crowning achievements: It's amazing body of children's literature and the national health service. The National Health Service portion was first and was a routine with hundreds of hospital beds and performers dressed in nurse and doctor costumes. They danced and made patterns in the center of the stadium to honor the creation and success of the national health service.
Truthfully, seeing all of those hospital beds made me a little nauseous.
The second part celebrated several heroes and villains from children's literature. There were gigantic artistic interpretations of Captain James Hook, Cruella de Vil, Mary Poppins, Voldemort, and Peter Pan flew overhead.
The London Symphony Orchestra led by Sir Simon Rattle played a tribute to Chariots of Fire, the film most associated with the Olympic Games, while the monitors showed a comical video with the actor who plays Mr. Bean. I don't know his name, but he makes me laugh.
Frankie and June say... Thanks Tim
In this portion they celebrated British pop culture over the past several decades. They had a giant blow up cube in the center of the stadium which had a screen on each face. This screen displayed video of various pop artists. There were live dance performers on the stadium floor which performed routines to songs from every decade. The light sequence from the black boxes I mentioned previously was fantastic during this part. One thing I remember specifically was that it looked as if gigantic dancing silhouettes were dancing across the stands on the opposite side of us. I am sure they were seeing the same thing. At the end they paid tribute to Briton Tim Berners-Lee for his invention, the world wide web.
Abide With Me
This segment was an interpretive dance accompanied by a hymn called Abide with Me. This song was performed by Emeli Sandé and the dance was choreographed by Akram Khan. He also performed as the lead with the dancers. The dance looked like mixed martial arts to me, but I liked it.
This was the parade of athletes into the ceremony. The real stars of the show were finally here. Greece went first because they are celebrated as the birthplace of the the modern games. They were followed by 200 + countries. It was cool to see everyone march in representing their country, but let me tell you there are a lot of countries that start with N. Each country carried in their flag and handed it to a representative who then placed it in the ground on the green hill I mentioned earlier.
The U.S. was sixth from last. It was awesome to see how many athletes we had and how well received they were. Everyone from all the countries try to get near the edge so they can wave to the crowd and cameras. They try to get everyone to stay uniform, but there is no chance that is happening. This is their moment and they deserve it for all the hours they have put forth to be the best at what they do. Once the athletes spread out we could make out the girls. When you coach you get used to the mannerisms and look of your players. As I have learned from the many jokes made at my expense by my UCI and national team athletes they learn your mannerisms and looks as well. I couldn't see their faces, but I could imagine their faces by their body language. I read a quote the other day that said, "Body language doesn't talk, it screams." I could tell they were ecstatic. The last team to enter was Great Britain. There were fireworks shooting off overhead and confetti firing into the stadium. The crowd was so proud and excited for its athletes. That is always special to hear. No medals had been handed out, but they were acknowledging the effort and sacrifice it had taken to be there, and letting their athletes know they were behind them 100%. The light boxes across the stadium produced a collage of the flags of all countries represented in the Olympic Games and then Olympic Rings all across the stadium.
A performance celebrating the bicycle. That was a major theme that also showed up in the welcoming ceremony as I mentioned before. This was another light spectacular. The stadium seating was only mildly lit. There were bicycles everywhere. Every rider had a set of glowing blue wings. The perfect description is the movie Abyss. The riders looked like the creatures and the stadium looked like their spaceship when it was underwater glowing blue. If you don't know what I am talking about you'll have to watch. Great movie! Ahead of its time.
Let The Games Begin
This is the official opening of the Olympic Games. There were speeches brilliantly delivered by the Chair of the Organizing Committee and President of the International Olympic Committee (This was the better of the two). The speeches urged participants to uphold the Olympic ideals and be ambassadors for peace throughout the world. They also celebrated the many volunteers who give their time to the Olympic Movement. The volunteers are the true heroes of the Olympic games. I continue to be impressed by their tireless work and positive attitudes on a daily basis. Afterwords the Olympic Flag was raised while the anthem played. A representative athlete, coach, and referee gave oaths on behalf of all representatives and then the Queen officially declared the Games open. Then the first set of fireworks shot across the stadium.
There is a Light That Never Goes Out
The lighting of the Olympic Cauldron was quite spectacular. After the torch entered the stadium and was taken for a lap around the outside it was used to light the Cauldron. Each team brought a piece of the Cauldron in with them which was then placed in a structure in the center of the stadium. When the structure was first lit it was a ring of fire. Then the pieces slowly started to lift and it became until the outside ring came together to form the Cauldron. It was very cool. Hopefully the pictures will tell the story better. After the Cauldron was officially lit and raised fireworks shot horizontally across the stadium. The also went off along the river outside, but we didn't get to see those as seen on TV. It was accompanied by a light show on the black boxes.
And in the End...
Sir Paul McCartney finished off the show with a few musical numbers. On his second song, Hey Jude, the crowd started leaving to beat the rush. It was probably the first time people have walked out when Paul McCartney was playing music. Heather and I headed out the gate with the mob. It probably took an hour to get back on a walk that usually lasts 20 minutes. I ran into Aaron Peirsol on the way out and chatted with him for a few minutes. I hadn't seen him in many years. He is just at the Games to watch races and do some interviews. He is a great guy. I always thought he would be a good water polo player. We got back to our room about 2 a.m. and went straight to bed.
That was a long day.
The sixth day put us back on track. We got back to the grind with a 4 quarter scrimmage against the Australians. The girls were tired from all the walking, but they looked good and handled the Australians physical play while executing their fundamentals and tactics. After we returned to the village for a meal and short rest before heading to the UEL (University of East London) for a weight training session. We took the tube as a group and played catch phrase while we went. I can't recall if I mentioned it before but the organizing committee gave each participant an unlimited tube pass for the duration of the games. We arrived just after the basketball team had left. UEL was rented by the USOC to be our base of training and operations away from the village. Unfortunately they don't have a pool or we would train there. The team lifted while Adam and I came up with a conditioning oriented basketball shooting contest. If the basketball guys were still around I am not sure if my performance and athletic ability on land would have given them a good laugh or made them feel ill. It was pretty bad. Needless to say I don't think there is a place for me on any basketball team at the Olympics.
After the weight session the girls arrived to the TV just in time to watch Ryan Lochte win the first US gold medal in the 400 IM. I love how excited the athletes and staff get for each other. Team USA is a very cool thing!
After the race we ate dinner at the UEL and the team headed back for bed.
My day didn't finish there. I had the exploration bug and decided to take the tube to the P&G house near London Bridge and the Borough Market.
After 30 minutes, Chris Lee, Jen Adams, and I arrived at the house. What an amazing service Procter and Gamble offers to the friends and family of the U.S. athletes and staff. This a huge secure facility with food, drinks, TVs, couches, Internet, and even luxury services like massages, facials, makeovers, hair cuts, etc. I am curious if my sister and fiancé will make it to any of the games. They also have a man cave with pool tables and other games. There is a kids center as well. Something for everyone. They provide numerous other services to make the friends and families feel comfortable.
I didn't want to leave, but we had to get back. I hit my bed and I was asleep before I could count to ten. I still had a slight hangover from the Opening Ceremony.
Our games start up soon and I will do my best to keep you in the loop daily. Have a great weekend!
July 27, 2012
Hey Everyone -
I hope this email finds most of you enjoying a beautiful afternoon in California. We have just wrapped up another day in London. The last one before the Games are officially opened and the competition begins. Although that isn't technically true. Soccer has been going on for a few days now. Our day had a late start with the first training beginning at 10:30 a.m. My fellow assistant Heather Moody and I had breakfast together and walked over to the pool through Olympic Park. The walk takes about 30 minutes because there isn't a direct path to the pool once inside the park. Security forces you to walk around because we don't have the correct credentials. If you can imagine wanting to get to the middle of a track, but having to walk half way around it first. I can use the exercise and have tried to make a regular habit of walking to and from the pool. I won't be able to do that once the games begin because I will need to be with the team. After training I walked back with our video analyst Chris Lee. We stopped at the same BBQ place we had eaten the day before for a steak wrap and some ice cream. They also have these things that are like two skinny waffles held together with caramel.
The excitement of the afternoon was the welcome ceremony put on
by our British hosts. They marched us into the international zone
surrounded by many young people dressed in colorful outfits similar
to court jesters. They put on various interpretive performances to
music by Queen including I Want To Ride My Bicycle and We Are The
Champions. The best way to describe it is to have you watch the
scene in The Wizard of Oz where they welcome Dorothy to
Munchkinland. The same colors and craziness with tall people. I'll
probably have nightmares tonight. There was mild acrobatics and
some call and response acrobatics. The interesting part was that
you were part of the stage. The performance was different and
unique for each person dependent on your vantage point. After the
opening routines there were flag raising ceremonies and national
anthems for Chad, Jamaica, Madagascar, Grenada, and the United
States. Following the flag ceremony there was a final artistic
performance and we were marched back into the secure village.
According to the MC they performed 56 separate ceremonies
for the various countries competing. Afterwards we took some pictures by the Olympic rings in the central park of the village.
Following the welcoming ceremony the team had a session with our sports psychologist Peter where the girls read letters they had written to the team in March out load. There was some amazing writing and words spoken by these women. It was just one of many well planned team building experiences crafted by Peter and Adam to bring the team together. What was said is just for the group, but know that the team is ready and it almost hurts to have to wait any longer for the games to begin.
We finished off the day with our final training. I got my big chance in the Olympic pool because we had the whole pool and needed an extra body to play 6 on 6. It is a little shallow, but a beautiful pool. Two meters deep is okay for the women, but it will be a factor in the men's game. Croatia's center is 6'10" so his whole head will be out. There are lines that span the width of the pool to mark the 2M and 5M line that light up red and yellow. I'll be interested to see what the people think about that watching the games on TV and if it will enhance the experience in anyway.
After the practice the girls got an extra special treat as the men's basketball team was visiting the village. They stay at a hotel off site. When you see how the mob swarms them you would understand. When the guys got their food in the cafeteria they sat down with the girls to eat. You could tell that made the girls feel special and that made me happy.
It's time for bed. Tomorrow is a long day. I miss you all and look forward to hearing from you. Have a great weekend.
July 25, 2012
Hey Everyone -
I hope you are all doing well. I know some of you saw the picture from outfitting for the opening ceremony since I heard a few comments from the peanut gallery. I am not getting to walk in the opening ceremony. We have tickets to sit in the stands and watch. I will get some pictures from there
if I can.
Our first travel day was long. When we arrived to LAX Jack Johnson was checking into his flight at the same time with his wife and kids. The girls got to talk with him for a while. We flew in with Misty May and Kerri Walsh. After landing it was a 2 hour bus ride from the airport to the village. Thetraffic is a bit crazy and there is no direct freeway access. It is farfaster to take the tube. We got to the village and checked in, dropped our bags in the rooms, ate, and then headed to processing. This is a separate site where the athletes and coaches receive their official gear from various sponsors. This included the opening and closing ceremony gear from Ralph Lauren. They had professional stylists there to help make sure everything fit and then they tailored it and delivered it to the village. The opening ceremony gear will never be worn as we aren't allowed to walk. The athletes received 96 seperate pieces of clothing. It was incredible how much stuff they got. The coaches got about 30 pieces in all. That is still a ton of stuff. Procter and Gamble also hooked everyone up with a bag full of personal hygiene products. I wish I wouldn't have spent the time packing any bathroom supplies. I didn't need anything and could have saved the room in my bags for other stuff. Procter and Gamble also gave $1,000 gift certificates to each of the athletes mothers to help with travel costs. Four hours later the girls had finally tried on every piece of clothing and we got back to the village for bed time.
The second day was business as usual. We went to the USA training facility at a university in London to lift weights and then took the tube to the pool for training. We had a long gap in the day which Chris Lee and I spent touring the Olympic Park and village. Afterwards we headed to our second training. The village is very nice. There are several parks throughout, an international zone with shops, a massive dining hall with food from all over the world (It is quite a sight to see all of the people in that place. McDonalds may still be the favorite option.), athlete and staff lounges, a strength training facility, etc. It's the same as always: An athlete utopia with a population of about 15,000. I moved into my own room at the end of the day, Most people think the village is lavish, but it is pretty simple in the rooms. There is no AC (and it has been hot by British standards), single beds, one TV with Olympic venue stations, and one bathroom for our four staff. The comforters on the beds are very cool. One side has London 2012 and the other side has a picture of each sport with the official symbol.
The third day was much of the same. We trained twice and had a good amount of rest in the middle of the day. My favorite part of the day was watching the Serbian men shoot during their morning training. They are incredible! I hit up the gym for a quick workout and had my first meal at the outdoor BBQ
area in the village. This is separate from the dining hall. They serve BBQ sandwiches and have tents with treats from from various areas of England, Scotland, Ireland, and Wales. It was a good change. All you can eat can be tough to manage. We scrimmaged Australia and the girls looked great. It doesn't mean anything at this point, but I know they are ready and I was impressed at how easily they acclimated. We walked home from our second training through 80,000 people who had bought tickets to view a dress rehearsal of the opening ceremony. It made it all seem much more real. The Olympic Park olds various venues. Water polo has its own pool and signage throughout the park. That is good for the sport. We often fall under the aquatic center which most people associate with swimming. There are so many volunteers ushering people all over the place. It takes a lot of selfless people to make the Olympic work. I hope they all feel special to be a part of it. If I go 5 minutes without saying thank you that is probably too long. Everyone is so polite, and it definitely makes it easy being able to speak
English to everyone. The volunteer of the day goes to the man who was responsible for control of the drinking fountains. There were six drinking fountains and a line of at least 100 people. There was one line and as a fountain would open the man would send the next in line to the fountain. Ithink I would just go thirsty. I spent the evening with Adam chatting and people watching in the dining hall. You see many recognizable athletes and even more that are probably equally amazing, but can't be recognized because of the popularity of their sport. I respect the abilities of the popular athletes but don't believe in bothering or smothering them. They handle all the photos and hand shakes very well. Yesterday Andy Murray was trying to get some food and it took him 15 minutes before there was a break in he action. He was so skinny his body was probably eating itself, but he handled it with class.
It is way past bed time now, but I wanted to share some things with everyone and let you know that I am thinking of you. I hope to start being more regular with my messages. Please forward them on to anyone you might think is interested. Have a great night and I'll check in soon.
July 20, 2012
FEELING LUCKY IN LAS VEGAS
Recently, the U.S. women’s water polo team was treated to a trip to Las Vegas which featured not only a trip to the Cirque du Soleil show O, but a stop at the USA men’s basketball practice.
The cast of O made a dramatic entrance from below the stage and stood before us, not in costume, but in water polo gear. The cast might be incorporating some water polo moves into their performance so the ladies joined cast in the pool for a workout and game. The set was amazing and it was really interesting to see how the pool and the props work.
The trip kept getting better as we stopped by the USA men’s basketball practice. Head coach Mike Krzyzewski addressed the team and urged us to seize the feeling of the Olympics. He said there is a feeling of inspiration and deep passion that is embraced during the Olympics and that it is important to let that be part of our experience.
After Coach K’s talk, LeBron James was the first player to come by and say hi to the team. The girls brought along gifts for the guys and presented LeBron with his very own suit (the brief version that our men’s team wears) which said Polo King across the back side. He quickly tucked it under his shooting shirt and after saying goodbye casually walked back over to his teammates. The guys were curious about his conversation with the team so five or six guys crowded around. LeBron whipped out his new suit and the guys were like bowling pins falling to the ground with laughter. They all came running over to see if we had suits for them as well. Carmelo Anthony’s said New York and there was one that said Las Vegas Baller, but I’m not sure who got that one.
I had a nice conversation with Chris Paul and dared him to wear his suit at the hotel pool, but he didn’t think that was going to happen. I guarantee you, while they might not admit it, they all tried them on and stood in front of the mirror.
I feel very lucky to have had that experience and as we prepare in the final days leading up to the Opening Ceremonies, I’m getting more excited and hope you are too. Don’t forget to follow my team as well as all of the UCI athletes and coaches on ucirvinesports.com throughout the Games. The UCI Olympic website will debut on Monday, July 23 with participant bios, competition schedules, videos, blogs and much more.
For information on the UCI/Scott Brooks Golf Tournament, please click here.