Monday, August 2, 2004:
The flight from San Francisco to Frankfurt seemed to go quickly, but by the time we had arrived,
everyone was hungry. Moving through the airport it became clear that we were no longer in the
America as there were smokers everywhere. After choosing not to eat at a few restaurants because of
the smell of smoke, we surprisingly headed to the McDonalds that was, for the most part, smoke-free.
After another 3-hour flight from Frankfurt we are here in Athens. It is only around 5pm and with an Inability to get much sleep (even after taking two Ambien), the trip was actually bearable. A member of the USA delegation met us at the baggage claim. Before retrieving our bags, we received our accreditation (the "holy grail" of the Olympics, without it you can do nothing and go nowhere). Thankfully, once we arrived in Athens we moved through the airport quite quickly, and after receiving our luggage, we were herded to the buses.
I cannot tell you how long the drive from the airport actually was, or what the city looked like because the bus lulled me to sleep.
The arrival at the village was uneventful which was good, as I do not think that any of us were ready for much more than that. Upon initial reaction the village is huge possibly larger than the village in Sydney. It looks nice and from what I hear not all of the landscaping is finished yet. I am pleasantly surprised.
After getting a little settled we had a 15-minute walk to the pool at Dekalia, which is the military base right next to the village. The pool was nice and looked like it was built quite recently. This is not the competition pool, though. After a quick swim (about 35 minutes), we wandered through the village (coming across a number of stray dogs) to the dining hall, which is massive. Again, I think it might be larger than Sydney's. I unfortunately did not carry my camera today, as I was more preoccupied with getting through the afternoon, so I could go to sleep as soon as possible.
Tuesday, August 3, 2004:
Well, I got almost a full night's sleep, and was up at around 6:30am this morning. Quietly walking
out of my room, making sure not to wake my roommate Nate Dusing, I found Aaron Peirsol sitting on the
balcony reading, so that is where I joined him. It was really pleasant outside this morning. The
temperature was probably in the mid-60's with a light breeze. Not to mention the great view from our
balcony. I was able to relax on the patio for about 30 minutes before we had to head to breakfast.
At around 8am we left on a bus for U.S.O.C. uniforming at the American College of Greece. About a 20 to 30 minute bus ride, the college sort of sits hidden away in a residential part of Athens. When we arrived we had an hour briefing, where we were shown videos with messages from celebrities and the president, and also listened to staff tell us about important (or so they thought) items we needed to know about.
From there it was to the pool, which was a nice facility. Just a single 50-meter pool, it was a little crowded. I think, though, that we had just been spoiled with our set-up in Palo Alto. After an hour and a 1/2 workout, it was lunch and then time for the actual uniforming. The uniforming took about 2 hours, and we got all sorts of apparel, ranging from hats, shoes, jackets, vests, sandals, t-shirts, polo-shirts, socks, and probably 3 or 4 sets of warm-ups. It was quite an interesting arrangement of clothing sort of a mix of new technology for keeping us cool in the heat, with a little bit of a retro flare. There are some absolutely hideous items I am not sure who designed some of it. I shipped most of the stuff directly home (the U.S.O.C. was paying for shipping, but only the slow boat .meaning we should get in the US sometime in October). I only kept with me the outfitting that I was required to have, like the closing ceremonies gear, the shoes, and the award sweats.
When everyone was finished with outfitting, we had a team picture around 2:30pm. Just imagine yourself in 90+ temperatures with close to 100% humidity in a warm-up jacket and pants. Not enjoyable at all, but it only lasted about 10 minutes, then we quickly stripped it all off. We headed back to the village shortly after.
Wednesday, August 4, 2004:
This morning we had to be out at the buses by around 8:30am to head to the airport for our flight to
Mallorca, Spain. I was hoping to be able to "sleep" in with no practice, but I was awake at around
6:30am. Not a big deal considering that many others were up 5am and earlier.
Right now, we are on our charter from Athens to Mallorca. This is the first time I have ever flown on a charter flight, and unfortunately it is not that glamorous. Unlike the planes that NBA and NFL teams fly on, ours has close to no legroom. Being the only group on the plane is pretty cool though. We now have a week in Mallorca for training before we head back to Athens before the games start.
We arrived in Mallorca at around 1:30pm local time, and had a 45 minute wait for our luggage. When it did arrive, it was soaked. There apparently was a storm, and not many bags stayed dry all of my clothes for the week were dripping wet.
After getting our bags, we quickly moved to the buses and took the 30-minute bus ride to our "5-star" hotel. Apparently, in Europe (as I have noticed during previous trips), 5-star does not always mean luxurious in American terms. I, luckily, have my own room, but many found their rooms with two beds pushed together to form one I guess that is a double?
The view from the hotel is gorgeous. I can overlook the water from my room. I had originally thought that Mallorca was on the southern coast of Spain, but it is an island off of the coast of Spain. It is a big European tourist destination.
We are training at a number of pools, it seems, but the one we trained at yesterday was very nice. It was the host to the 1999 World University Games. 2x50-meter pools and a 25-meter diving well. The German team is also on the island training, but we have made it so that they never cross our paths.
Thursday, August 5, 2004:
What an uneventful day it was. I was up around 6am this morning, and chose to stay in bed to watch
television for a while. At 7:45am, it was time to head over to the pool. Again that was uneventful.
After workout I returned to the hotel for some breakfast, which is quite good. It is by far the best meal served to us during the day. After breakfast it was up to the team room to watch a little bit of the intellectually stimulating movie The Predator. After which, I had a massage scheduled. With the large amounts of walking, your body can really start to feel tired, and the massages help to ease those aching muscles.
The rest of the day was spent laying in bed and taking a nap. Sorry to disappoint everyone, but that is what training camp is rest and relaxation. Fortunately we have four English channels on television, though there is certainly only so long that you can watch CNN, and I reached that point five hours ago when the stories began repeating themselves.
Friday, August 6, 2004:
This morning was what I have been waiting for. I was able to sleep in and though I did not sleep all
that late, being able to wake up without an alarm is such a good feeling for the body.
Breakfast was once again great this morning. I had a cup of coffee and it was some of the best that I have had in a while. After breakfast, I was able to just relax for a little while. I spent some time talking with Ian Crocker, as he checked his email on my computer. That is how I first heard his song and showed him the ESPN article.
We took some time this afternoon to go to the mall. Many of the other swimmers wanted to go shopping, but all that I needed was a phone card for my phone. USA Swimming had us purchase cell phone so that we could keep in touch in Athens, but they neglected to know the exact uses and charges for the phone. I received a phone call from Colleen the other day and it just ate my credit. I think that normally in Athens you get free incoming calls, but here in Spain, I got about 8 minutes into a phone call and the phone shut off. So, I had to get a new number for Spain just to be able to actually use this $150 phone with free incoming calls. That is a plus in other countries I can receive calls from anywhere for free.
After a short nap and a pretty stressful workout. I am not going to bore you with set details, so if you are really interested, email me. After practice it was straight off to the cathedral area. Gary Hall and myself wandered around for an hour or so. He was the photographer for the photos of me. There were many great little shops all along the sides of the streets. Though I bought nothing, it was certainly fun to take in the scenery and people watch. Then we stopped at a pizzeria (I know, why pizzeria?), but it was actually quite good. I had a nice cheese plate, and one of the best pizzas I have ever had. It was definitely fun to get out and be a tourist. We spend a lot of time cooped up in the hotel, and over at the pool.
There is more sight-seeing tomorrow, but I will save the details until then.
Saturday, August 7, 2004:
This morning started with a relaxing 3,500 meter practice. That was all that was relaxing about it.
Well, to be exact, I was relaxed, but the media that was no deck for media day was quite intense.
Unfortunately, not for me though. They were there to see Michael Phelps, who I happened to be
training with today, like every other day. I cannot imagine what Michael is going through with
all this attention, but it is pretty cool to see swimming so popular, whether it is just one person
Media day consisted of, for me, just a few autographs for local youngsters. Then I was relieved of my duties and headed back to the hotel for breakfast. After breakfast there was an outing to Majorica. A local faux-pearl shop (supposedly the Best fake pearls in the world), but I decline to say whether I went or not.
This afternoon was a trip to Valldemossa, a small town in the mountains of Mallorca. Despite all the hype, the town was nothing special. A very scenic place, but with just a few shops selling nothing original the shopping was boring. Not that I would have bought anything anyway. Then to top it off, dinner was lackluster. Really nothing to choose from, we had stale bread, ordinary pizza (I know but the other choices were not appetizing), Lenny Krayzelburg had raw steak just not a good experience. I did get some good pictures though, and I guess that is what matters on this day.
Sunday, August 8, 2004:
Usually Sunday is the day off, but not on this Sunday. With the swimming competition just around
the corner there are no days off, so I was up around 8am to head to the pool. I was one of about
six that were at the pool this morning.
The rest of the day was relaxing. I got an opportunity to take a nap, and return some emails. Seems to me that that is more like a normal day. This evening is when things got exciting. I will try to explain, but some things may possibly be inside jokes and others you may just have had to be there.
It started with dinner, not too exciting. The hotel kept up the trend of the uncooked meats, as the hamburgers they made were quite raw in the middle. From dinner, though, it was off to our team meeting, where after which, we had our skits.
The skits are a tradition (I do not know how old it is) where new team members (first time Olympians) get in groups and perform an original skit in front of the rest of the team. These skits tonight were downright hilarious. Mostly inside jokes, these skits poked fun at everything. From my hair loss, to Michael Phelps' quest for 7 medals, to Klete Keller's man boobs, to Haley Cope's edition of Playboy, to coaches Eddie Reese and Frank Busch for their pushups, and Richard Quick with those Stanford patches. I have pictures posted (you must read the captions to understand), but they do not do it justice. Sorry, but that is the best I can do.
Tuesday, August 10, 2004:
Well, I skipped a day. Could not be helped. I will catch you up though. Yesterday we had a
cheer meeting, but it was nothing new. We just went over some old cheers. So the .rookies.
could know them. I was expecting that we would have to make up some new ones, but that was not
the case. I am kind of happy about that, as I am not a good cheer maker.
We traveled back to Athens today. We started out quite early this morning (around 6:45 am), and were back in the village by about 3pm. A lot has changed in the week we were gone. Most importantly, this place is teeming with people. With the games beginning shortly, everyone has just about arrived. The dining hall looks a lot smaller with more people in the seats, not to mention that all the body heat has warmed it up. Grass has been planted where a lot of the dirt was, and it starting to look like its own bustling city just like Sydney did.
It is pretty cool. Tonight was our first chance to swim in the Olympic pool. I had a couple of pictures taken by proxy tonight (John Walker did the honors, as I had to swim), and those should be posted sometime overnight for you to see by the morning. The pool is quite shallow, but not too shallow.maybe about 2 meters deep. The stands are what surprised me. I was expecting Sydney like seating with room for 15,000, but that is not the case. It is even smaller than the U.S. Olympic Trials in Long Beach. I do not know the exact number, but I would guess in the 8,000 range.
Wednesday, August 11, 2004:
This morning started too early for me. I wanted to sleep in pretty badly, but needed to be on the
8am bus. Now you may say that at 25 years old, I can make my own decisions, but hey, when you have
a swim coach here, no matter how old you are, you follow directions.
I arrived at the pool not feeling real well, and was barely able to muster the strength to go about 1500 meters. That was it for the day though. I was worried that I was sick. After a much-needed nap, I checked in with the doctor, and we found that I was beginning to get an ear infection. With a few meds, and some Motrin to stop the aches and pains, it looks like we nipped the infection before it could get worse.
We had a team meeting where we discussed who our team nominee was for carrying the USA flag. The decision was made that since no swimmer had carried the flag since 1976, and that person was a three-time Olympian, we decided that our choice was also a three-time Olympian and the son of the last swimming flag-bearer.
Friday, August 13, 2004:
As we move closer to the start of the games, there is less and less happening of note. As a team,
we do less and less, and each of us is getting more and more rest. We seem to be playing a lot of
card games, watching movies, and just sitting around. Some would say it is boring, but that is the
life of getting ready to swim fast.
Yesterday marked the opening of the Olympic Games, and there were only six or eight swimmers who actually made the walk in the ceremonies. The rest of us relaxed, and sat by the television to watch it. It was actually quite boring if you ask me, but it is the opening ceremonies and cool to watch. I think most of us were asleep shortly after the U.S. walked into the stadium, and did not get to see the lighting of the flame.
Sunday, August 15, 2004:
Many have emailed saying that they miss my daily updates, and I am trying to stay on track with them,
but it is hard, as my first allegiance is to my swimming performance.
There has been some great swimming, and it has certainly gotten me quite excited for my races tomorrow. There have been upsets and heartbreak, but that is what the Olympics are all about.
I have seen Erik Vendt show what guts and determination are in his 400 meter IM, going from the seventh seed in finals, to racing back from fourth to win silver. It was certainly one of the toughest races I have ever seen anyone have.
In the women.s 400 IM, I witnessed another great race performed by Kaitlin Sandeno. Her swim in prelims was her best time, but from somewhere within she pulled an American record out, winning the silver medal with a best time by over five seconds. Then last night in the 400-meter freestyle, she pulled out a best time by almost two seconds to win bronze in the 400-meter freestyle. That is unheard of normally, but at the Olympics sometimes it just happens.
I saw Klete Keller race with the fastest 400 meter freestylers in the history of the world, and almost beat him at his own game.
Last night I watched Brendan Hansen graciously accept that on that day he was not the best in the world in the 100-meter Breaststroke. Some would say he deserved it, but it was obviously not to be.
Then I saw our 400-meter Freestyle Relay take bronze. Though, not swimming to expectations, they earned this medal, swimming from behind the entire race, and fighting their way on to the medal stand. Not giving up in the process.
So far these Games have been unlike any other. No one country has been dominant, and many have surprised the field. It is still the greatest sporting event the world has to offer, and the best always come to play.