August 20th, 2008
I have two words too sum up yesterdays final..GO USA!!!! In what was an exciting beam final Shawn Johnson finally got the gold medal she came to Beijing for! Thought the quality of the beam final was great. My voice is SO hoarse from cheering the U.S. girls on. Was right next to Shawn’s parents Terri and Doug when she won. They were so overcome with excitement that everyone around them was crying too! Nastia turned in a terrific routine for silver and the bronze was earned by Cheng Fei. We were celebrating up in the Team USA box when the men’s high bar final began. With six routines ahead of him Jon Horton decided that it was time to put up his best, so added elements to his routine that he has not competed before. It was a massive risk to take, especially since his typical routine would have earned him a bronze. With a determined look on his face and a pack of American fans screaming him on he went on to win the silver medal!!!! Given the success of the U.S. here in Beijing there was a huge party hosted by NBC. Needless to say I didn’t get home until 6am this morning. Finishd packing all of my stuff and thought I would post a final blog before heading back home this afternoon. I hope you have enjoyed my blog. I am amazed to see how many hits we’ve had since I’ve been in China (We were well over 5,000 this morning!). When I get home I am planning to write one final entry and then get some more photos uploaded. See you all soon!
August 19th, 2008
Woke up this morning to find two horses looking into my window. Don’t know if I mentioned it before, but the apartment I am staying in backs up to a stable. There are 15 horses back there and occasionally someone leaves the gait open. Must have happened again this morning because those two were pigging out on the grass behind our room! Spent most of the morning trying to get packed up. (Good call on the extra hockey bag Jake, it’s full!!!) Uploaded a couple of picture albums to the website. One has a few snapshots from Beijing and the other is some behind the scenes photos I’ve taken of the U.S. Team. Last night I realized that I have over 500 pictures from this trip. I’m thinking about buying one of those digital frames to display in the gym.
Heading into Beijing in about ten minutes for lunch at the NBC studios. Then it’s off to interview Ivana Hong at 5pm. Beam finals starts at six and I’m hoping to do a little more shopping before the night is over. Got word from an NBC Exec. that they are hosting an athlete party tonight. If it fits in I am planning on stopping in. Would love to meet Michal Phelps (he has been on the cover of every Chinese Newspaper since I got here). Realized that I didn’t get to read much about the U.S. since I’ve been here. If anyone reading this has saved newspapers or magazines about the Games and wants to get rid of them, let me know. I’d love to throw some of those into my scrapbook! Speaking of scrapbooking, my mother-in-law is hosting a get together this Friday and Saturday. If anyone wants to join me in scrapbooking at her house there is a link to her site under the links section. Off to enjoy my last day in China. Will write more tonight.
August 18th, 2008
So it’s just before midnight and I thought I would give you my opinion on women’s event finals today. It was one of the best bar finals I have seen. Usually gymnasts are so exhausted by this point in the competition that they are crashing and burning. In years past the winner has been the gymnast who can hang onto the bar! This year there was only one fall in the finals! All of the girls attacked their routines and each had slight mishaps (though most spectators wouldn’t even notice them). The two biggest errors I saw were pirrouetting elements not finishing within 10 degrees of handstand and steps on dismounts.
There has been a lot of politics involved in the judging here in China. To this point I’ve kept my mouth shut, but now it’s gone too far. China has made it very clear that they want to take 182 medals home and at last count they are well on their way. It’s one thing if a gymnast deserves a medal, it’s completely another if the judges are disregarding the actual routines and picking who THEY want to win. Point blank the medal tally should have looked something like this: Gold: Beth Tweddle (UK), Silver: Nastia Liukin, Bronze: Either of the Chinese Girls).
Not sure if you could hear it on TV, but there was quite a bit of booing and protesting of the bars scores. Most of the fans in the arena know the scoring and were quite offended when high scores were thrown for routines lacking difficulty. Then to add insult to injury, gymnasts making teeny mistakes had the full penalty taken off their routines.
Sadly, we see politics in all levels of gymnastics. It’s not fair, but it is part of the sport. Jake and I always tell the girls to focus on the performance, not the numbers. If a gymnast walks away knowing that she gave 100% and did all she could, then no coach could ask for more. I hope all of my girls watched the commrodery and support that the eight girls in finals gave to each other. Lots of high fives, hugs and cheering. In interviewing them all after finals it was evident that they weren’t all happy with their results, but they made improvements from qualifications and gave it their best shot!
August 18th, 2008
Good morning! Was so well rested that I popped out of bed at 6:30am and couldn’t fall back asleep! Last night’s competition was pretty exciting and totally unexpected. There were so many good gymnasts representing so many different countries. We saw countries like Korea, the UK, Croatia and Romania win medals! In my opinion vault finals was weak. Pavlova (Russia) would have won it, but there was some screw-up with the green light and she went early. It was THE BEST she has looked on an event here and I’m sad that she ended up taking a zero. Alicia looked flat today and finished where she should have. Can you believe Oksana Chusovitna?? She’s like 36 years old and in her 5th Olympics. She is proof that you can do anything you put your mind to!
Floor finals were so exciting. They gymnasts truly performed to the crowd and had such different styles that it was fun to watch. For going first Shawn held her position well. I thought she had the Gold until Isbaza went. The young Chinese gymnast turned in an excellent routine (lucky for her she is young enough to make a couple more Olympic teams). Daine Dos Santos from Brazil is a crazy tumbler. Don’t know if you could see it on tv, but the girls leg muscles explode every time she hits the floor!!! Even though I am USA all the way, I was so excited for Sandra to win floor. The Romanians have been a favorite team of mine since I was little. They have gone through so much in losing their coaches and having their funding cut. I loved her routine and was glad to see her win. Her parents were sitting across the aisle from us and were sobbing when she won! I took a couple of pictures for them and then they invited me in for a group photo. I was the only one not wearing Romanian garb! They speak very good English, which was suprising and I met one of the up and coming stars of Romania (she’s 11 and super cute!)
Did you notice the sea of colors in the arena last night?? Obviously there was a ton of red from the Chinese, but the Brazilians came in with Green hair and dressed in flags. The British fans had their faces painted and carried UK Umbrellas. Come to think of it, nearly every country represented in finals had some fans decked out in crazy hair, make-up or clothing. There is definitely a lot of national pride on display!
My seatmates last night were a group of Swiss Cyclers/coaches. They snuck into the press section and made themselves comfortable around me. This was their first time at a gymnastics meet so I gave them the lowdown on everything. It was so funny to hear their expressions when the girls were tumbling. They couldn’t believe that such tiny people could flip so high! We ended up swapping pins (I am accumulating quite the collection) and they offered me tickets to see them ride. Hopefully I will be able to make it out the the veledrome before I leave.
Off to breakfast and then out to check out the Temple of Heaven.
Miss you all!
August 16th, 2008
Hi guys. Thanks for all of the emails and comments about the blog. I’m glad everyone is enjoying reading it! Meant to get online early this morning to write about our trip yesterday but didn’t wake up until noon! It’s the first morning that I haven’t had to be up at six so I didn’t set my alarm. Must have needed the sleep!!!
Yesterday was another beautiful day. It must have been in the high 80’s and the sun was out the entire day. Didn’t realize China had mountains until I saw them this morning! Jumped on the bus early this morning and drove over an hour up the mountains to the Great Wall. We passed a ton of little villages built into the hills. There were people selling fruit and vegetables along the sides of the road (it looked so good, but we were warned not to eat any of it). It was amazing to see how some of the people lived. Instead of crammed high rises like you would find in Beijing, the villages were made up of little houses. Some of the houses didn’t have doors or windows. Even from the bus you could see inside and most were full of trash and did not look very clean. People hung laundry outside of the houses and there didn’t look to be electricity in any of the villages that we passed. The drive up to the Great Wall is very beautiful. Lots of open land with trees, plants and streams.
When we arrived up at the base of the wall we had to hike a ways up to get to the entrance. There we found that it was an hour’s hike to get up to the top or a 10-minute ride by ski lift. Opted for the lift and rode up with a gymnast from New York. The lift was pretty rickety and didn’t have a safety bar!!! The whole time I was worried that this little girl I was with would lean too far forward and fall out! At the top I met back up with Shayla, Jolene and James. We scoured the map and figured out that we had access to a three-mile stretch of the wall. Since this trip is a once in a life experience we wanted to say that we had been on each part of the entire stretch?Easier said than done! At first the steps were teeny, maybe 3” thick..As we climbed higher and higher they got bigger and bigger. At one section they were well over three feet deep! We were the only people from our group to attempt to go even halfway up and I’m sure the other foreign tourists thought we were nuts. There were lots of cool towers and tunnels to explore. It was taking a lot longer than expected to get to the end, as we had to stop nearly every section to rest. We realized that at the pace we were going we would not make it back before the bus left, so we decided to run the rest of the way?It was the worst thing ever. Had to stop and use my inhaler nearly ¾ of the way to the top. By the time we finally reached the last tower we were exhausted. All of the people below looked like little ants. We took lots of pictures and chugged down all of our water. We were feeling pretty good until we realized that we had 30 minutes to get all the way back to the chairlift. So began the frantic sprint/jumping/climbing of the Great Wall. It was so much worse going down!
We made it with seconds to spare and ran straight into 2-time Olympic Gold Medallist Steven Lopez (USA-Taekwondoe). I had interviewed Steven when I was back at the OTC in 2003 and introduced him to the rest of the group. He is being favored to win here in Beijing and had his very own NBC film crew with him. They caught our whole meeting on film and are including it in a profile of him. It would have been great except for the fact that we were dripping with sweat!! The line for the ski lift was packed and we told the lift guy that we HAD to be back to the bottom and was there another way down! Well for 55 yen there was. A few years ago someone wanted to give tourists another neat experience (like the wall wasn’t enough), so they built a Toboggan track from the top down to the bottom. We each got into one of these very crude looking sleds. Our only instructions were to push this lever forward to go fast and to pull backwards to slow down. Then we were off. These things were SO fast. Way better than go-karts! We took the corners really fast and I got yelled at by some random attendant standing along the track. All I could hear was “Slow down lady..Too Fast lady!” We reached the bottom and met up with some old school Chinese Guards. They are kind of like the Beefeaters you would find at the Tower of London, but way scarier looking. We posed for a couple of pictures and sprinted back to the bus. On the way home everyone wanted to do some more shopping, so we conned the driver into stopping at the Pearl Market. I had some amazing jewelry made! We went to dinner at this Kobi Style restaurant. I wolfed down a bowl of rice and scallops. They were so good! Came home and fell asleep right away. Ok. Gotta go catch the bus for event finals. Will write more tomorrow!
August 15th, 2008
Good morning! It seems funny to say that since you all are waking up, as I am getting ready to head to bed! Today has been an interesting day and I have been thinking a lot about what I’d write. For the first time since I’d been here I finally slept more than a few hours. I was out cold, slept through my alarm and missed the bus to the subway this morning. Alone and in a panic, I grabbed a cab and rode the 30 minutes to the subway. It cost me a whopping $5 but in the process I realized that I was putting blind faith in this cab driver that spoke no English. We arrived at the subway station and I raced to catch the trains to the Olympic Green. As most of you know, I am a little directionally challenged, so I was very proud of the fact that not only did I make it to the subway station, I made it to the Olympic Green with twenty minutes to spare!
Once I settled in for the subway ride I started to realize how alone I really was. Normally a big group from the resort travels together, so traveling is no big deal. Well today I was the ONLY non-Chinese person on the subway. I was lucky enough to get a seat and tried to keep to myself. Unfortunately the subway was packed and everyone was interested in the lone American. Talk about awkward! People were staring, pointing and whispering. I was counting down the stops in my head and the ride seemed to last forever. While on the subway I truly understood what it must be like to be a minority in a group. It’s very lonely and very uncomfortable! Finally arriving at the Olympic stadium I was surprised to find that I had caught up with the group at security (apparently I travel faster alone!). Once above ground I was so surprised to find the sky completely clear of smog and clouds. In fact the sun was out all day and I got sunburned. This normally would not be something to get excited about, but you should understand that it has been dark gray, smoggy and gross since I arrived.
As today was women’s AA, I was so nervous for Shawn and Nastia. Traded in my press box seat for the seat that had been given to me as part of the tour. It was in a way better location and my seatmate was Mary Lou Retton. I haven’t seen her since American Cup in ’04 and she looks in better shape than she did when she won in 1984! We had a great time at the meet and it was nice to get her perspective on what was going on. I’m sure you’ve all heard about what’s happened by now or watched it on TV, so here are my thoughts.
Hands down it was the BEST competition I have seen. There was only one fall in the meet and the 24 girls in the finals truly performed to the crowd. That doesn’t happen very often! It was so exciting to see so many countries represented at such a high level. In addition to our girls, I was so impressed by the Australians, Romanians, Russians (especially Semanova) and a handful of girls from Europe. Oksana Chusovitna was amazing. Did you know she is in her 5th Olympics at age 36? How crazy is that??? I don’t know how much you all saw on TV but it was like a three ring circus in the arena. I had to keep switching from event to event to make sure I didn’t miss anything. The atmosphere in the arena was much better than team finals. There were so many fans wearing their countries colors, flags and apparel. Some of the “superfans” had gone as far as dying their hair in the colors of their homeland. There were so many Brazilians walking around with lime green colored hair!
As good as the other twenty-two gymnasts were, no one could touch the Americans. As much as I wanted Shawn to win, Nastia truly deserved it today. She looked better than I’d ever seen her. She was elegant, aggressive and technically perfect. I know that she has struggled in the last year and nearly became a two-event gymnast because of her ankle injury. She has sat by and watched Shawn dominate for the last two years and kept saying, “don’t forget about me. I’ll be back”. In my mind she was the epitome of a perfect gymnast today. I was screaming my head off for her and Shawn all day. When I interviewed both girls afterward they both said they could hear me in the stands! (Apparently I was so loud my friend Chris heard me all the way in Minnesota on NBC!) Didn’t think I’d get emotional during awards, but the tears in her eyes as she mounted the podium were so genuine that it made me cry.
Speaking of crying, that’s what Shawn did after the meet. We talked a little bit, I hugged her and told her that I was proud of her. She came in with so much pressure from agents, sponsors, family and herself that she felt like a failure for winning silver. Today’s meet was the first time we’ve seen her look like her old self in competition, but even that was for fleeting moments. It’s hard to be perfect all the time and even harder to watch someone else walk away with the medal that could have been yours. I thought she did an excellent job today, she just was lacking in the polish that Nastia has. I hope that she will recognize what an accomplishment her silver medal is and get fired up for event finals. She still has two chances to be an Olympic Champion and if she can get into her zone and focus on what’s truly important I know she can do it!
August 14th, 2008
Hi everyone!!! I can’t believe that a week has already passed by. Each day has been packed with activity, adventure and little sleep! Not exactly the two weeks of relaxation that I was envisioning. Good thing we took the last week of August off, as I will need the camping trip that Jake is planning to catch up on my R and R. Being in a city with 9 million other people has really made me want some alone time! Didn’t need to work today (men’s AA finals were being covered by someone else) so I decided to get out to greater Beijing. Haven’t had much opportunity up until now. The “resort” we are staying in is a half hour bus ride to the subway system. Then it is multiple subway rides into Beijing to get to the Olympic Green. They have kept Americans on a pretty tight leash here and made it very inconvenient to get out into the “real” China. The Chinese are working hard (almost too hard) to put on a good show for the world. As I said before, everything surrounding the Olympics is immaculate, clean, new and shiny. In talking to local Chinese at the competitions we’ve gotten the impression that what we are seeing is not the real China. So today the Worley gals, Ivana Hong, her mother and I went on a little adventure.
It took us nearly two hours to get into the heart of Beijing. Our first mistake was forgetting that China has a rush hour. We were crammed like sardines into the subways. Did you know that airconditioning units only run on the Olympic bound subways??? We didn’t until this morning. That fact, combined with a lack of use of deoderant by the Chinese made for a very unpleasant ride. There are some odd rules surrounding the subways here. Men are the dominant species and do not give up their seats for women. The only exception to this rule is if an elderly woman is on the subway, then every person occupying a seat will offer theirs up. There is no formal line-up procedures in place anywhere in China. Instead, masses of people will rush at each other. They push, they shove and today they resorted to throwing elbows. When we finally saw daylight again we came to the realization that there were no friendly Olympic greeters to help us out (These are found on every streetcorner of the Olympic Green). They are mostly college age students with an excellent command of the english language and are always dressed in blue. Stupidly, we got off the bus in Beijing and expected to find them there. This was NOT the case and so we spent the next hour walking in circles trying to talk to the locals and get to the Zoo.
Knowing a combined total of 10 chinese words, we resorted to Charades-like communication and drawing pictures. This was apparently very humorous to the locals. More and more people kept gathering around us at each attempt to communicate. About halfway through our day we arrived at the Beijing Zoo. The panda exhibit was WONDERFUL. We spent two hours looking at all of them. Sadly, the rest of the zoo resembled a bad petstore where all animals are stuffed into teeny cages and stacked up to the ceiling. Needless to say this zoo would have been condemmed in the states. Our zoo trip was cut short by a monsoon-like-storm. Luckily we had received bright red ponchos from the USA House (for athletes, families and media). If you thought being an American in China made you stand out, you should see what happened when we put on bright red ponchos and trudged through shin-deep water. We were a walking freakshow. It continued to pour for the rest of the day as we walked nearly two miles back to the subway station. Why did we walk in the storm you ask? After an hour of futile attempts to catch a cab we gave up. We jumped, we waved, we locked arms and rushed towards the cabs ahead of others, but they would not pick us up. We did get one to stop, but he waved the local couple next to us in. So tired, soaked (this was not the day to wear my sneakers) and aggravated we finally arrived back to the subway. Today was so tiring that the seven of us fell asleep on the ride home. We were lucky that our stop (Tiangshong North)is the very last one on the line and that tere was a very nice Olympic greeter on board to wake us up.
All the hassles aside, it was nice to get a real glimpse of China. In a nutshell, here is what we saw: tall high-rise apartments all through the city. Lots of bikes (they range from flashy sportsbike to rusty bananna seat hauling a cart that is stacked with food, clothes or junk. Old men playing Mahjong in the parks, random groups of dogs running through the streets, children playing unsupervised in roads (up to the age of 4 they have slits in their shorts/pants and go to the bathroom in the street) and booths selling anything one could imagine. Before traveling to China, I knew there were obvious cultural differences between China and the United States. I think that every American should travel to a communist country and see how other people live in the world. It definately made me appreciate America and the luxuries we have at home.
August 13th, 2008
Congratulations to the U.S. Men for winning the bronze medal in the team competition. This is an amazing feat, especially for a team that has been portrayed as “subpar without the Hamm twins”. All of the negative press that has been directed towards our team was halted with last nights competition. The U.S. men were leading the competition through the fourth rotation and had the silver medal sealed up as they went into their final event. With two errors in the last event and pressure from Japan and Germany, the mistakes left the boys with bronze. The performances given by all of the men in the competition were excellent. They played to the crowd and put on quite a show for the 20,000 people in attendance. The atmosphere in the arena was eelectrifying!!! The 200 Americans in attendance kept the boys pumped up with cheers of USA…Their efforts were so good that they constantly prompted the 19,000 Chinese in the crowd to cheer even louder.
The women’s competition was held this morning and lacked the enthusiastic excitement of the men’s competition. The tension of the athletes filled the arena and the crowd sat nervously on the edges of their seats until the very end. China and the U.S. women went head-to-head for the first three rotations. It was a game of “one-upping” each other, that propelled both teams to higher levels. The Americans began was a fabulous display on vault, the Chinese retaliated, but didn’t finish as high. We began on bars and turned in three stellar sets (Johnson, Memmel and Liukin). The Chinese stepped it up a notch and took the lead away. Both teams suffered a fall on beam (Cheng Fei for China, Alicia Sacramone for the U.S.). Despite the fall, Johnson and Liukin attacked their routines. Heading into floor, the U.S. was one point behind China. We began poorly, with Sacramone blowing her routine. Liukin was more aggressive than I have ever seen her, which was reflected in her scores. Johnson wowed the crowd with her tumbling, but was trying too hard to stick her landings, which resulted in slight bobbles. In the end, China won. The U.S. girls should be proud to come home as silver medalists. In talking to them, I detected a general sadness and feeling of failure. They were heavily touted heading into the games and it seems that the struggled to keep it all together. The events of the last two days were suprising to me and Shayla explained it best. “No one thought the guys would do anything here, so winning the bronze is awesome…But for the girls, we were expected to win, so it feels like winning silver is losing. Expectations are everything, the bigger the expectation, the bigger the disapointment.” It is my hope that the U.S. girls will step back and look at what they have acomplished with so many negative things thrown their way. They lost two gymnasts to injury adding more pressure to the four in the line-up. They survived the grueling “trial” process to make an Olympic team. They traveled to China to compete with the best in the world and now they have a silver medal to show for it!
August 11th, 2008
Good morning! It was a struggle to wake-up this morning after only getting a few hours of sleep. No work today, we played tourists this morning. Joined the group for a tour of Tianamin Square and the Forbidden City. Not knowing much about Chinese history, this actually turned out to be a pretty cool trip. The buildings in the Square are ornate and beautifully decorated. It was intimidating to be in the square were China’s cultural revolution occurred. Much has changed since then as gardens have been added to soften the appearance. There were Olympic monuments and a countdown clock scattered through the square. We did not have access to Ming’s Tombs as that was the site of the stabbing. It is not expected to be open for the rest of the summer. We spent quite a bit of time exploring the Forbidden City, this massive palace built for the emperors. There were tons of statues, buildings and gardens throughout the city. It’s kind of the equivalent of Buckingham Palace, with a little darker undertone. One thing that was really fun about this trip was our interaction with the local Chinese. They were so polite and friendly. Lots of smiles and attempts to communicate in English with us. We were quite the hit with many people who hadn’t met Americans before. They were constantly asking for pictures and trying to talk to us. It seemed a little odd and finally we asked why they were so interested in us. The man talking to us said that most of China is too poor to travel out of their providences. They get little information about the outside world and only think of us the hollywood type. They assume that everyone in China is a celebrity and want a chance to meet them. It’s sad to think that the government has so much control over these people. They are literally hand fed information, perspectives and directions. It is so much different than in America and hard to understand. The rest of the day was free, so a few of us decided to be a little adventurous. Shayla Worley, her sister Jolene and I all took a cab to the famed Silk Market. This was quite the adventure. It is a six story warehouse that is set-up in a flea market style. It is stocked with everything from namebrand clothes to knock-off purses. There are silk items, shoes, electronics and tons of people wanting to barter. At first we got suckered in to the game and all ended up paying way to much for a jacket. We figured out their tricks and soon were haggling with the best of them. We spent the next four hours power shopping our way through the market. I ended up with 7 for Mankind Jeans ($30), Nike Shox for Jake ($20), 2 Abercrombie shirts ($20 total), Pumas ($10) and a sweet Prada knock-off ($40). The shopkeepers really gave us a run for our money. They stalled, the argued, they blocked us in, but we persevered. All together we came back with 15 bags of items for a fraction of the price. At 5:15pm NBC had us picked up by a car service and we arrived with VIP passes to the IBC (International Broadcast Center). I had to interview Shayla for a piece airing on Oxygen (look for it today). They gave us the Royal Treatment. Hair and make-up was done and we had the BEST food of the trip. Free Starbucks (it has never tasted so good. Pork chops, mashed potatoes, fruit and icecream…We even took some for the road. The food at our resort is awful, so this felt like Thanksgiving to us. After she finished taping we got to spend time with a few local celebrities who were passing through. Bela came in to say hi and we were visited by John Rothlisberger, Todd Thornton, Tasha Schweikert and a bronze medal winning trap shooter. We got to hold her medal which was so cool. Around 8pm our chartered car returned us to Longmei. It was quite the day…
August 10th, 2008
Sorry about the delay in posting, but the last 24 hours have been crazy busy!!! This morning began well. Now a well seasoned veteran of the subway, I was confident that I could get to the games with plenty of time to spare, It was all going well until arriving with at security, where it started to sprinkle. Joined by the Tweddle’s and Becky Smith’s parents, we patiently waited through the long security line. Given the attacks on the Americans earlier this week we expected a short wait. As time passed the sprinkles turned into torrential downpour. After standing in the rain for what seemed like hours the guards passed out ponchos. Putting those on only made the wet clothes cling to our skin! Finally we got through security and had to sprint to the venue. We made it with two minutes to spare and looked like a pack of drowned rats! As today was team prelims, the goal is for the 16 teams to battle for 8 berths into team finals. They broke the teams up into divisions, which began at 10am and didn’t end until nearly 11pm. Session one featured the Chinese (excellent technique and the signs of personality), the Romanians (one of my favorites, but looked weaker than in years past) and two mixed groups. The crowd was very polite with all the gymnasts but came alive every time a Chinese performed. Session two featured the United States, England (an up and coming team), Italy and Japan . Since I’ve known the U.S. girls for several years now, it was both exciting and nerve wracking. The U.S. has been so dominant that it was unusual to see them start to waiver. The first sign of trouble came when they put only four gymnasts up on floor and vault. In team competition five gymnasts compete and the top four scores count. With only four up, there was no room for error. What put the U.S. in this situation? In the two minute warm-up prior to the meet powerhouse Sam Peszek rolled her ankle and heard it pop. She couldn’t bear weight and was pulled immediately. The four remaining gymnasts (Bridget, Alicia, Nastia and Shawn) pulled together, but the signs of stress were everywhere. Two gymnasts stepped out of bounds on floor and Alicia missed a turning connection. Nastia and Chellsie both took falls on bars, while there were some connection errors on beam. Overall the U.S. looked their best on vault. I was truly impressed with Bridget Sloan who was thrown into the all-around line-up minutes before the meet. She was calm, aggressive and confident on all four events. Shawn performed well, but seemed to be missing some of her spark. I certainly hope that the enormous amount of publicity has not started to rattle her. Other highlights from session two include gymnasts from the UK. Not a strong team in the past, this group missed qualifying to team finals by .004. Given a little more experience they could be medal contenders in the upcoming years. Beth Tweddle had an error on bars, but kept the routine going and secured the final spot in the uneven bar finals. Her poor parents sat through all four sessions and kept tabs on all the bar scores of the day. It was not until the final gymnast performed at 10pm that they could finally breathe a sigh of relief. Session three was a disappointment. Australia tanked big time. Multiple falls on each event knocked World Medalist Dasha Joura out of everything. It also gave her younger teammates anxiety and affected their performances. Russia had a daring group of little gymnasts, but lacked the form of the past. Germany counted falls on bars and beam, but Oksana Chusovitna in her 5th (yes, fifth olympics) looked awesome. Session four was a two horse race between France and Brazil (phenomenal on floor and vault, aweful beam). It was not until midway through the day that I realized how awesome it was to be sitting in China, watching all of these talented gymnasts live. Some of them I have followed for years and it was so cool to watch them in person. For those who I know and care about it was a bittersweet day. I hope that they can drop their egos and pull together as a team to challenge China for the gold.
August 9th, 2008
Let the games begin!!! After a fabulous opening ceremony the games offically are underway with competitions in gymnastics, badmitton, judo and swimming. Morning came early today as we were told to leave our resort three hours before the first event in order to learn how to get to the Olympic Green. After a quick breakfast of fried eggs and rice (apparently the chinese don’t eat cereal) I boarded a van for the 20 minute ride into Beijing. My travel companion this morning was Ann Tweddle, mother of Beth Tweddle who is Britan’s first World Champion (she and Nastia are expected to go head-to-head for the bars gold later this week). We got to the Subway station where we had to get on four different trains and do multiple security checks. We arrived on the Olympic Green, missed the entrance to the venue and ended up doing a 1.5 mile loop back to where we started. Security was really tight, we got searched multiple times today. They made us test everything in our possession…Lip gloss, water, candy, etc. We got searched by guards and the detector kept going off. They finally figured out that the metal in my left knee was setting it off and I got to pass through.
The Olympic Green is HUGE. China did a fantastic job of creating this area. There are lots of fountains and exotic plants. The buildings are geometric in shape and most light up in a variety of colors. The gymnastics is held at National Indoor Stadium which is absolutely beautiful. The normally inconsistent American Men’s team looked AWESOME. The guys are out to prove that the U.S. women are not the only medal contenders in Bejing. Sasha Artemov turned in excellent performances on pommel horse and high bar. Johnathan Horton was strong everywhere, ending up qualifying to the AA competition in 2nd place. Other fan favorites included the Chinese (excellent form), Canadians (they could be in the medal hunt) and the Italians (awesome vaulting and tumbling!!) The competition will be stiff, but the Americans could pull an upset off this week!
August 8th, 2008
After a bumpy ride on a 50 seat plane to Newark, I boarded a brand new Boeing Jet for the 13 hour journey to Beijing. The plane was beautiful..Huge seats to stretch out on, shrimp salad and salmon for dinner and on demand tv/movies!!! I never realized how long of a flight that really was…The lady next to me watched the Sound of Music 4, yes FOUR times during our flight. Apparently it’s her favorite movie…Shawn Johnson’s parents were on the same plane and we ended up going through customs together. For the first time ever the gymnasts are allowed to stay in the Olympic Village, so she and the rest of the girls are getting the most out of their olympic experience! When we got off the plane, we were greated by GIANT versions of the Olympic mascots. What was the next thing I saw??? Starbucks… 🙂 Took a half hour ride toward the city and arrived at our resort. There are very few Americans here…Lots of Hungarian, Swedish, French and British visitors. We got in around 1pm, but didn’t actually get settled into my room until 5pm…There was a mix-up with housing assignments, three people to ONE bed. It took lots of translation and may people to get the situation fixed. Spent the rest of the evening unpacking and am now off to the welcome dinner.
July 21st, 2008
Well it is official, Team USA has been named. Representing the U.S. in Beijing will be: Shawn Johnson (Iowa), Nastia Liukin (Texas), Chellsie Memmel (Wisconsin), Alicia Sacramone (Mass.), Sam Peszek (Indianapolis) and Bridget Sloan (Indianapolis).
After a grueling selection process that included National Championships, Olympic Trials and a four day competition at the Ranch, Marta Karolyi has assembled a team that should contend for gold!
Look for bios and pictures of each gymnast on the Olympic Wall in our lobby! Competition begins 08-08-08 and I am excited to share details and behind the scenes info with all of you from China!