Sunday, August 12, 2012

Olympic quick hits

If you want to experience the Olympics backwards and in a series of snarky, inside-jokey quick hits, here's my twitter

The hardest transition I'm going to have when I get home is laying off the twitter. Because I literally Can't. Stop. Tweeting.

It's been a very, VERY social olympics and everyone here was living on twitter. It became the place to share the experience - with people back home, people at the venues, and, more often than not, people sitting 5 feet away from you. ("oh, that's SO going on twitter")

But twitter was 100% the way I kept up with everything that was going on in the Olympics. (I would say "and the world" but other things stopped happening, right? I mean, I can't imagine anything important going on during the high holy weeks of the Olympics!) I would wake up in the morning and check my twitter feed while still in bed.

The great thing about twitter is that you 'can' keep up with everything. The bad thing about twitter is that now you sort of 'have' to keep up with everything.

Because otherwise, you're this guy


Saturday, August 11, 2012

Team Gymnastics!




(and yes, working the Olympics really IS that glamorous. Pretty sure the walls are made from styrofoam)

Off to find a proper British pub and some proper fish and chips with team gymnastics. We're celebrating surviving the Olympics in one piece and relatively sane of mind. Last night I wandered the streets trying to find a good pint of beer. It was late. It was dark. I only 'sort of' knew where I was and my mother definitely would have killed me. But I got a great beer so, hey, worth it!

Bolting - it's a thing

I thought getting to see track on Tuesday night was a once in an Olympics type thing. So imagine how out of my mind I was when I was handed THIS. The Golden Ticket. Track and Field the night that Usain Bolt, David Rudisha, Nick Symmonds, Ashton Eaton and Trey Hardee will be bringing their beasty Olympic selves. Some of my absolute favorites competing in the biggest night of track and field and I get to BE there?

Are. You. Kidding. Me.


And it wasn't just any old ticket. Oh, no.

It was a twelfth row seat.

Twelfth row.

I'm sorry - what? Yes, I read my ticket correctly. That seat, right down there so close to the field that I could feel Usain Bolt sweating, that's where I'm going to be sitting.


You could have pushed me over with a feather. In fact, I think I sat down right away just in case I DID fall over. I went with the other gymnastics producer and she looked at me laughing and said, "you're going to die, aren't you?"

Yes. Yes, I am.


They intersperse medal ceremonies throughout the evening and typically do the last event of the night before first so we got to see the amazing Allyson Felix get her gold medal. I definitely got teary during the national anthem.


And I had to get used to feeling teary while the national anthem played because I think we heard it another 4 times that night! America = really fast at running.

One of the things I was most excited to see was Nick Symmonds of the U.S. race in the 800m. I've been cheering for him since Beijing and I'm a huge fan of his outspokenness and candor. And of course, his amazing Milwaukee connection.


Looking good, Nick!!


During the first lap (can't believe I got this pic with my phone. It was instagrammed immediately, of course.... although I did at least wait until after the race.)


David Rudisha isn't quite human. But what a face. He has an almost regal presence. Never seems to get too worked up, never seems to get too upset, just calm, even, steady. And then he unleashes his run and you can't believe that what you're seeing is real.


Will Claye taking his victory lap after winning the silver medal in the triple jump. I was screaming my head off and I actually made eye contact with him. So, now we're best friends.


But all of that amazing was just the warm-up to this. The Bolt.


When he entered the arena, other events were still going on but the whole place immediately erupted with flashbulbs. And that was how you know Bolt was in the house.

He oozes charisma. Charm. Magic. And he's awfully fast too.

The place went nuts when he took his victory lap with the other two Jamaicans who went 2-3. Jamaica sweep!


The next morning I saw the BBC interview with Bolt that happened right before this victory lap (or right after? I don't even know) They were live on the air and were trying to talk to all three but they timed the interview to happen right when Rudisha was getting his medal. The Kenyan national anthem started to play right as the BBC broadcaster tried to begin his interview (the bad timing was likely due to the huge, extended celebration that happened after Bolt won, but still)

The three Jamaicans turned towards the flag to pay their respects to Rudisha and the national anthem. But the BBC was live and the broadcaster panicked a bit - or really, showed his complete lack of morals. He grabbed Warren Weir who had finished third and pulled him forward towards the mic saying, "I know you’re listening but we just need a few words." He tried to play it off like it was funny but it was horrible. Weir didn't know what to do so he answered the questions.

Bolt though - he stayed with his back the broadcaster the entire time (and no way was the guy grabbing BOLT like he grabbed Weir). Extremely classy. Jamaica 1. BBC 0.


Oh, and I did a bit of breakdancing in Olympic Park due to a dare issued on twitter.

What?

Everyone was doing the Bolt. Everyone.

Morgan Uceny

If you want to what Olympic sized heartbreak looks like, watch this video of Morgan Uceny as she falls during the finals of the 1500m

VIDEO

For perspective on why this was so devastating, Morgan was a prime contender for the gold at last year's world championship when she was clipped and fell during the final, ended her chances at the podium. Less than a month later, Morgan went on to an invitational stacked with the same level of talent as worlds - and won.

For this to happen again at the Olympics is unbelievably cruel. She was again a favorite for gold - to see her land on the track like that will be one of the saddest images of the games for me.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Fancy Horse Prancy


Ladies and gentlemen, I bring you Dressage. Taking the gold in the category of fanciest Olympic sport. Making it even fancier? It’s not pronounced “dress-edge”. It’s pronounced “Dress –ASSAGE” (like massage)

And now sideways!
And now backwards!
And now in place!
And now even fancier with the prancing! Come on girls, lift those heels!

The swim researcher on dressage:
Really? This is what we’ve come to? We’re giving out medals for this? The same medal that Michael Phelps won? “You just know that horse is saying, ‘ok, let me get this straight. You’re going to give me a carrot to walk around in a circle and then you’re going to get a gold medal?’”

At least the British team won. So that brought happiness. But mostly fanciness.

(ok, horse, go jump something now)

Track Attack


This happened and I could not be happier.

I have become a giant fan of all things running since Beijing and more than anything else, I wanted to get to Olympic Stadium to see some track and field. I've only ever been to one track meet - a high school meet in Wauwatosa which featured good buddy Mike Miller, famed coach of the Whitefish Bay track team. He spent that meet doing a series of calf raises on the side of the track while he encouraged his runners. "I'd PREFER that you ran faster." Now, don't get me wrong, anytime that I get to see Miller is a fantastic time. But my enjoyment was limited because there was no shot-put at that meet.

However, for my second ever track meet - I think I did pretty ok.


It was a gorgeous night - although probably a bit chilly for the athletes.  And my dream of seeing shot-put came true. A very beautiful man from Belarus won - oh wait, it was the women's event? Ohhh...never mind.


That's terrible. And unfair. It's hard to focus on grooming when you're constantly covering your neck with chalk and throwing boulders.

The British were out in full force to cheer on their own.  It is FUN to cheer for that team. I find myself pulling for them as much as the Americans. The Brits are so supportive of their athletes, win or lose. They applaud almost as loud for a fourth place finish as they do for a gold. I love it. Warms my heart.


 Belgians were everywhere.


Seriously. Everywhere. There were a LOT of Belgians there. They had two finalists in the men's 400m and would go nuts anytime a Belgian would compete. 

Allyson Felix of the U.S. in the starting blocks for the heats of the women's 200m.


Kirani James easily winning the men's 400m. He's only 19? Unreal.



Michael Tinsley taking his victory lap after the 400m hurdles.



Medal ceremony for the men's 400m hurdles.


THAT'S what I'm talking about!! Bawling on the medal stand! Yes!!! More, please!

This is Felix Sanchez from the Dominican Republic - he has very unfortunate facial hair habits. When they showed him on the screen before the 400m hurdle final, I thought his vertical mustache would, for sure, be a hinderance. But he overcame and persevered through the unfortunate face situation. Olympic spirit - it's everywhere.

After he won, he let out a huge scream which you couldn't hear but you could feel. The whole place went nuts because of the emotion he showed right after winning and then again on the podium. He started choking up a bit when he received his medal but then completely broke down during his national anthem. When he did, the entire place went crazy - screaming and yelling and cheering for him. At first, I was thinking, 'whoa! whoa! whoa! you can't cheer over the national anthem!.' But you can and, in fact, it's awesome. It was so uplifting, I felt like I was in that scene from the grinch where his heart grew too big but it was like everyone was the grinch and all of our hearts just exploded.

Ok, but Felix. Now that you're an Olympic Champion, shave that off please.

Is anything more fun to watch than steeple? Every lap you get to inch towards the edge of your seat, hold your breath and hope for someone to take a header into the water pit. I mean, hope someone 'doesn't' take a header. Yes. That's what I meant.



American's Bridget Franek and Emma Coburn were in the final - Emma did really well, finishing 6th, I think? But Bridget quickly fell off the pace and was in last place almost from the first lap. And not just last as in, straggling off the end a bit, but last as in a half-lap-behind-them last. I kept watching to see if she was going to surge and try and move up but I'm guessing she was racing with everything she had in her - it just wasn't enough to stay with the pack.

She went to Penn State so I would see her whenever I watched track or cross-country coverage on the Big 10 network. She always came across as so hard-working and likable. It's incredible to think that a few years ago, she was winning the Big 10 cross-country title - and now she's a finalist at the Olympics. A massive achievement which has to such a huge thrill. But still.... Olympics or not, it can't be fun to be running in last place. These athletes are way to competitive to be ok with that.



This is a VERY British Olympics



I think this is British too. It reminds me of their teeth. Just going any which way they feel like.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Life Lessons with Usain Bolt

Yesterday, I couldn't stop thinking about the Sikh Temple shootings. It's hard to comprehend that type of hate in any circumstance but sitting in London, surrounded by the things that I truly believe make people better, it's especially hard.

I will profess all day long that the Olympics are where you see the best of the human spirit. True, we have our doping scandals and our illegal dolphin kicks  - but for the most part, the Olympics are where you go to see the good.

The BBC reported on it as I was getting ready for bed on Sunday and although I had already heard the news, it stopped me in my tracks. I couldn't shake it out of my head.

So on Monday morning, I started thinking about what the world could learn from the Olympics. This is what I ended up writing.

Life Lessons with Usain Bolt

Monday, August 6, 2012

it's with an E



He spelled my name wrong – twice. After I’d spelled it for him – twice. And yes, they’re both for me. Hands off.

Zombie land is upon us.

Golden Gabby


Best thing about the women's all-around competition? I didn't break my chair.

Ha. I'm kidding. That's dumb. The best thing was, duh, GABBY!!!! OH. MY. GOD.

Gabby has absolutely skyrocketed this year. Last year, she was an unpredictable mess. When she made the world team, I was very very nervous - and very very surprised. She didn't have a strong mental game. At. All. But something started to change between nationals and worlds. You could see her confidence starting to grow. It wasn’t clear where it was going to lead but you could see her starting to mature into not only an athlete, but a competitor. 

Things started to get interesting at the American Cup in March. That was where the new Gabby really showed herself. You qualify for that event based on your world ranking and she hadn’t qualified. However, because America was the host country, they were able to enter someone in as a exhibition performance. And wouldn’t you know it, Gabby Douglas goes in there and wins the whole dang thing, beating world champ Jordyn Wieber. Her scores didn’t count but everyone’s eyebrows were raised to the possibility that it could be Gabby, not Jordyn, who would win the crown in London.

There’s something to be said for confidence – believing that you can is half, no, 90 percent, of the battle. From the beginning of the year, Gabby believed she could and you could see it even in the way she held her head. 

I got a chance to interview Nastia Liukin after the competition and we talked about Gabby and what her life looks like from here. She mentioned that the next time Gabby takes the floor for competition, it will feel very different competing as the Olympic champion. I loved how Nastia’s eyebrows raised a bit when she said that. It was very revealing.

It must feel very odd to spend your whole chasing something, get it and then try and figure out how to wear it. You spend all your time wanting it, but not a lot of time planning how you’ll use it. 

And not only will things be different gymnastically - but how does her personal life change? Winning  gold is one thing. Making that gold rain cash is another. She has the potential to be as big as Mary Lou but there’s a certain magic combination that has to happen and although she’s adorable and cute as heck and perky as can be, the question is will she be endearing? 

Carly Patterson looked every bit the part but in the end, didn’t capture the public’s imagination and faded away. Nastia and Shawn were far more marketable - Shawn more so than Nastia in the years immediately following Beijing. But Nastia is proving to be the one who has longevity as a public persona. (Also, I’m calling it now, Shawn is going to be the hottest mess ever by the time she hits 30.)

So the next month will make or break Gabby’s potential as a “celebrity”. I think she has it in her but she’s going to have to ditch some of the godspeak (too polarizing) and hire a speech a coach (complete sentences, please!)

Oh yea, and for the competition itself – my random thoughts.
  • The Russians were totally overscored. But so was Aly. 
  • Gabby was divine. 
  • I was on the edge of my seat and about died waiting for Komova’s score to come up. Mustafina’s bar routine is one of my favorite things ever. 
  • I almost don’t hate Gabby’s floor music anymore. 
  • I definitely still hate Komova’s floor music. But her mom is a legend and Komova is a doll. 
  • I love, love, love the fact that she and Musty actually show emotions. So refreshing. Especially considering the American team gives the worst, most canned, boring interviews ever.  
Today is bar finals and I’ll be rooting hard for GB's Beth Tweddle. She’s an old lady in the sport the one who has led Britain’s resurgence in the sport. Nothing but respect for that woman. Her bars routine looks like a monkey got a hold of a mocha frapacinno and found a jungle gym to show off on.  I LOVE it.

One more thing -
If you want to know what it looks like in the NBC compound when an important gold medal is on the line, watch that 7 minutes of terror video of the crew for Curiosity as they're trying to land it on Mars. That’s about right.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

why we care

I was in the commissary getting my daily feeding tube of coffee inserted when, from down the hall, came a huge set of girly screams (which is weird in itself because normally it’s dude yells … NBC – still an old boys club.) Everyone did that "what are they watching” thing and I thought, "oh, nice! This this really IS going to be equestrian!" Because, you know, girls love ponies. And rainbows.

But as I checked out the monitors, I realized that they were actually watching field hockey. 

A fan for every sport, I guess! Field hockey? That’s a thing?

(To be fair, it was the U.S. team.)

This is what is so fun about the Games – suddenly table tennis is fascinating! (and guys, can we agree it’s ping-pong? Don’t be thinking you’re all fancy because you give yourself a classier name. Ping-pong, I’d know you anywhere.)

I read something about the games in Sports Illustrated on the way over here – it was in the issue with the U.S. gymnasts on the cover – you know, the one you all ran out to buy 2 weeks ago because you were so excited that it featured gymnasts. Oh, that was just me? Ok.

Anyway, there was an article talking about why we care about the Olympics and it contained what I think is the best summary of why the Olympics matter. It made the case that when we watch professional sports like baseball and football, we’re invested because of how they make us feel and what they say about us. You proudly wear your sports team paraphernalia and it becomes a reflection of who you are. Oh, you’re a Giants fan? Well, you must be loud, proud and new york’ish. Oh, you’re a Packers fan? Well, you must be hard-working, fun-loving and like cheese. Oh, you’re a Cubs fan? Well, you must be a total idiot.

When “our team” loses a game or blows a touchdown – they deliver what feels like a personal blow. They did it TO us. It’s a personal attack. “You’re getting paid all this money and you can’t even catch that ball? What are you thinking?!!” (and then you’ve got to go face Jimbo in the office the next day and deal with his ribbing.)

But with the Olympics, it’s different. We don’t care because of how they make US feel. They aren’t a reflection of us – just a reflection of who we wish we were. We see our best selves in these athletes. And we care because of how we want them to feel. Because you know that behind every athlete, there’s one hundred falls, a thousand early morning practices, and a million sacrifices. And thanks to the P&G commercials, we have an incredible visual of a mom who did their laundry.

So when a gymnast falls or a swimmer gets out-touched at the wall or a wrestler gets pinned, our reaction isn’t the same as it is when our favorite baseball player strikes out.

When a football team blows a touchdown, they break our heart. When a swimmer misses the gold by a fraction of a second, our heart breaks for them.

Ahh… so Olympic.


YESSSOOOOO!!!

Have you met Yin Alverez? No? Oh, that's too bad. Because I have. Soooo.... I guess that makes me pretty awesome?

(Yin Alvarez is Danell Leyva's step-dad and coach. And if you didn't get a chance to see it, Danell put up an AMAZING fight last night to come from 19th and grab the bronze medal in the men's gymnastics all-around. And his dad is what happens when you combine unbelievable pride with crack. And I mean that in the nicest way possible.)

Now, keep in mind that as I write this, I haven't seen the NBC broadcast so I have no idea what was actually shown. I'm just going off what I know did happen and what I'm 'guessing' they showed. We watch the entire feed and then in the 5 hours between when it happens and when it airs, NBC edits it  and prepares it for the primetime show. Mostly it's just cutting it down for time but sometimes it involves having the commentators re-call moments because of something that happened later. I.E. pointing something out that is going to become a major factor in the next rotation. Or, more likely, go back and call a routine or an athlete that everyone thought would be a non-factor and then the jerk steps up and does an amazing job and lands himself on the podium, in the process ruining everyone's perfectly planned scripts, segments, and blurbs. Grrr... athletes and their rising to the occasion......

Anyway - that didn't really happen last night. And that has nothing to do with meeting Yin Alvarez, it's just something that came out of my brain place and I wanted to share. You're welcome.

I'm getting to the place where I'm just a little dazed and out of it - I'm not tired, exactly, but I think I'm running on adrenaline reserves right now. I knew it was starting to unravel last night when it took me 30 minutes to write a single paragraph. Not even a whole paragraph - literally only 2 lines recapping Leyva's bronze medal win. And I couldn't. Do it. Just could not get my fingers to translate what my brain was trying to tell them to type. It was almost an out of body experience. A hilarious experience, luckily, since there wasn't a live event going on or anything - but I only had a few things to finish up and then I could leave and I reealllly wanted to catch that midnight shuttle. And my body was just not cooperating with my brain. I guess it wanted to stay?

When I finally got out of there, I sprinted towards the shuttles and CRAP. They weren't running. So at midnight with a brain that was the consistency of mashed potatoes (and not the good kind like my mom makes, more like the instant ones) I had to navigate my way home on the tube. Luckily, I've taken that route a few times but with 3 train transfers and platforms that aren't great on signage, it can get a bit dicey. Luckily, my mashed potato brain had something left and it safely guided my to my bed.

What am I talking about here? I think I meant to write about Danell Leyva's gold and how much I love his step-dad, Yin.

I have completely forgotten what I wanted to write.

hmmmm......

ok.......

Guess I'll do that later - let's just pretend we're still winning and call this post pointless exposition.

Oh - and one other thing because I like to disclose times that I'm really dumb - yesterday I was convinced that "school" was two syllables. CONVINCED.

Turns out it's not. In case you were wondering. And I made an absolute fool of myself because I botched what could have been an amazing joke with that dumb mistake. Nothing worse than a botched joke due to stupidity. Well - having a leg amputated would be bad, but the joke thing is up there.



O.M.G!

So I realize that some pretty amazing things happened yesterday at the Olympics - badmitton was embroiled in a major scandal, some people swam fast (saw OR a few times up there on the screen), Danell Leyva won a bronze medal in gymnastics and Kohei Uchimura - excuse me, KING Uchimura - won the men's all-around (he's the GOAT - I had to look that up but now I know and I'll use it forever. About myself.)  Some other amazing Olympic'ish stuff happened too.

But I didn't really pay attention to any of that - why, you ask with piqued curiosity?

Because the big news in my world was that Justin Bieber tweeted the U.S. girls gymnastics team a note of congrats and pretty much the entire world came to a halt.

I'm only just barely kidding.

Jordyn Wieber, excuse me, Olympic gold medalist Jordyn Wieber, has stated for a long time that her two goals in life were to win an Olympic gold (although I'm guessing she meant in the all-around ::sniffsniff:) and to meet Justin Bieber. After they won the gold, she tweeted out, "we're Olympic champions! Now can we meet Justin Bieber?"

Well, Ryan Seacrest had given the Biebs a heads up that they were dying to meet them so he ... omg, this is so exciting to type..... he tweeted them back!!!

So this was literally news in my world. See?

Pretty sure I could hear the girls screaming all the way from the Olympic Village.

Oh, yea, and Barack Obama called them to say congratulations too but seriously - who? Can that guy sing and dance like this???



I didn't think so.

I do sincerely hope that Jordyn gets to meet Justin because if that's what makes her happy, then she deserves it. (sigh - I still can't watch her face after her vault without getting a bit choked up.)

I have no doubt that the Wieber-Bieber thing is going to happen. Get ready America. We're about to get Ieberized.


Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Best. Ever.


This pretty much sums up my feelings about the women's gymnastics team final last night.

I broke my chair.

No. Seriously. I broke my chair.

That was the most incredible set of gymnastics from an American team, ever. They hit every single routine and they didn't just the routines - they slammed them out of the park. Into another ballpark. 407 miles away.

I was so nervous leading into the competition. It began at 4:30 and around 4:15, I started to get waves of nausea. My stomach was doing more flips than Maroney's vault, my arms were tingling, my brain was doing the Macarena.

The first moment that calmed the nausea - Jordyn was the lead-off on vault and, of course, the big question of the night was "is Jordyn going to be able to put the disappointment of not making the all-around behind her?" The second she started running down the runway, I knew she was fine.

She was so focused and determined and when she hit that board, her vault just exploded. Higher and stronger than I think I've ever seen from her. And when her face broke into that huge smile as she landed, well.. omg... I'm getting verklempt just thinking about it. She had put the biggest devastation of her life behind her - something people had been telling her was her destiny since she was 10 - and here she was totally focused on doing her very best for the team. Just wow - what an incredible kid.

But it was THIS. (click it - watch it. love it. come back.)

Maroney's vault - the most amazing piece of gymnastics that I have ever seen. Ever.

That vault is so hard. It's insane that she gets that much height and power in the first place but last night, it was even higher, faster, stronger and better than she's ever done it before. Scratch that - it was better than ANYone has ever done any vault ever before. 

The entire room erupted in cheers and my heart about flew out of my chest. The researchers and I were glued to the replays (which they showed about 10 times as they worked on the live show). I think we were all trying to scrape our jaws off the floor. It was that good. Everyone in the room recognized that they had just seen something special.

Russia was on vault next and they had a somewhat decent performance - their last girl had a huge stumble off to the side, giving the US girls a bit of a cushion, scoring wise.

(The teams compete in groups of two countries and who you compete with is decided by the results from the qualifying rounds - so since the U.S. and Russia finished 1-2 in qualifying, they rotated in the same group together. Made for great sporting action as you could watch the U.S. do vault and then immediately compare Russia's vaults)

After training last week, it was clear that it was going to come down to Russia and the U.S. for the team title so I basically didn't even watch anyone but those two teams. (After it was over, I realized, oh crap - I don't know who got the bronze! Turned out it was Romania. Totally forgot they were there by the end of it)

We had all 4 of the big tv's in the room tuned to the gymnastics (sorry other sports) with one of the feeds on the chines/romania rotation, one on the US/russia rotation. And then the other two tvs were on the broadcast feeds - one on the world feed and then the other on the NBC broadcast that they were building for primetime later that day. My eyes were constantly darting from the US, NBC and world tvs - but I think I peeked over at Romania and China maybe 3 times? Once when Romania was on bars (oh, they don't look as terrible as they usually do), once when they were one floor (oh, nice Izbasa!) and once when a Chinese girl was crying ("this ain't no city championship!")

I was also following along on twitter to get the updates from the arena of the stuff that maybe we weren't seeing. So my ADD was in Disneyland.

The teams rotated to bars and I collected myself a bit (I was also working like a beast during this - or trying to anyway, the system we use to build everything kept crashing on me and I was split between having gymnastics heartattacks and having work heartattacks.)

But it was beam that made me nervous. Specifically, Gabby Douglas on beam. The NBC feed kept showing a replay of Aly grabbing Gabby's shoulders after bars (right before they head to beam) and saying, "you're fine, you're fine" obviously trying to calm her down. (awww - Aly - she's turned into an amazing team leader over the past year) Gabby has a checkered past on beam - she can be great. But she also be a bigger mess than Lindsey Lohan. When she lets her nerves get the best of her, it's a disaster (in fact, that will be the key for her during the all-around. If she can hit beam, she should win)

So the team goes to beam and the waves of nausea start coming back. I tucked my feet underneath me in my chair so I could sit a little higher and also so that I could just contain myself a bit. Because, duh, still working here. Can't fall apart now.

So Kyla goes and BANG! Best routine of her life. Amazing.

And now it's Gabby. I don't know if I was breathing. I looked over at Scott and Dave (the researchers) and they could both barely look at the tvs. So gymnastics row was a hot mess.

And then 16 year old Gabby Douglas gets up there and competes with a composure that is almost unimaginable. So calm. So confident. And so patient. She just took her time, let it happen and when she landed her dismount, I think I finally started to breathe for the first time in 5 minutes.

Aly was next and I knew that even if she had a few bobbles, she'd be fine. So I went to untangle myself out of my chair, still pretty hyped up over Gabby's beam, and I got my foot caught in the arm rest. Well, I don't have time for this! So I jerk my foot around a bit and ::CRACK:: broke the arm rest right off.

That's about right.

I barely even flinched at the time. After the event, though, I was like, "awww, dang! my chair!" But at the time, my only thought was, "whoops - oh crap, what if the russians get gifts like that on floor?"

It's cool. I'll just go steal Bob Costas' chair. He'd want me to have it.

When the Russians were up on beam, gymnastics row was still freaking out a bit -  the Russians were a bit of a mess but the judges were still giving them insanely high scores. We started to get nervous that the judges were doing everything possible to keep them in contention for the gold. Mustafina stumbled all over the place, only just barely not falling off twice and got almost the same score as Aly, who basically hit. What??!?! Ugh. gymnastics.

We really didn't have to worry because the russians absolutely imploded on floor. I expected them to have some errors but I never, ever expected to see a floor rotation that bad. And poor Grishina - landed a cartwheel on her elbow? At the Olympics? Hope she enjoys Siberia.

The American girls took the floor and it was basically over before it even started. They just needed to land most of their passes on their feet and they would be the winners. They did that and more. By the time Aly went, she only needed a 10 (used to be the golden standard, not it's a score that means you gave it a real quitter's try). She did two passes and Scott yells, "that's it! She can stop now!" With those two passes, she had pretty much scored enough points to win.

Jordyn's floor was electrifying, Gabby's music was almost listenable. And Aly had the entire arena wishing they were Jewish with her Hava-Naglia music.

Watching the girls stand there, holding hands and waiting for the scores to come up - AAAHHH!!! I could barely stand it. But it was Jorydn's face that did me in. She was glowing and so happy. And as Scott tweeted out (which REALLY got me) - "And just like it was always supposed to be, Jordyn Wieber is an Olympic gold medalist."

Tears. Hearts. Love.

Amazing.






Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Awwww, COME ON!

One of the funnest Olympic games to play in the NBC compound is the, “What Are They Watching?” game. There are a ton of monitors on all over the place and with about a billion sports going on at all times, you never quite know what’s going on. You’ll hear some raucous cheering down the hall… or, more likely, the guttural caveman yell of someone watching a feed by himself.

It never, ever fails that after a few random, unsourced, “COME ON!!”’s, someone will look up and say, “what are they watching?” It’s also equally as likely that a comedian in the crowd, without even looking up, will say, “equestrian.”


this ain't no city championship...

I'm a bit behind on my thoughts here because I have stuff I want to write about but it's from two days ago. I also have stuff I want to write about but it's from last night. But if I don't write about what happened two days ago, then the last night stuff won't make as much sense and then I'll just be confusing instead of my typical, crystal clear self and omg, I don't know if I could live with that and so I think I'll just continue to write this really long sentence that makes no sense but I can't seem to step writing and hold on.... and end scene.

phew.

I'm back.

There was a piece of fluff that NBC produced for the 2004 U.S. Olympic Trials that featured Tasha Schwikert's mom talking about how she thought Tasha needed to step it up if she wanted to qualify for the Olympics. For perspective - Tasha was a member of the 2000 Olympic Team, the national champion in 2001 and 2002 and a member of the U.S.'s first gold medal winning team at the 2003 World Championships.

So clearly, this is someone who needs to step it up, right?

(she actually did need to step it up - she was enormously talented but not that into work. She came around at a time when our team just wasn't all that strong and, as her mom told us in the fluff piece, had been "bluffing" her way through at times thanks to her extraordinarily competitive mind)

Ok, so.. yea? During that fluff piece, her marvelously eloquent mom (a Vegas dealer) said what has to be the best line used in a fluff piece ever. She said.... wait for it.... waiiiitt for it....

"This ain't no city championships, Tasha. This is the Olympics."

It is killing me that I can't find that video on YouTube right now. KILLING. ME. I need to see it!!!

Why? Oh, right - I'll get to that now.

China's men team has been the strongest team on the scene for years now. Just dominant. They almost always show up looking fit, strong and ready and even when they don't appear to have their mental game altogether there, they're still so ahead of everyone else that they can usually still run away with it. Annoying Japan all the way to the podium.

In prelims, China looked like I do after a night spent working the gate of Festa Italiana. Drinking, laughing with (at) Italians, those weird doughnut thingys and gross meat? Yea. That all means that I don't look great at 8am. And China looked worse.

As I watched and worked along with one of the gymnastics researchers, I started groaning (and tweeting) at the Chinese having such a craptastic competition. "Why aren't they even trying?!?!" And I'm not sure who quoted it first but, all of a sudden, we couldn't stop saying, "this ain't no city championship!!!"

It didn't make it any easier to watch, but it did make it funnier every time they would fail. Which was like, oh, every time they did gymnastics.

It was so disturbing – and annoying - to see this legend of a team suddenly look like they were competing for Alaska University’s club team. They just totally gave up and had zero fight in them. As a friend of mine, who is more eloquent than Tasha’s mom, says, “Please watch your dormant face!”

I mean, honestly, China – at least LOOK like you’re interested in the Olympics. This ain’t no city championships!!

Whatever, China. At least we still have Japan. Japan can win this thing and set right the world of gymnastics, right?

Oh, well great. Just great. Usually incredible Japan looks like they’re competing on Alaska’s club team too.

WHAT. IS. GOING. ON???!?!

Oh, hey, hey, hey. Hold the beam. What’s going on is that Team USA looks like they came to play! What, what?!??! They’re in first after the qualifying rounds? Seriousballs? That’s NEVER happened. Oh. My. Nadia.

Ok. So there was the silver lining of the evening. China and Japan sucked donkeyballs but our U.S. boys showed up looking ready to dominate the world. They were just on fire. So strong, so ready, so confident and performing like a team who understands they’re competing at the OLYMPICS.

We prepped tons of content talking about how the U.S. Men were in position to not only win an Olympic medal but a gold medal. Their first gold medal since the 1984 Olympics (when the Soviets and Eastern bloc countries boycotted so it’s always marred by that asterisk that basically says, “yea they won, but they totally didn’t deserve it” – Sorry, Bart.)

The men’s team final day arrived (way too quickly) and gymnastics row was fired up (gymnastics row being the back row of the nbcolympics.com and researchers room which includes 2 gymn producers and 2 gymn researchers – basically, live action gymnastics wiki). We had already devised a plan where I had promised to scrape them off the floor after the U.S. men won and then would hold them up by the scruffs of their necks while they feverishly put together highlights. It was flawless.

One problem – the U.S. men basically stunk up the joint by performing scared. They were so tentative and nervous – they were performing as if they had something to lose. Not something to gain.

Olympic lesson #42 – Olympic gold is always yours to win. Never yours to lose. You have to earn it. Every time. When you start trying to play a game of keep-away with gold, you’re definitely going to lose.

You cannot perform scared. The Olympic gods KNOW.

However, while the U.S. men were busy stumbling their way to a fifth place finish, China finally looked at the date and realized, “oh, hey guys – we’re AT the Olympics!” (I realize the weather is chilly but really, there’s no mistaking London for Alaska). But it was a great relief to see China finally show up and compete like China.

They won. Yay.

Anyway. The real fun was the Great Britain team killing it and earning their first Olympic team medal since 1928. The only thing that blew was that the judges failed to credit the last Japanese competitor (gym god, Kohei Uchinura – all hail!) with his dismount so at first it appeared that GB had won the silver medal when in reality, they won the bronze. Once they added back in the .7 points for Kohei, the Japanese moved up to 2nd.

But to the crowd, it absolutely appeared that GB was suddenly robbed of the silver medal – so an accomplishment that should have blown the roof off the joint ended up being a tad bittersweet for the audience. Not sure if the team felt that way (they didn’t look it) but that’s not the way you want to earn a medal. And of course, the press can’t shut up about it. Shut up about it already. You’re pooping on their moment!

Of course, the real loser of the evening was Ukraine, who ended up in fourth place after Japan got their points. But you know what, Ukraine – too bad. I don’t care. You’ve been breaking my gymnastics heart since 1997. Remember in 2000 when you had the all-around gold medal wrapped up and your athlete decided to trip and give it away?

Because I remember. She tripped! TRIPPED! (Viktoria Karpenko – 2000, Sydney, floor.)

So no sympathy for you, Ukraine. Sorry. I’m not sorry.

Today is the women’s team final and I’m very nervous which would explain this long rambly post that probably includes a lot of bad grammar. If the U.S. women’s team doesn’t win the gold today, something very, very bad will have happened and the researchers will be scraping ME off the floor.

Cross everything you have.


Sunday, July 29, 2012

Thanks, Ryan!

Ok - this is cool. My very awesome cousin, Ryan, pointed out that my pic of Ryan Seacrest and the U.S. women's team made the buzzfeed list of best Olympians to follow (talking about Jordyn Wieber)

Buzzfeed's list of best Olympians to follow

(and if you're too lazy to click on the link - here's a screen grab. You lazy sod)


Does this mean I'm famous now? It does? Ok, great. Can someone please fetch me a latte? Thanks. Make it soy!

Paula!!! Noooo!!!!

UGH. It was just announced on the BBC that Paula Radcliffe isn't going to compete in the marathon due to injury. She's a major legend here and one of my favorite athletes.

This. Sucks.

Opening Ceremony - kind of

"At times brilliant, at others, baffling."
- BBC

Yep. That's about right.

Best tweet of the night - "Remember when China did this way better?" (@hipstermermaid)

Best moment - that gorgeous cauldron. Wow.Wow.Wow.

I actually enjoyed the replays more than the live broadcast because when it was happening live, all I could think about was how bummed I was that it wasn't Roger Bannister. All I could think was, "wait - seriously??!?! You're letting these CHILDREN light the torch?" (btw kids - enjoy the massive amounts of pressure that you're going to endure for the rest of your lives - "Oh, you're the kid who was nominated by a legend to light the cauldron? Wow - why aren't you better at life?")

Ok. That's all I have time to say about the Opening Ceremony right now - it's the women's prelims round today which means we have 14 hours of live coverage to get through. WHEE!! But don't worry, my friends, I have many, many, many feelings about it that I will share when I have time to sit down and properly write some stuff.

(I say a lot of things like "properly" and "massive" because I'm really British right now.)

One thing I do have time to say is that when asking people about the ceremony yesterday, I was very careful to lead with, "what did YOU think about it?" Because if they were British, chances are they thought it was beautiful. If they weren't, they probably made the same squished face that I did, the face you make when you're trying to understand why anyone would make a shower with only half a door


London, I get it, you're trying to be economically responsible for the games but seriously - I could use the rest of my door now, please. It makes for some awkward mornings.

I've heard that the BBC folks are using NBC's compound to take a few hits at BBC's cheapness at the games - saying things like, "NBC has an entire Starbucks and all the BBC did was put out a teapot!" 

Now normally, I would say something kind to help people understand they why behind the coffee and the commissary and how it's just not feasible to NOT have these things due to the schedules people keep, etc - but my real reaction is to say, "HA! Suck it BBC!"


What was I talking about? Oh, right - the Opening Ceremony. Wow... I guess I did have some time to say a few words about it. Oh well. It's really far more important to cater to my ADD at this point.

Shoes!

Friday, July 27, 2012

buzzzzzzzzzzz

At the past two Olympics, I’ve gotten 2 or 3 songs stuck in my head and they, unfortunately, end up powering me through the games. There’s just so much crap stimulating your brain - from all of the various sports noise to the monitors to the conversations you’re catching snippets of, to your email and twitter and texts and phone and more email and IMs…. And …. Hold please…. breathe..... Ok, I’m back. So anyway, when my mind starts buzzing out of control and I need to reel it all back in, I put a mindless song on repeat and I settle back down.

In Beijing, my go to zone-out song was (and yes, I realize that this is SO embarrassing) Miley Cyrus, “7 Things”. And there was something else that I’m not remembering. Something by the Veronicas I think. (and YES!! I realize that’s not any better! Shut up!)

In Vancouver it was “One Day” and “Indestructible” from Matisyahu – One Day because it was the NBC promo song and Indestructible because I would run to it in the morning and those runs were some of my favorite moments from those games. (The song is a bit heavy on the ‘yay god’ stuff for me but otherwise lovely.) I can still see the NBC promo to One Day when I hear that song. It’s massively embedded in my head. When I die and my life flashes before me (which, btw, will be hilarious) that promo will probably find a way in to the highlight reel.

So, in London, because I’ve had such horrifying taste in mindless music in the past, I’ve been trying to get my brain to be cool with a little LCD Soundsystem, or maybe a little Paul Simon, even. Just anything to make me feel like I'm not a 13 year old mall going teen. But alas –all my brain wants is…. sigh…. “Call Me Maybe”

I KNOW!!!!!!!!

::places headphones on…. zones out::

P.S. - I'm in good company, at least!
U.S. Swimmer's take on the song

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Seacrest IN!


I got a chance to trail Ryan Seacrest and the U.S. Women's gymnastics team as they visited the NBC studios to do media with the Today Show and snap some pics along with the official photographer.

Ryan showed up to lunch with the girls. Not ugly.

 The girls were trying to enjoy a super private, cozy lunch. Or not.

Considering the fact that when they entered the comissary, a HUGE cheer went up as someone announced them ("Ladies and gentlemen, the women's gymnastics team!"), they were remarkably composed. It's not that they were ignoring what was going on around them, they were just very focused on the task at hand - which was lunch. (salad, sandwiches and fruit)

I'm not sure if they were expecting Ryan to be there or not - they knew they were doing an interview with him - but I'm not sure if they thought he would crash their lunch. But they took it in stride - just as they seemed to take everything.




After their conversation (giving the cameras enough time to grab footage for the Today Show segment with Ryan and Savannah Guthrie tomorrow), one of the girls asked Ryan if they could get a picture with him. He cheerfully obliged (which, impressive considering he's one busy dude)



After they'd posed for a few pictures, Ryan said, "hey! let's all do the splits!" The girls giggled and thought he was kidding but he persisted, even starting to demonstrate what he wanted to do. Again, the girls totally went with it.

Here he is showing that he's totally serious about everyone doing the splits.


McKayla found it hilarious


He's got pretty good flexibility for a tv show host. He must do a lot of Pilates. And Zumba. (a couple of the girls actually tweeted out the pic I took - I felt twitter cool. Which is different from real cool in that it just doesn't matter.)


And then it was time to get down to business. The girls were herded throughout the NBC compound to do various interviews. Not easy to stay focused on when you've got your biggest athletic challenge coming in two days. But they looked SO strong in podium training today, it's hard to imagine that this had any sort of effect on them - negative OR positive. They're as cool as can be right now.

They whipped through their vault rotation so quickly and fiercely today during podium training that it was almost scary. Just insanely huge and difficult vaults, one after the other. They were putting on a clinic of vault excellence and it was only training! They are on fire right now. Just praying, wishing, hoping and sacrificing chickens that they pull it all together when it counts.

Because if they lose this team title - it will be a travesty.

Love this pic of the girls on the monitors as they shot their segment.


The NBCOlympics.com photo gallery

It can be a bit harrowing to make your way around the halls of NBC at the Olympics. Everyone is in a massive hurry and everyone’s head is either buried in their phone or buried in thought.... which leads to a lot of fast walking almost-collisions. Every open doorway is a potential crash waiting to happen. People come flying around corners and the hallways have a constant stream of, “ohh, sorry… oof…. My bad… watch… cheers, mate… idiot!” (well, the last one is mostly said on the inside. By me. Because I watch where I’m going.)


It is two days before the Opening Ceremony and the Olympic pulse is starting to pick up. Women’s soccer got underway today and France scored the first goal. After that first goal, a collective gasp went out quickly followed by a series of subconcious tee-hee's as people put their heads back to their work. I definitely wasn't the only one who didn’t realize I was even watching. It just becomes a subconscious thing – Olympic action that matters? Your eyes are looking at the tv. You don’t even know how they got there.

I was walking down the hall after the game and someone commented that the U.S. team had taken the lead in the game. One guy said to the other, "god.... stupid France"

I concur.



Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Time to get going

I'm not great with my left and right. I can barely read an analog clock and I basically suck at math. What that all means is that this thing in my room is just a terrible, cruel joke.


 People that love clocks in the 24 hour time format are like people that love to drink coffee black. It's just .... no, you don't. You don't. How could you? It's disgusting. Like this clock.

(I've now spelled clock wrong about 3 times. Not. Great. Or family friendly)

(And also - I should clarify - I'm not talking about people who grew up with a clock like this. I can 'almost' get how they would be used to it. I'm talking about other lazy Americans who grew up with a mickey mouse digital wristwatch. Or, the green Kermit the Frog one I had.)

Speaking of black coffee. Which I did not drink this morning. I'm trying to turn myself into a green tea drinker in the morning. For two reasons - one, the rest of my day will be filled with starbucks but two, the only coffee in the room is instant and wow - although I decided it wasn't terrible yesterday, I woke up today and thought, yea, no, I don't have to do that today. 


So green tea it is - maybe it'll make me more British. Man, I'm loving hearing their voices everywhere. Can you imagine if I returned with a british accent? Oh my god, I'd be so annoying, it'd be awesome!

Two very long days of Podium Training begin today. Friday is a day of no gymnastics (although definitely NOT an off day) and then two even longer days of preliminary competition on Saturday and Sunday. Podium Training is basically the dress rehearsal for the athletes and the judges - and us. The athletes get used to what it feels like to compete on a raised podium. Not something they typically do - except for world and Olympic competition. The U.S. Championships is on a podium but we're one of the few countries with the resources to be able to do that. I'm pretty sure Canada's national championship took place in a middle school gymnasium during a PTA meeting.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Insight from the U.S. Women's head coach

Great blog post from U.S. Olympic head coach, John Geddart (personal coach of Jordyn Wieber) about the past week, finishing up training and all the Olympic swag.

John Geddart's blog


Jordyn Wieber - then and now

Jordyn Wieber, who is poised to grab the Olympic All-Around gold medal, was a ten year old phenom back in 2006

6 years ago at the junior national championships

Here she is a few weeks ago at U.S. Championships

She's always been a precise little duck.

I remember when she first appeared on the scene as a fetus and I thought, "well, she's adorable and strong but there's NO WAY she'll last until 2012. Not a chance." But she hung in there, kept improving and, most importantly, played it very smart when she was injured.

Most gymnasts will rush their return in order to not miss competitions or training but she and her coach knew the ultimate goal was the 2012 games, not the 2009 whatever competition. Very impressive to see this uberly talented prodigy actually make it to the big show. That doesn't happen very often - they usually burn out or worse, they just can't find a work ethic that matches their talent. Wieber is a rare combination of both talent and drive.

She also loves Justin Bieber but that's ok. 


Monday, July 23, 2012

Hello, London!

Well, I'm now on 34 hours of no sleep - and I haven't even started working yet. Oh, yea! This is shaping up to be a fabulous games ;)

My whole goal today was to stay awake until 7pm because I knew if I slept during the day, I would be an even bigger wreck tomorrow. I took the NBC charter last night which was a red-eye with grade A service.... only problem with that is they basically kept us up all night trying to give us food and drink. I know, I know, #firstworldproblems. But when it's 2am and all you want to do is sleep, it's pretty annoying to be offered wine.

Wait - did I just say that? What just happened here? I wonder if London makes me a prissy prude? China made me dumb so it's only fitting that London would effect me somehow. hmm... I'll be on the lookout for symptoms. Because that was pretty much the stupidest thing EVER to say - I was annoyed at being offered free wine. Holy crap, what is WRONG with me??!?

idiot...

Sooo.. anyway, in order to stay awake until 7pm, I hit the streets of London to see some British stuff. The last time I wandered these streets aimlessly, I was 13 and my mom had no idea. (sorry, mom!) This time around, I'm not necessarily any wiser, but I do have a credit card.

I've been seeing the pictures of the Olympic rings hanging from the London bridge and so I decided to hit that up first because, well, because I'm a nerd. So I jump on the train. And I jump off the train at the next stop realizing that I've just gone the wrong direction. Ok. No problem. Out the door (which, in London, you have to actually press a button to make the train doors open. I figured that out after I stood there like an idiot for about 30 seconds waiting for the door to open). Back up the stairs and onto the going-the-other-way train.

The Olympic-nice-people issued us all these things called Oyster cards which gives us access to all of London's public transportation for the entirety of the games. Felt a bit like a golden ticket today!

Made my way to the London bridge

Look up and realize I'm not seeing the Olympic rings so I (obviously) think, oh, I guess the rings are underneath the bridge.


Clearly, I was not thinking clearly.

But because I'm me, I stood there for a good two minutes trying to figure out where they put the rings and how I was going to get under the bridge to see them. EVEN THOUGH I have seen this iconic picture for weeks and had ingrained it in my brain that I wanted to see it in person in London. 

I finally looked across the street and realized that the rings were on THAT bridge, not the London Bridge. Sheesh. Der. (It's too early to claim zombie induced stupidity so I have to just go with some sort of UK induced fever)


And in other "dumb things I did" news - on the plane this morning, I was trying to turn my tv off but it was dark and so I kept jabbing at buttons. Apparently, I was hitting the flight attendant call button over and over again. The very nice and very concerned attendant walked over to see if I was ok. When he leaned over to ask me something, I went to take of my headphones so I could hear him. Instead of removing my headphones, I removed my glasses. Soooo.... that didn't really work.

Anyway - after I found the bridge and the rings, I made my way over to Westminster (the underground is surprisingly easy when you're paying attention). It was getting hot and I was starting to fade so I snapped some pics and called it a day.


Don't these stairs seem to be missing the point?


Pancake truck? Yes, please!


Media. Everywhere.


This guy looks like he just smelled a fart.





Ah, yes. And the security. Hi, giant gun! I keep forgetting about the security aspect of the Games. I was washing the travel filth off of me earlier today when all of a sudden, the alarms in the hotel went off. I sort of shrugged them off at first and then about 30 seconds later, I caught myself. "Oh, RIGHT, this could be real." I checked the hallways for screaming hotel workers but didn't find anyone. The alarms shut off after about 2 minutes, so clearly it was a false alarm, but it was a sobering reminder that I should at least be careful.



And this is where Team France will go to do French stuff. Like eat cheese and then take off their shirts. And smoke. And talk about how much they hate fat people. I mean, that's france in a nutshell, no?