Jenny's JourneyJenny Simon-O'Neill, Director of Olympic Sports for Cal Athletics, is on the ground in London and will be providing regular updates and features on the more than 40 Golden Bears competing or coaching at the Olympic Games. Look to Jenny's Journey for exclusive blog entries, features, photos, videos and more here on CalBears.com. Jenny is also tweeting her observations with the handle @BearsInLondon.
Aug. 11, 2012 - Goodbye from London
I will be leaving London with three Bears still competing on Day 16 - Kari Karlsson (Iceland) in the marathon, John Mann (USA) in the men's water polo classification 7-8 final and Aleksa Saponjic (Serbia) in the men's water polo bronze-medal match.
Friday (Day 14) was relatively low key. I completed my London sightseeing with a trip to the London Eye (londoneye.com), which offers outstanding views of the whole city. In addition to many famous sights, I was able to see the beach volleyball venue at Horse Guards Parade from above. After the London Eye, I headed back to the Westfield Mall adjacent to Olympic Park to meet up with Cal diving coach Todd Mulzet. It was great to see Todd and hear about his experience here at the games. Todd was on his way to the men's 10m platform preliminary. Click here to read more about my conversation with Todd.
I got to connect with Cal associate men's water polo head coach Boyd Lachance via text. He was spending the afternoon and evening in the water polo venue watching several back-to-back games. While I didn't get to see Boyd in person, I am looking forward to hearing about his trip when we get back to Berkeley. He did send a photo of himself with John Mann (USA) which you can see on the right.
It was weird to leave Stratford that night. I was actually sort of sad about leaving the chaotic crowded mall where I had spent so much time over the past three weeks. Mostly, I think that I was sad to think that the excitement around the Olympic Games would be coming to an end. I can't even imagine what it must be like for these student-athletes and coaches to leave the Olympic Village and Olympic Park to go back home. From what I heard talking to some of our Cal athletes and coaches, there is a mixture of excitement to be back at home and no longer living out of a suitcase and sadness about this incredible experience, for which they had worked so many years, coming to an end.
We had several Olympic athletes and coaches in attendance, including Heather Petri (water polo), Scott Frandsen (rowing), Zach Vlahos (rowing) and Julie Nichols (rowing). Tony Sandoval (track & field) came to the event with his daughter, Lisa Sandoval, who is also a Cal alumna. It was great to see Tony especially since he was headed directly from the event to the track to help Alysia warm up for her 800m final.
After the event, I was able to briefly sit down with Heather to learn more about her experience in water polo. The transcript from that Q&A should be posted on CalBears.com later tonight. Heather is a four-time Olympic medalist. She brought her gold medal to the event, which was quite a hit. Guests were lining up to get their photo taken with her.
Thanks again for reading my blog over the past several weeks. What an incredible Olympics for the California Golden Bears!! Go Bears!
The day was dedicated to interviewing Cal Olympians with the Tower Bridge in the background. Jigar Mehta and I met midday at the Starbucks by Tower Bridge to stake out a spot to talk to swimmers Caitlin Leverenz and Hannah Wilson and rower Kara Kohler. There were thousands of people roaming around the area between the Tower of London entrance and the Tower Bridge, making it difficult to find a good spot to film.
It was so great to see Caitlin and Hannah! I have been lucky enough to get to know these two student-athletes and their teammates over the last two years on a variety of trips, including the Pac-12 Championships, the NCAA Championships and the Olympic Trials. Hannah and Caitlin seemed to be loving their time in London.
Kara joined us at the filming site a little later on. She arrived fully dressed in her Team USA gear, including her American flag sunglasses. It was fun to watch what happened when she pulled out her own bronze medal. First, a couple of police officers came up and said "Is that real?" After brief conversation, they asked to have their photo taken with her. Once that happened, many other tourists noticed Kara and her medal and they literally formed a line alongside the bench to be able to take a photo. I got several more questions about the authenticity of the medal, what sport it was from, what country Kara was representing, and whether it would be okay for a family to take several different photos with Kara with variety of combinations of people.
In the midst of all of this, we did try to get some interviews in. During Caitlin's interview, we had a series of helicopters fly by several times and then three of them just stayed there right above where we were filming. This definitely caused a bit of a delay.
Afterwards, we took some photos with Caitlin and Kara with their medals. This caused some problems with Kara's long line of fans who, at this point, had been waiting about 10-15 minutes to have their photo taken with her. I definitely got some dirty looks from tourists when I told them that we needed her for our photos and then her interview. Once we were done with pictures, a seemingly polite tourist came up to me and asked, "Is it our turn yet?" I felt bad having to disappoint him, but I told him that it was time for Kara's on-camera interview.
The conversations with Kara, Caitlin and Hannah were really fun to do. While my experience of interviewing on camera is quite minimal, it is really easy to talk to people when you know them well enough to have an engaging conversation. It was cool to hear each of their stories and their unique roads to the Olympics. In 2008, Caitlin had come in third at the Olympic Trials and had just missed the opportunity to go to Beijing. This was Hannah's third Olympic Games - she competed in her first one when she was 15! Kara was in her first Olympics after learning to row less than three years ago when she arrived at Cal as a freshman. All three of these interviews should be posted on CalBears.com over the next couple of days.
After the interviews with the student-athletes, I got to talk to our High Performance Director, Keith Power. Keith, who is originally from Great Britain, has been here in the UK for the past two weeks both for the Olympic Games and also to connect with key experts in sport science, talent identification and development, and performance analysis. It was really interesting to hear how he plans to bring back this experience and knowledge to Cal. You can learn more about what he has been doing day-to-day on his Olympic blog.
Keith's next stop was the Sportius International Events: Athlete Celebration, which was a gathering on a boat on the River Thames with many Olympic athletes in attendance. There, Keith ran into Cal's Anthony Ervin! There is a photo of Keith and Anthony in the photo gallery.
It was certainly a fun day by the Tower Bridge. I managed to explore yet another form of public transportation yesterday evening. The Thames Clipper is a very fast boat that ferries people from one part of the city another, and it is part of the city's public transit system. After the interviews, I headed out to Greenwich to explore. While it was definitely interesting to see, I managed to get stuck in an area where thousands of people were arriving for the men's basketball quarterfinal between Brazil vs. Argentina at the same time as fans were leaving from the France vs. Spain game. It was a bit of a disaster. I was on the Greenwich peninsula with no way out. The tube had a least an hour wait to get near a train, the ferry had an hour wait, the buses had multiple-hour waits and the new gondola that had been set up to take people across the river was packed with people. For the first time since I had arrived at the games, I experienced true crowd issues. Pretty impressive that this didn't happen until Day 12!
First, I met Jigar Mehta, who is producing some videos for CalBears.com, down at the P&G Family Home where we interviewed two-time Olympic gold medalist Erin Cafaro, a member of the USA eight in rowing. It was so interesting to get to hear Erin's road to London. We will be posting that interview on CalBears.com over the next couple of days. In 2008, Jigar had the opportunity to interview Erin's parents at the Beijing Games (see here). More recently, the New York Times did a piece on the USA eight, which highlights Erin and her coxswain, Mary Whipple (twin sister of Cal's women's crew associate head coach Sarah Puddicombe). You can view that story here.
Being back at the P&G Family Home was great. It really has a "home" feel to it. I ran into Jeannine and Brianna Leverenz (Caitlin's mom and sister). They were eating lunch in the courtyard right next to where we were interviewing Erin. I was reminded of a great quote from Jeannine earlier in the games. She said, "my experience at the P&G Family Home makes me want to buy Tide detergent forever!" You may have seen the P&G "Moms" commercials as well.
While sometimes I think that these types of campaigns are a little cliché, it is so neat to hear from the actual moms of Olympians who really feel very taken care of and appreciated. The photo gallery has some great shots of the P&G Family Home.
In yesterday's blog, I forgot to mention another Bear sighting I had near the London Bridge. I saw Staciana (Stitts) Winfield and her husband, Brett. We didn't get a chance to talk extensively, but it was great to see them. Staciana was an All-American swimmer for Cal, as well as a gold medalist from the Sydney Olympic Games in 2000. Her husband was a rower at Cal.
After the interview with Erin, I managed to figure out the bus system to get to our next interviews with Natalie Coughlin and Nathan Adrian. While it took me a little while to figure out that I was waiting on the wrong side of the street for the bus, my first London bus experience was a success.
Jigar and I interviewed Natalie and Nathan in the Waldorf Hilton Dream Suite, which is an area dedicated to providing hospitality to Olympic athletes and staff. Like with the Team USA House and the P&G Family Home, security was very tight to access this space. We had great interviews with both Natalie and Nathan, which will also be posted on CalBears.com soon. At the Beijing Olympics, Jigar was able to spend some time with Natalie's parents (watch here).
When we were finished, I hopped on the bus back to the P&G Family Home to interview Tony Sandoval, who coaches cross country and track & field at Cal. It was so good to see Tony! He is here in London as Alysia Montano's personal coach. Alysia will be running in the prelims of the women's 800m tomorrow morning at the Olympic Stadium. It was great to get Tony's insight on the experience of being a personal coach at the Olympic Games. He also has an interesting perspective on the differences between the 1976 Olympics in Montreal and the London 2012 Olympics. Read more about our conversation in this brief Q&A.
What a great day - four interviews with Golden Bears! Can't wait for tomorrow!! Not only is Alysia running the 800, but Aleksa Saponjic and the Serbian men's water polo team plays Australia at 3:50 p.m. GMT in the quarterfinals. John Mann and the USA men's water polo team take on Croatia at 8 p.m. GMT. Go Bears!!
First, I headed out to the Team USA House near the Royal Albert Hall to meet Cal alumnus and 2004 Olympic gold medalist Pete Cipollone. I was thrilled at the opportunity to interview Pete because both he and Mike Teti had been heroes of mine when I entered the sport in the mid-1990s.
The Team USA House was full of Bear fans! As I was getting in line for security to enter, I heard my first "Go Bears!" I met Matt Haniger, who was wearing a Cal football shirt. Matt explained that he was a Cal fan and his wife was a 1994 Cal alum. In the photo gallery, you will find a photo of Matt and me.
Before Pete and I could start our interview, I had to meet with the media coordinator to get credentialed to go into an area that was closed off to the public. She was very nice and gave me a temporary credential and told me that I could have about 15 minutes in the courtyard to interview Pete. While it was very strict, I did feel quite official getting to have a temporary media credential!
The interview with Pete was great! I could have talked to him for hours about his coxing career and his current role as chairman of the Board of the Directors at USRowing. Since I had a temporary credential though, the media coordinator was back to escort me back to the door after 15 minutes. You can read our Q&A here.
Afterwards, I explored with Team USA store, which is where I ran into three Bear fans in a row! First, I found Matt Haniger again so that I could get a photo with him in his Cal football t-shirt. The, a woman in the store came running up to us and asked if we were Cal people. Her name was Sarah Lewis, a 1989 graduate and a huge Cal fan. I asked if I could take my photo with her and she looked very concerned because she was wearing a lot of red - supporting Team USA, of course! She said that she definitely couldn't be on CalBears.com wearing red ... so I gave her my jacket so we could both be in Cal gear for the photo. Sarah told me that this was her fifth Olympics! She had just come from Wimbledon the day before where she watched Serena Williams and the Bryan brothers win gold medals. Sounds wonderful.
As I was walking upstairs from the checkout area, I was greeted with another "Go Bears," this time from a gentleman named Roland Moore, who graduated with his Ph.D. from Cal in 1992 and now lives and works in Berkeley. I learned that Roland is a senior research scientist at the Prevention Research Center right near campus. He is also an avid Bear fan!
What a great trip to the Team USA House! Next step, the Proctor & Gamble (P&G) Family Home to meet up with Nathan Adrian's parents for an interview. The P&G Family Home is across town near the London Bridge. From what I had heard from the Leverenz family, this is an amazing gathering spot for Team USA athletes and families. Jeanine Leverenz, mother of bronze-medalist Caitlin, said it was her favorite place to go on the days that her family did not have tickets to the swimming events. All the families were there together to gather around the television and cheer on the team. P&G also offers a wide variety of amenities to make the athletes and families feel at home, including free laundry service, a salon, internet cafe and multiple meals per day.
Jigar Mehta, a Cal alum who works with our Athletics Communications department to produce fabulous video features on CalBears.com from London, met me at the P&G Family Home entrance. The security is very strict, similar to the Team USA House, as P&G wants to create a safe and private area for athletes and families to be together. It took a while for Jigar and me to get credentialed to go inside to interview Cecilia and Jim Adrian. Once credentialed, we were escorted through the building for a tour and then were able to set up in the courtyard area for the interview. I won't give away any more details of the interview because Jigar's piece will capture it, but definitely look for it on CalBears.com over the next couple of days.
While at the P&G Family Home, I was lucky enough to run into Golden Bear Olympic rowers Zach Vlahos and Kara Kohler! It was wonderful to see them and I am looking forward to connecting with them further for some interviews later in the week.
The final race of the Olympic Games for swimming was the men's 400 medley relay. For the first two legs of the relay, I really didn't know who was going to win. When Michael Phelps dove in, the U.S. was not in the lead. Phelps did a good job of inching the U.S. back into gold medal contention, but it wasn't until Cal's Nathan Adrian dove in did it become crystal clear how that relay would end. Nathan just crushed the rest of the field and finished that race to win his third medal of the week and his second gold medal of the games!
I spent my Saturday out at Eton Dorney watching the final day of Olympic rowing. Prior to the start of racing, it started pouring rain. It was quite a spectacle watching hundreds of fans try to stuff themselves into the bathrooms, which were the only options for shelter. We had two Bears racing yesterday. Will Dean in the Canadian men's 4- finished third in B final, and Julie Nichols and her doubles partner, Kristin Hedstrom, finished fifth in B final of the women's lightweight double sculls.
In honor of Day 8 being the last day of rowing, I am excited to get to share the interviews that I did with some of our coaches and athletes during the week.
First, I wanted to thank our women's rowing coach Dave O'Neill for giving me great insight into the rowing experience at the Olympic Games. Not only did he take the time to give us some on-camera comments for CalBears.com, but I also got to spend a good amount of time with him over the course of the week asking tons of questions about his experience. These ranged from discussing how the starting mechanism worked, to what the food was like in the cafeteria, to what the satellite village was like, to where the boats came from (Were they shipped or were they rented here in Europe?), to how the Olympic regatta compared to the NCAA Championships from a regatta organization standpoint. From me, both professionally and personally, it was a dream come true to not only see the Olympic rowing venue and watch racing, but get to learn from someone like Dave about what the actual experience was like for the coaches.
Here are the links to the two on-camera interviews with Dave. The weather was rather terrible when we did both interviews ... the first, on Sunday, July 29, was in the midst of a wind storm and the second, on Tuesday, July 31, was during a rain storm.
I also had the opportunity to connect with men's crew coach, Mike Teti and USA men's 8+ coxswain Zach Vlahos as they were preparing for their final. Because of weather delays and concern about thunder and lightning, the 8+ practice was delayed, and Zach and Mike were able to take some time to interview. It was great to get the perspective of a veteran Olympic coach and also an athlete who was competing at his first Olympics.
Here are the links to those two interviews. Like with Dave's interviews, we took these in adverse weather conditions so there is a wind noise in the background.
Strangely enough, on Day 9 (Sunday), we have no Cal athletes competing. A day of rest for everyone. I am looking forward to heading down to the USA House to interview Pete Cipollone, who is a Cal men's crew alum, 2004 USA Olympic coxswain and current president of the Board of Directors of USRowing.
Today, I took the train to Wimbledon to see the Olympic tennis venue and to meet up with Cal Athletics intern Christian Jordan. Wimbledon is quite far away from where I am staying, and I had to take three different trains to get there.
Once we arrived, it was well worth the trip. Wimbledon is a quaint little town that is both proud and protective of its rich tennis history. Even the Olympic mascot was constructed of well-manicured ivy instead of the usual primary colored ceramic material that is used for other mascots around the venues. The mascot looked as if it could have been stationed in front of Buckingham Palace. I have included a photo in the gallery.
Seeing Christian Jordan was quite a treat. Christian arrived on my doorstep in Haas Pavilion two years ago and told me that he was starting at Cal in the fall and would love to be a part of Cal Athletics. He became one of my most active Olympic Sports Operations interns right away. Christian has been an amazing addition to our department and is an invaluable resource for many coaches in a variety of different sports. He was also involved in hosting the NCAA Men's Water Polo Championships in 2010 and 2011 on campus. During the 2011-12 academic terms, he took a year off of school to explore the world with a focus on tennis. He will share more about this in his Q&A. I had brunch at a cute little French cafe with Christian and his father Andy.
Christian had tickets for Wimbledon this afternoon, so after breakfast, we walked down to the venue through a nice neighborhood with beautiful homes and gardens. I did get a peak at the venue from afar but unfortunately, I wasn't allowed to get very close to the actual courts. Christian, who describes Wimbledon as the Cathedral of Tennis, has sent us photos of the inside of the venue for our CalBears.com photo gallery. I am looking forward to seeing them myself!
After Wimbledon, I took a brief stop in Putney to walk along the Thames River. This area is the racecourse for the famous Oxford/Cambridge Boat Race. While I have heard that thousands of people line these shores on race day, it was a very quiet rowing town today.
As I was traveling around, I was closely watching (electronically) the match-up between Alex Morgan (USA) and Betsy Hassett (NZ) in the quarterfinal women's soccer match in St. James Park. When you have two Bears playing against one another, it's really hard to know who to cheer for. The USA won the game, 2-0.
Looking forward to heading back out to Eton Dorney tomorrow for the final day of rowing.
Here is the schedule for the Golden Bears on Day 8:
Basketball - Results
Men's Rowing - Results
Women's Rowing - Results
Men's Swimming - Results
Women's Swimming - Results
Men's Water Polo - Results
It was quite an exciting morning out at the Eton Dorney rowing venue. Erin Cafaro and the USA women's eight defended its 2008 title with a great win over Canada and the Netherlands. Congratulations to this boat for a phenomenal quadrennial. This win brings Cal to nine medals in the 2012 Olympics so far. Read more about today's results for the Golden Bears in the Day 6 recap on Calbears.com.
The mall was PACKED! There were hundreds of people wandering around. The interesting thing about the mall is that there is no order to how people walk. I would have thought that people would always try to hug the right side of the walkway so as to allow room for people to walk the other direction. Perhaps, because the British drive on the left, they would hug the left side. Neither seems to happen. Instead everyone just walks AT one another. At times, it feels a bit like a video game trying to figure out how to appropriately dodge people to get to where you want to go.
I forgot to mention this in yesterday's blog but as I was dodging MANY people in attempt to run to get my water polo ticket, I heard a "Go Bears." I was so excited to hear the "Go Bears," though it was a little hard for me to tell where it came from because of the swarms of people around me. I finally identified the gentleman, who seemed very excited to see me as well. Unfortunately, I couldn't stop to learn more about him because I was literally being pushed to go forward, so turning around and changing directions and crossing the crowd sadly wasn't an option. By the time there was a clearing, the Bear fan was gone.
My favorite things about this Olympic Park mall are the free mobile phone charging stations. What a great idea! They are about a third of the size of a vending machine. Each station has 6-8 tiny little lockers with keys. Inside the locker, you can find any type of charger you need. You can then lock your phone in the locker while it charges and take the key. The best part - it's FREE!
Lunch with Teri and Jerry was great! Remarkably, the Mexican food in Great Britain was quite good in spite of its lack of proximity to Mexico. It was fun to hear Teri talk about the 4x200 free relay last night. What an exciting win, especially as it was the first women's swimming relay for Team USA win since 2004, which, by the way, including both Dana Vollmer and Natalie Coughlin. After lunch and a trip to the gelato station in the middle of the mall, Teri headed back to the Olympic Village, and I interviewed Jerry about his experience in London. Jerry is the ultimate Bear fan! He attends every home football and men's basketball game (and has done so for many years), in addition to all of the swim meets. He also traveled with us to Auburn, Ala., for the NCAA Women's Swimming Championships and to Omaha, Neb., for the Olympic Trials. It was great to get his perspective on the London 2012 Olympics in this brief Q&A.
I have been asked a couple of times by CalBears.com readers to repost the links to previous Q&As from this trip. Here they are:
Here is the schedule for the Golden Bears on Day 7:
Men's Rowing - Results
Women's Soccer - Results
Men's Swimming - Results
Women's Swimming - Results
Men's Track & Field - Results
Women's Water Polo - Results
It is also sort of an optical illusion. Because of the oddly shaped structures, everything appears closer than it actually is. It takes about 20 minutes to walk from the entrance of the park to the Aquatics Center entrance even though the venue is the first building you see when you enter through the Stratford Gate.
Swimming was a very exciting experience. I really enjoyed getting to see Hannah Wilson (Hong Kong), Martin Liivamagi (Estonia), Sara Isakovic (Slovenia) and Dana Vollmer (USA) race instead of just watching on TV. My tickets were very high up in one of the temporary wings of the building. There is a core part of the center, which will remain after the games are over and will be used as a training facility for elite swimmers. They built massive "wings" on this core to provide thousands more seats for spectators. The design is innovative in that no matter how high up you go in the wing, you still have a view of the full pool. But you can't see across to the spectators on the other side.
I also got to ask Teri some questions about her experience in London so far. I look forward to sharing that interview with you on this blog over the next couple of days.
Caitlin still looked just as thrilled as she did when she won her bronze medal last night in the 200 IM. She was nice enough to let me hold her medal. Those medals are huge and quite heavy. I also got to spend the second half of the afternoon with Caitlin's parents and her younger sister.
While I was spending time with Teri and Caitlin, Kara Kohler and the USA women's quadruple sculls were winning medals at Eton Dorney! Kara finished her 2012 Olympic Games with a bronze medal. I wish had gotten to see it. Congratulations Kara!
To finish off my day in Olympic Park, I got to watch USA women's water polo team (with Heather Petri and Elsie Windes) take on Spain. Thanks to one of my Twitter followers, Christopher Lee, who is on the USA women's water polo staff, I was offered a ticket unexpectedly. The match was very intense, with Spain leading throughout the first half. During the second half, Team USA came back with a vengeance, leading at one point by three goals. Spain responded in the last 3-4 minutes, and they finished in a 9-9 tie.
The Golden Bears finished Day 5 with three more medals. Nathan Adrian (100 free) and Dana Vollmer (4x200 free relay) rocked the house with two more gold-medal-winning performances. As I was walking out of Olympic Park, I had heard roars coming out of the Aquatic Center. What an amazing day!
Make sure to read the Day 5 Recap on Calbears.com for more information about all of the results from today.
Here is the Day 6 schedule for the Golden Bears:
Men's Water Polo
I woke up this morning at 5 a.m. again to head out to Eton Dorney for more rowing. The weather was a bit unfortunate as it was raining throughout the drive then drizzling for the next 7-8 hours. That said, it was really no different than my six years living in Portland, Ore. I was really excited to get to explore this venue for a second day.
Like Sunday, we arrived at the race course three hours before the first competition. While waiting for the park to open (at 7:30 a.m.), I ate my pot of porridge (yes, it was actually listed on the menu like that) at a table with a family of Great Britain fans from Sussex. The first thing they said to me was, "wow, it sounds like you came a long way for this race," which initially made me wonder if I looked exhausted and weathered. I realized that they were nicely trying to ask me about my accent.
We ended up having great conversation about Cal Athletics and the 45 Golden Bears at the Olympics. Midway through the conversation, one woman stopped the conversation and said what events are the Cal athletes in? We would like to cheer on your team, as well. I explained to them that Golden Bear Julie Nichols would be racing in the lightweight double sculls, which was coached by Cal women's crew head coach Dave O'Neill. They carefully marked it on their heat sheet and told me that they would be cheering for us. We created more Bear fans before 8 a.m! Clearly, this is a good day already.
When we were finally allowed to enter the park, we went directly up to the starting line to watch practice. As I noted in my previous Eton Dorney blog, I LOVE watching practice! I didn't realize that we would be able to get so close to the starting line. We were able to walk to about the 80-meter mark. From the photo gallery, you will be able to see some great close-ups of what the starting area looks like. The highlight of the morning practice was seeing Kara Kohler and the USA women's quadruple sculls. Go Bears!
Julie Nichols and her doubles partner, Kristen Hedstrom, had a great repechage. They led the field right from the start and finished the race with a 1.5 second lead. With this win, they have now qualified for the semifinal on Thursday. Julie was the lone Golden Bear to race in the session this morning.
As I was walking down from the grandstands several races before the end of the session, I heard a "Go Bears." Sitting several rows below me were two Bear fans who live in Munich, Germany. Dave Watson and Kathleen Noonan were in town to cheer on the Bears! In my brief conversation with them, I learned that Dave had been the co-president of the Prague Cal Alumni Club. I was so happy to get to meet them!
I headed back up to the starting line so that I could see the start of the last 4-5 races. Being a USRowing referee, I am intrigued with how the start of the race is executed both by the officials and the crews. Like the rowing nerd I am, I filmed each starting sequence so I can have a collection of starts to go back and review, as I am trying to improve my own skills in starting races.
Up at the start area, I also got to catch up with Dave O'Neill. I was excited to find out what he thought about Julie's race and what Thursday's semifinal would look like. I look forward to sharing that video interview with you over the next couple of days.
Dave and I watched part of the afternoon practice on the course. I was excited to get to see Golden Bears Scott Frandsen (stroke seat of the Canadian men's pair) and Olivier Siegelaar (seven seat of the Netherlands men's eight) practicing on the course. Siegelaar and alum Zach Vlahos (USA) will race against one another in the final of the men's eight Wednesday morning. I have included photos of Scott and Olivier in the photo gallery.
After seven and a half hours at the racecourse, when most people including the volunteers and the officials were headed home, I decided it was probably time to leave. My next stop was to meet up with Cal Assistant AD Dan Williams and his family to find out about their trip to the Olympics.
My day finished off getting to watch an outstanding performance from Caitlin Leverenz in the 200 IM final. Caitlin earned a bronze medal!
Even after four years of working at Cal, it still gives me goose bumps to think about how lucky I am to be a part of this amazing Cal family. Go Bears!
Golden Bears in Action on Wednesday, Aug. 1
Women's Water Polo:
Rowing Photo Gallery
Day 2 of the Olympic Games was packed with excitement for me, beginning at 5:30 a.m. when I headed out to Eton Dorney (about 30 miles outside London) to watch rowing. This experience was literally a dream come true. I purchased my rowing tickets back in late November so I have had MANY months to imagine what it would be like to arrive at this facility. As anticipated, it was perfect.
It made me so happy to see hundreds of people lined up to see rowing three hours before the race. Don't get me wrong - I would have lined up three DAYS before the first race, but I do see myself as somewhat of a rowing nerd.
The race course itself was nothing like I had ever seen before. I have been a part of the world of rowing from so many different angles - athlete, coach, official and regatta director - that every inch of that course was intriguing to me. I won't bore you too much with the intricate details of the color and cleanliness of the buoys to the architecture of the camera system to the beautifully polished, perfectly functioning chase boats for the officials, but you will see some of my obsession with the details in the photo gallery. Looking at the course from a more macro view, there were two huge grandstands for spectators that that spanned the last 250 meters of the course. These grandstands were filled to the brim with excited fans! The Lane 1 side of the race course was to be open to ticket holders except for the bike path for coaches right along the shore. The bulk of the rest of shore areas of the water was cordoned off for those with credentials. Luckily, I had a strong zoom lens to get some photos of that area.
Because we arrived so early, we got the opportunity to watch the non-racing boats practicing. Sometimes that is my favorite part of going to a regatta because the athletes' personalities tend to come out more when you can see how they execute a practice. Are they picky about details? Who is taking the leadership role in the boat? Are the athletes interacting? Do they look happy and relaxed, or uptight and terrified? In practice, you also get to see them for longer because sometimes they will do two loops on the course. It's also especially helpful that most people aren't interested in practice, so the bulk of the fans choose that time to wait in line for coffee while I get the best seats in the house 20 feet from shore. It was amazing to watch the British fans react to their Great Britain boats rowing by. People would run to shore to cheer on any team GB boat (even it meant losing their place in the coffee line).
Before racing started and between the races, our hosts utilized the huge video board to show short informational clips on the parts of the stroke and elements of the race. That seemed helpful for fans that didn't know much about rowing. The announcer was also very impressive both keeping us informed and making us laugh with his witty personality.
The racing itself was pretty mesmerizing. I must have taken about 1000 photos. I'm not sure why I thought it was vital to document every boat from every country as well as the positioning of the referee on the course ... but I did. There was an overhead camera that was strung along a cable that was over a mile long, which provided the phenomenal bird's-eye footage of the racing from start to finish.
After racing, I got to catch up with Cal's Mike Teti, Dave O'Neill and Zach Vlahos. I'm looking forward to sharing those videos with you over the next couple of days.
Day one of the Olympic Games was quite an experience. First, I woke up this morning and immediately turned on the television. There were so many great rowing and swimming events to watch this morning, I could hardly wait! My first challenge was to learn how the BBC covers things. I have definitely heard people complain in the U.S. about the NBC coverage and how U.S. centric it is.
While I have been impressed with the BBC coverage and definitely enjoyed not having commercials, I have struggled a bit with the fact that they only show the heats that include Great Britain. So perhaps, the BBC is not that superior to NBC in its international coverage. Of course, I didn't figure this out until just after the live coverage began. I was literally fumbling around the house gathering the iPad and the iPhone so that I could watch the rowing feed on the iPad, the swimming feed on the iPhone, while still watching live television coverage. Then, I ran out of Apple products for tweeting. It was kind of a mess. Sadly, in the midst of all of this confusion, I missed Sara Isakovic's 100 fly, but I did get to catch Hannah Wilson as she was getting on the blocks for her 100 fly. I was horrified when BBC went back to the studio to interview Ian Thorpe, completely bypassing Dana's heat in the 100 fly during which she broke the Olympic record! In any case, the good news is that I finally figured out a robust BBC watching system when it was time for Caitlin's 400 IM! Watching Caitlin Leverenz qualify for the final (in her first event of her first Olympic Games) was unbelievable! I also loved watching Natalie Coughlin behind the blocks before the 4x100 free relay heat. She was beaming from ear to ear, looking so happy to be there and so excited to swim.
My favorite moment occurred while watching the BBC cover rowing at Eton Dorney. As the crews were sitting on the line of Heat one of the men's eight race, the BBC announcer said something to the effect of, "we are not expecting much from this American crew. We haven't seen anything from them all year...they came in eighth at the World Championship last year."
Then, after they shot out of the pack in the first 750 meters, gaining a bow to stern lead over the field, the BBC announcer said (sounding somewhat surprised), "The United States looks absolutely stunning!" It made me very proud to be a Golden Bear, because as many of you know, the U.S. men's eight is coxed by Zach Vlahos and coached by Mike Teti.
After spending the morning watching rowing and swimming, I went on an excursion to Hyde Park to watch the men's road race (cycling). While traveling on the tube to Hyde Park Corner, I was pleasantly surprised that there were so few people on the trains. I had been so well prepared by the GetAheadofTheGames.com campaign with its catchy tag line of "One million have planned their travel, have you?" that I was anticipating squeezing myself onto a train. The good news is that I even had a seat on the train for virtually the whole way.
The crowds changed pretty significantly when we got to Hyde Park. You will see in the photo galleries that there were thousands of people lining the streets of the last several kilometers. I managed to find a spot with some friends in the last kilometer of the race. We waited there for several hours as more and more people poured in. As the cyclists approached the last kilometers, I started to realize that I am a little too short to try to watch something on the street with thousands of people. I found myself standing behind a wall of people who were not only taller than me, but who were also holding their cameras and smart phones above their heads to catch a bit of the cycling action. The whole thing was somewhat of an entertaining sight. The energy was incredible. People had been there so long that they just started cheering very loudly for anything that drove or rode by. Every time a police car or an Olympic vehicle drove by, people would pound on the barricades along side of the road. It sounded like a train overhead or loud rumbling thunder. Fans of all ages and nationalities were waving flags and chanting for their respective countries. I especially loved those who wrapped themselves in their flags.
While the cyclists were riding in from Box Hill, I sat on the curb behind the wall of people and opened up my iPad to follow our Bears competing in women's soccer matches across the country (Betsy Hassett was playing for New Zealand against Brazil, and Alex Morgan was playing for the U.S. against Colombia). It was heartbreaking to hear that Brazil scored in the 86th minute to win the match against New Zealand, 1-0. However, the U.S. earned another three points with their second victory in the Games, beating Colombia, 3-0. You can read more about these two matches on the Day One Recap.
I looked up from my iPad when I heard a definite pause in the crowd's excitement as the announcer told us that one of the leading cyclists, Fabian Cancellara from Switzerland, crashed as he was taking a right turn in the last 20 kilometers of the race. The announcer explained that even the cyclists who were racing near him looked shocked and disturbed when he crashed.
By the time the cyclists made it to the last kilometer, the action came and went within seconds! Over the next 15 minutes, we saw some additional cyclists come through. The dedicated fans pounded loudly until the very last athlete rode through. The whole experience was very exciting. It also marks the first Olympic event that I have ever seen live!
On the way home, I walked through Piccadilly Circus, which reminded me of Times Square in New York City. At this point, the crowds were insane. It was like walking on a freeway...with a bunch of people (including myself) who weren't sure which side of the sidewalk to walk on.
I will say that the people of London seem to have fully embraced the idea of customer service. Both the Games' volunteers and those who are just fellow pedestrians on the street have been very helpful. I barely have to look lost before someone tries to help me - definitely something I appreciate.
Over the phone, I got a chance to connect briefly with Cal's High Performance Director, Keith Power. He was touring Loughborough University, which is the top University for student-athletes in the United Kingdom. It is also the main Great Britain training camp headquarters. He was there to meet with Loughborough's High Performance Director. I am looking forward to interviewing Keith on Monday afternoon to find out more. I will definitely blog about his experience at Loughborough later this week.
This evening, Dana Vollmer swam another amazing race in the Semifinal of the 100 fly. She will go into the final tomorrow night as the top seed. I wanted to share a fascinating piece that the New York Times did on Dana and her butterfly stroke technique which was published yesterday. Back in March, writers and staff from the New York Times as well as Computer Science professors from NYU came to Spieker Aquatics Complex with 23 cameras to film Dana. I had the opportunity to meet and work with the staff assigned to this project. You can click here for the actual piece published on the New York Times' website. You can also see more on how it was made here.
Make sure to read the Day One Recap to find out more about all of the races and matches today!
Golden Bears competing on Day Two of the Olympic Games:
Dominik Meichtry (Switzerland) - 200 Free Heat 4, Lane 6 @ 10:20 a.m. GMT (Semifinal @ 7:37 p.m. GMT)
Stephanie Au (Hong Kong) - 100 Back Heat 3, Lane 3 @ 10:00 a.m. GMT (Semifinal @ 8:49 p.m. GMT)
Wow - the Opening Ceremonies were unbelievable! I want to be careful not to spoil any of the details of the ceremonies as I know that many West Coast people may not have seen it yet. That said, I will tell you a couple of things about my experience watching the coverage. I have also included a "teaser" photo gallery, which will not ruin the event for you, I promise. These were several screen shots that I took of the BBC coverage during the games. I can only take credit for the coordination of being able to quickly take the screen shot that I wanted on the ipad... for the shots themselves, the credit definitely goes to the BBC.
Sadly, the tickets available for this event were upwards of $3400 so I was certainly not in attendance at the Olympic stadium. The BBC footage was pretty captivating though. Beginning at about 5:30 p.m. here in London, I was glued to the television. I honestly had goosebumps when I watched the Olympic torch be rowed in vintage row boats along the River Thames. There were hundreds of people on the water including junior age athletes rowing in boats alongside of the torch boat. What an incredible opportunity for them. I was also pretty mesmerized by the red, white and blue flyover especially when we could hear it from our house in North London!
As of the rest of the ceremonies, all I will say at this point is that they are definitely worth watching. In my mind, this was one of the best Opening Ceremonies that I have seen in my lifetime. Congratulations to London and the organizing committee for putting together such a spectacular welcome for the athletes, coaches, officials and spectators.
Next, the excitement that we have all been waiting for - Day 1 of the Olympic Games (Saturday, July 28th). Each day, Calbears.com will post a full recap of the day's events.
Where to find your Golden Bears on Day 1:
Zach Vlahos - USA Men's Eight @ 10:10 a.m. GMT Heat 1, Lane 2
Kara Kohler - USA Women's Quad @ 9:50am GMT Heat 1, Lane 4
Women's Soccer (Football)
Sara Isakovic (Slovenia) - 100 Fly @ 10:26 a.m. GMT Heat 2, Lane 7 (Semifinals @ 7:40 p.m. GMT)
Dominik Meichtry (Switzerland) - 400 Free @ 10:47 a.m. GMT Heat 4, Lane 1 (Finals @ 7:49 p.m. GMT)
Let the Games begin! I can hardly wait until tomorrow!
During my first couple of days in London, I continued to see this dichotomy between "We are so excited for the Olympics" and "Why are we hosting the Olympics?" in London. Depending on the line I rode in the Tube, there was varying signage, each with a slightly different tone. The Northern Line, which runs out of London city center, had the most signage from the website GetAheadoftheGames.com, which had a catchy tagline of "1 million people have made their travel arrangements, have you?" This seemed to be targeted at those people who desperately needed to avoid the Olympics in order to live their lives as usual. The signage was very entertaining.
When you emerge from the Northern Line onto the District Line, the Circle Line or many other lines through the city, the "avoid the Games" signage disappears and the PINK returns with a vengeance. As you exit any train, immediately you are greeted with pink signs to direct you to any and all venues. There are little pink stickers pasted onto all of the Tube maps to denote which exits people should take to get to each venue. The people with pink vests seemed to have returned.
Today (Wednesday), I had the opportunity to join North Londoners in celebrating the Torch Relay. What a cool experience! I had never been to a Torch Relay before. Hundreds of people lined the streets near the Central Finchley Tube station at around 2 p.m. awaiting the arrival of the torchbearer. People of all ages waved their British flags. Samsung handed out blue inflatable things that looked sort of like a version of baseball bats for toddlers that people could clap together to make noise. As you will see in the photo galleries, people were everywhere, including sitting in their windowsills above the street all awaiting the 30 seconds of excitement. I heard one group of people behind me say "If this were America, everyone would be chanting U-S-A, U-S-A. What should we say? Maybe G-B-R, G-B-R."
The parade turned out to be much more significant than I had expected. It took at least 5-7 minutes, including a number of police cars and motorcycles coming through the crowded street with officers high-fiving the spectators. Then a series of buses with a variety of people - some buses had bands playing, others had people on microphones trying to stir up the excitement of the crowd, and other vehicles seemed to have more torchbearers riding in them. Finally at the very end, a woman surrounded by many official-looking people came running through the crowd with the torch. To be honest, I almost missed it because there had been so much other stuff going on. Somehow ... with the cool sports setting on a camera, I managed to catch a photo of the torchbearer running right in front of me. Literally seconds after she ran through, the crowd disbanded and people went their separate ways. Within 5 minutes, there was no one left on the street.
Less than two days left before the opening ceremonies! I can't wait for the Games to officially begin. Golden Bears Betsy Hassett (New Zealand) and Alex Morgan (USA) started the Games off early this afternoon with their preliminary soccer matches. The USA defeated France, 4-2, and Great Britain downed New Zealand 1-0.
On Monday afternoon, I headed over to Paddington Green to pick up my long-awaited tickets for three sessions of rowing from the will-call office set up at the City of Westminster College. Thinking that the crowds could only get more problematic over the course of the week, I figured that I had better go and get my tickets today.
I was a little worried that this place would be hard to find. I had envisioned a relatively small kiosk by the side of the road where, once I located it, I could conveniently arrive, show someone my passport and get my tickets. Apparently, I was wrong on several accounts. I arrived at the designated intersection about saw a plaza overflowing with people.
The "kiosk" that I had envisioned (probably based on the small white kiosks we used to have outside Haas Pavilion) was in fact the size of local bank branch. There were several hundred people standing in line in the sun. Everything was very organized with barricades, and the staff was even handing out water to the patrons. I was definitely impressed, though a little annoyed that so many people had found it before I did.
As I was walking to get in line, I heard a "Go Bears," which was so exciting! After my unsuccessful attempt to run after the first person who said "Go Bears" to me on Saturday, I was thrilled that the Cal fans whom I had found would be directly in front me in the 300+ person line. This time, I would actually get to interview some people! I was in fact so excited that I forgot to be disappointed when the woman wearing the London 2012-branded orange polo told us that it would most likely be about a three-hour wait and that I might want to think about coming back later in the week. At that point, I really didn't care because I was so happy that to have found Cal fans!
It turns out Tom and Ashton are veterans of the Olympic Games. Tom said that he was Matt Biondi's personal coach at the Olympics in Barcelona in 1992. In addition to his trip to Spain, he and Ashton had both traveled to Beijing for the 2008 Olympics. Ashton also added that she had been to the Winter Games in Torino, Italy, in 2006.
In further research about Tom's coaching career at Cal, I found out that he authored the book, "No More Broken Eggs: A Guide to Optimizing the Sports Experience for Athletes, Coaches, Parents and Clinicians."
Tom and Ashton will be here in London through the Games. They have tickets to a wide variety of events, including swimming, tennis, volleyball, soccer, track & field and water polo.
Meeting Tom and Ashton definitely made my day. Ever since I came to Cal in 2008, I have loved the experience of being a part of the Cal community. I remember coming out of my house in Berkeley several years ago wearing a Cal polo, and seeing someone leaning out of their car window (while driving) to yell "Go Bears!" I can't wait to meet more Cal fans on the streets of London. I'm trying to make myself *super* visible by being in Cal gear from head-to-toe! Hopefully it will work.
Olympic Park Photo Gallery
Today, I traveled across town to Olympic Park to get a glimpse of what the Games were going to look like. The park is right off of the Stratford tube stop, which is northeast of central London. Coming out of the tube station, I could immediately feel the incredible amount of energy and excitement of the MANY people in this area. There were several people wearing Olympic Park vests in position to direct people. Off to the right, there were signs leading to a media only entrance to the park. Straight ahead of me, there was a subtle sign that said "Village - Restricted Access." Then to the left, there was the entrance to the gigantic Westfield Mall, which stands adjacent to the park.
Standing in the mall, I was beside myself with the excitement that I was so close to the actual Olympic Games. That said, I was also PAINFULLY jealous that I didn't have a credential or a radio. In my work, I always have a credential that allows me to go wherever I want and a radio so I know everything that is going on. Seeing hundreds of people wearing credentials while I was an onlooker .made me jealous. It was pretty comical actually. My next mistake was thinking that I would be able to walk right up to the gates of Olympic Park and peer in at all of the cool looking venues. I reached the spot that was about 100 feet away from a fence, but not THE fence I was looking for. I was immediately greeted by another person in a vest with a radio suggesting that I turn around and go the other direction. I went back and very politely asked how I could walk around the perimeter of the park. His response was "Cannot be done." So, I joined many other excited fans on the third floor of John Lewis (a large department store) where they had a viewing deck of park. There I could actually see a fair amount, but it made me realize that I really need to figure out how to get tickets to one of the sports in the park so I can actually see it fully during the Games.
What I learned from my experience is that there is VERY intense security. The more I thought about it, it is truly impressive how they have secured this area. While I had visions of grandeur that made me think that I would be able to get closer, the safety of the coaches and athletes within the park is paramount and the London organizing committee has done an amazing job making this a safe place for those training in these facilities. A little more detailed information about Olympic Park: As many may know, Olympic Park is the very large (2.5km) area in East London that was constructed to house a wide variety of sports for the 2012 Olympic Games (see map0. Specifically, here are the competition venues that stand within the perimeter of Olympic Park:
In addition to these competition venues, Olympic Park houses the Olympic and Paralympic Village, which will be home to 23,000 athletes and officials during the Games.
Olympic Park also houses "The Orbit," which is a massive red (nearly 380-foot tall) work of art designed as both an opportunity to showcase London during the 2012 Olympic Games and commemorate the Games in years to come. I also watched a great documentary about the Orbit and how it was built and I wanted to share that with you as well (watch video).
People often hear my title and wonder what exactly a Director of Olympic Sports Operations does. While I am thrilled to be here at the Olympics, my title and my job description are actually not related to the Olympic Games. The "Olympic" refers to the subset of sports that I get to work with on a daily basis, which are the 25 sports at Cal other than football, men's and women's basketball and volleyball. In short, the way I like to describe the Olympic Sports Operations unit is a group dedicated to supporting the Olympic sport coaches so that they can focus as much as possible on coaching and recruiting.
The nature of this work varies between sports and between coaches, but our goal is to be a "one-stop shop" for coaches to help navigate the systems and processes of our department and University. This unit consists of me and three fulltime staff (two of whom also manage our camps department), as well as 10 volunteer interns. I feel really lucky to get to work with such an incredible team! Without sounding too cliché ... I truly believe that I have one of the coolest jobs in the world. I get the opportunity to support a truly unbelievable group of coaches and student-athletes.
Now, I am so excited to have the opportunity to be here on the ground in London supporting our Golden Bears at the Olympic Games. I will be both blogging here and tweeting throughout my time in London. My twitter handle is @BearsInLondon. Looking forward to a great three weeks ahead!