Thursday, August 7, 2008


The lucky day has finally arrived in China. Today is 8.8.08. Later this evening, the world will gather in The National Stadium (aka The Bird's Nest) to witness the official opening of the 2008 Olympic Games.

But before I delve into the excitement of the opening ceremonies, I need to recount the incredible last couple days. It started with our team getaway from the village. Our coaches decided that a break from the hustle and bustle of village life would be perfect to maintain our focus and enthusiasm.

After training on Wednesday morning, we packed our bags and crammed into a tour bus and made a trek to the Great Wall of China. After a 1.5 hour bus ride, we arrived at a small parking lot, at the base of a hill. The team was looking around, saying, "Where is the Wall." When we set out on our journey, we did not know that we had to climb in order to reach the wall. So after perusing the markets at the base of hill, we began our 40 minute climb. Kelly Doton and Amy Tran led the hike, and after climbing what seemed like 5,000 stairs, we met a fork in the road. Two men were standing there and they suggested we stay to the right toward tower 6; however Amy had a better idea - realizing that we had a choice between Tower 6 and Tower 8, Amy exclaimed, "8.8.08 - we are GOING towards Tower 8!" Amy's proclamation re-enthused the group and we resumed our hike with a renewed fervor.

So, after climbing a while longer, we finally reached a huge clay-brown barricade - THE GREAT WALL OF CHINA. We mounted the wall, and into vision came the seemingly endless structure. The physical exertion and the high heat and humidity left us thoroughly soaked in sweat - so we wiped off our brows and took out our cameras - and the exploration of the Great Wall began. With a length that measures about 4,000 miles, the Great Wall is a magnificent structure to behond. Along the walk, we snapped pics, climbed the guard towers and enjoyed the breathtaking scenery of the rolling green hills.

After traversing the wall, we finally arrived at Tower 6, and instead of descending the wall by foot, we opted for the tobagon slide ride. Now I was just a nervous nelly as I awaited my turn; I watched my teammates basically bob sled (without the ice) down the hill . At last it was my time, and nervous as I was, I freaked out, and held down the accelorator to get the ride over with fast. I soon realized that this wasn't my best course of action, so I finally started braking and slowing. I eventually eased into the flow of the course so when I reached the end, I had calmed and enjoyed the ride.

We all descended safe and sound, and then returned to the bus to head to Leisure City for some relaxation. We stayed in Pagota's - which was a courtyard surrounded with 6 rooms. Exhausted from the days activities, we headed to bed early.

On Thursday morning, we woke up to the sound of music, dancing and celebration in the street. My roommate and I ran out to see what was going on - to our surprise and good fortune, we learned that the Torch Relay was coming thru Leisure City, right outside our rooms. We waited and watched for an hour, until finally, we saw the parade of buses and security cars head down the street - The torch was approaching. Every 40 meters a new torch bearer (or is it barer?) ran with the Olympic flame. We watched as one runner handed the flame to the other and joined hands in unison. The moment was beautiful, and sent a cold chill of inspiration through my body.

Now, my story wouldn't be complete if I didn't tell you what happened next. We headed out to breakfast and while there we met a team of jump ropers, The Bouncin' Bulldogs, who were from no where else, but my home away from home, Chapel Hill. We took a picture with the group and were treated with a simply remarkable performance. These kids are the real athletes. Dina Rizzo and I couldn't pass up the chance to hop (literally) into the double dutch ropes ourselves!!!

The getaway was great fun, but when it came time to leave we were ready to return to the village and focus on the next task - a scrimmage against Korea. We took the field at 10 of 8 and played to a 2 all draw. It felt great to get out on the pitch (the turf field) and get a good, competitive runaround in.

Now that I have brought you up to speed (in this overly long post), next on the agenda are the Opening Ceremonies.


Natalie Dawson Ashman said...

Thanks Rach! Its awesome to hear from you! Have fun today!

Anonymous said...

What a great experience.

Thank you for keeping us updated.

Anonymous said...

I wish you the very best in your quest for the Gold!!! You have always amazed me. Your drive and heart have always inspired me. Best of luck. Have a ball!!!
Mrs. Cardamone

Yvonne said...

Hey Rachel - Hope you had a good birthday - this is a belated greeting. Give Jesse Gey a hug from me. Loved reading your blog. Will keep in touch. Mama Funk

dj from nj said...

Hello and Good Luck Rach,

Just thought that you and your fans would want to hear the song we made about you, and all the NJ 2008 Olympians. Its to the Flobots song "Handlebars". I hope you like it. Please share it with as many fellow athletes as possible. Its on Episode 21- Olympics at

I'm DJ, co-host of The Jersey Shore Podcast, if you could call-in as a guest from Beijing, that would be amazing. You can email me on the contact page on my website. Have a great time.

Anonymous said...


We are looking for you on the Opening Ceremony.

Best of luck during the games.

Anonymous said...


We saw you during the telecast of the Opening Ceremony. You were the last person they showed before they went to a commercial.

From Berlin to Beijing. Amazing

Aunt Joanne said...

As I saw you on T.V.during the opening ceremony. I was so happy for you I started to tear up and cry. What you must be feeling. Oh and you looked beautiful.
Love you
Aunt Joanne

Anonymous said...

Hey Rachel,

We were so excited to see you at the opening ceremony on TV! Can't wait to see your pictures. Thanks for keeping us updated on the blog. Good luck to you and the team. We know you will make the US proud.

We are rooting for you from Voorhees and from Boston!!

Go get 'em!

Denise, Kristi, Carl & Andrew Padavano & Kristi's NU room mate Katie Ruth (from Glendora California)

Anonymous said...

Hi Rachel,

It's Aunt Joanne's sis in law Steph. Wow We !!!! Last I saw you was a tupperware party. Look at you now!! What an amazing experience.

GO USA!!! I'll be checking back often. Have a FUN time.

Steph :-)