Friday, August 22, 2008

Final Post From Beijing

Its 6:30 am here in Beijing and I am getting ready to depart the village for the final time. The completion of this tournament marks a great time to reflect on the progress and improvements of this group over the course of the Olympic Games as well as the journey we have taken over the past three years. We have come a long way, and while the 8th place finish is disappointing, we take from it a lesson about playing in big tournaments that could not be learned any other way. Sure we all wish that we could have medaled, but for the moment, we are exactly where we need to be. Nothing this group has ever accomplished has come easy - it is this resilience and persistence that will carry us forward over the next Olympic cycle. With the development of youth hockey in America as it is, the possibilities are limitless - we must only continue on the current course of USA Field Hockey, have belief in what we can accomplish, and the persistence to accomplish it.

My final days at the Olympic Games (since the conclusion of the Spain Game) have been like the rest of the experience, a whirlwind. The team was on the Today show and met Tiki Barber (the other Tiki Barber) and Meredith Veira. We watched the USA Women's soccer team win Gold against Brazil, and I had my picture taken with Vince Vaugn. This experience has been one of the most incredible of my life - one that I feel incredibly fortunate to have been able to have shared with all of you who have read my blog, my famiy, my friends and especially my teammates. There will be more to come from USA Field Hockey. . . just stay tuned. . .as for now, I need to hop on my flight to the States. . . the U.S.A. is the best country in the world - I feel fortunate to have represented our wonderful country . . . GO USA!!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

One Point Ties

Sometimes you win; sometimes you lose; and three times we tied - and unfortunately, ties didn't give us the point total we needed to go through to the medal rounds. The tie to Great Britain left a bitter taste in my mouth - it was extremely disappointing not to get a result because we feel that we are fully competent of succeeding at this level. I believe we have proved that we can play with the best in the world - the next step is proving that we can beat the best (consistently). Tomorrow, we play Spain in the 7/8th classification match. This game will be a great opportunity to play a highly skilled and talented opponent; it is an opportunity to get a win against a quality side. And it will be our last opportunity to showcase USA Field Hockey in the 2008 Olympic Games.

Go USA.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Game versus Germany

We had an extremely disappointing loss to the Germans today 4-2. In an incredibly even-matched game, Germany got the edge on us by executing their attack penalty corners. With the win, Germany keeps its strong hold atop our pool, while we remain with two points and have to await the outcome of tonight's matches to see where we sit.

Although the defeat is difficult to swallow (I really despise losing), I am very proud of our team for putting forth what I consider to be our best all around game of the tournament. Our forwards and midfields were incredibly tenacious on the press and put the German backfield under considerable pressure. While our backfield and goal keeper maintained a solid defensive structure and minimized their chances.

Unfortunately, we lost. But obviously, we cannot go back and rewrite the outcome of the game - from here we must move forward, taking with us the lessons of the first three matches. Our focus must switch to our next match, New Zealand. Our next two games are must wins - and therefore we must refocus, and put forward a winning performance.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

More Photos

From our Village Getaway and Opening Ceremonies. . .

Monday, August 11, 2008

Good Morning. . .

Good Morning!! I just pulled back my shade, and the sun is already shining here in Beijing - this is a much appreciated change from the rainy weather of the past couple of days. This evening, we take on Japan, a team who in the past couple years has become a friendly nemesis (if such a thing exists). Since I have joined the National Team in 2005, aside from Argentina, Japan is the team we have met most internationally. In the 2005 World Cup Qualifier in Rome, we lost to the Japanese in the 3-4 match. Again in the World Cup Final, we fell to them in the 5-6 game. Since those meetings we have played in two five game test series, one hosted in the USA and one in Japan. It is nice to meet a familiar foe in competition; however we know this evenings match will be incredibly difficult. The Japanese are quick and disciplined; their defense can absorb a lot of pressure - we will have our work cut out for us, but it is a task we apt to succeed at.

I must admit, it was an incredible relief to finally play in a match the other night. With so much activity going on around us in the village, in the city, in our hometowns (heck, even in my own mind), it was relieving to finally hit turf. At the days end, we are here to perform - sure the environment and the stage has altered; but the game we are playing remains the same. It is the same game, albeit improvements in the level, I played at BCS, Eastern, and UNC. It is the same game I played with my sisters in the backyard; its the same game I watched my sisters play in college; it is the same game I have played for years; so that is why when I hit the turf, I feel comfort - because that is where I have always been and that is where I am meant to be. Now, it doesn't mean it always going to smell like roses on the turf - but being so far away from the USA, the field has become home. . .

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Game One

So before I get to the 2-2 draw against Argentina, I need to give a view shout outs. Happy belated Birthday to my Grandpop, I hope you enjoyed watching me play for the USA. Congratulations, to my little sister Hannah who leaves for college tomorrow - Han, I can't tell you enough how excited I am for you. . . you have worked so hard to get where you are - enjoy every moment of the experience that awaits you! Lastly, thank you to everyone who got up at the crack of dawn to watch our USA Hockey Team compete; we can feel your support over here in Beijing.

So the question of the day, is are we happy with the 2-2 draw with Argentina. In earnest, I think considering the circumstances of the game (we were down a player for 20 minutes in the second half because we received two yellow cards), being able to come back from 2-0 deficit was a huge accomplishment. However, the result is not the outcome we had hoped for but we are pleased to come away with a point.

Well, there is more to come later about the game as for now, I need to put on my swim suit for a pool recovery.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Opening Ceremonies


Amazing. Fantastic. Exhilarating. Beautiful. Nothing I can write will do justice to what was the 2008 Opening Ceremonies. The Chinese have put on an incredible and extraordinary show; one that captivates the mind and enlivens the senses - its magnificence touches the very core of the human heart.

Our opening ceremonies experience started early in the day @ 5:15 - and like most days here in Beijing, it was incredibly hot and humid. Dressed in our Gatsby-esque Polo outfits, the perspiration started immediately as we walked out of our building. Our first stop en route to the Birds Nest was at the Fencing Center where we mingled with other athletes and awaited the arrival of President Bush.

It was amazing to be in a room filled with so many talented athletes. President Bush arrived with an entourage of people including his father President George H.W. Bush, his wife, First Lady Laura Bush, the Secretary of the Treasury, and many others...After making some remarks, the President mingled with the Olympians and took a picture with each team.

As I was standing in the room, I had an incredible thought - I was in the same room with two Presidents of the United States, various high ranking public officials, the Dream Team (including Lebron, Kobe, Chris Paul and other stars), and many other incredible athletes. I had to pinch myself to make sure I wasn't dreaming.

After the photo-op with the president, we made a trek to the Gymnasium Hall that served as the staging area for the walk to the Birds Nest. We waited in the hall for what seemed like hours in the sweltering heat until our number 140 was called. We left the gymnasium and made our way toward the main event. We had a long walk in the hot heat - and finally reached the tunnel leading into the National Stadium. TEAM USA started chanting U - S - A as our time to march approached. The sound of U - S - A reverberating in the tunnel sent a cold chill up and done my spine - then they announced our country and our march around the track began.

Now, I never realized how difficult it was to wave for such a long period of time (especially in a sports coat). My right arm ached as I gazed up into the crowd at all of the spectators, but nothing could hinder the enthusiasm I felt as I walked with my teammates around the track. I was extremely thrilled to see numerous American flags being raised with pride in the stands. When our march ended we took our place in the center of the track and awaited the lighting of the Olympic Torch.

With our blazers thoroughly soaked, it finally came time for the lighting of the Torch. Chinese Olympians and star athletes ran the flame around the National Stadium; all minds were wondering how the Torch (which was high above at top of the Stadium) was going to be lit. To our amazement, we watched as the former Chinese gymnast was hoisted into the air, and made his captivating "run on air."

Now, it is night time here in Beijing, and as I write this post and prepare myself for bed, I need to "put to bed" (as our coach always says) all of the excitement and hype of the Opening Ceremonies. It is time to focus in on what is most important, performance on the hockey field. Tomorrow at 6:30 pm (6:30 am Eastern Time) we will play Argentina in our first Olympic match. Go USA!

Thursday, August 7, 2008

8.8.08

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.

Photos from Team Processing and Around the Village

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Out and About in the Village. . .

Good Evening, or should I say Good Morning. Regardless of the time of day, the news I have to share is exciting. First let me preface you with the fact that the village is thriving as new batches of athletes arrive daily. The chaos in the dining hall is a key indicator of the increase in athlete volume. In order to understand the capacity of the dining hall let me draw you a mental picture . . . combine 6 football fields (3 deep and 2 wide), then line the space with thousands upon thousands of tables, put in buffet style food stands and add one McDonalds café, and there you have the village dining hall. Needless to say, the dining hall is the prime location for socializing, culturizing, and simply people watching. Today, there was extra excitement at meal time as some big time athletes arrived - ehhh, maybe you have heard of Michael Phelps, or perhaps Roger Federer or how about Spanish tennis phenom, Rafael Nadal. Yes indeed, we saw all of them. What is so amazing to me is the idea that all of the athletes here are competing for something greater than themselves; we are competing for the pride, honor and respect of our countries.

Speaking of pride and honor in our country, we celebrated the raising of the USA flag in the village this evening. Members of the USA delegation gathered in the International Zone where the Village Mayor welcomed the USA delegation to 2008 Olympic Games. The flag was raised slowly and steadily in harmony with the national anthem. It was an awe inspiring and breathtaking moment; as the anthem played, I realized it was the first time I had heard the national anthem at the 2008 Olympics.

Monday, August 4, 2008

We Made It. . .

After a long three days of travel, we have landed and settled into the Olympic Village. I cannot explain the eager anticipation I felt as I flew over the Pacific to Beijing. It was thrilling to imagine all of the exciting experiences that await us.

Thus far, the scenery in Beijing is breathtaking. The architecture of the village and the Olympic facilities is indescribeable. We were given a passing glance of the Birds Nest on our ride into the Olympic Village - let me tell you, it is a massive structure whose beauty lies in its intricacy and detail.

We traveled over to the Olympic Green today and had our first training session on the Olympic field. It was nice to get our legs back under us after the long days of traveling.

Well, there will be more to come in the following days about life at the Olympics. For now, its time for bed - so I can hopefully adjust my body to the 15 hour time difference between Pacific Coast time and local Chinese time!!

Friday, August 1, 2008

The Journey Begins. . .

Wow. Wow. Wow. And the journey to Beijing begins tomorrow. Training in Chula Vista concluded yesterday with a fantastic session in the heat chamber. Our coaches and trainers surprised us with a "special" session - instead of the normal lifting circuit, we were treated to water balloons, water guns, and a slip 'n slide. The team enjoyed the stress-free fun and relief of the newly named "water chamber."

Later in the evening, USA Field Hockey Technical Direction Terry Walsh hosted the team and staff to his beautiful San Diego home for an Olympic Send Off. The highlight of the evening (besides the tour of Terry's home) was the presentation of the Olympic Game Uniform. Under Armour created a new red, white, and blue uniform for the Olympic Games. The uniforms are absolutely incredible - I can't wait to wear it with pride in our first game on August 10th against Argentina.

Tomorrow we head up to San Francisco for team processing. From San Fran, we finally head to Beijing on August 2nd, my birthday. I couldn't think of a better place to be going on the day that marks my 23rd year. The fact that I will be traveling on my birthday is not atypical. Since I can remember I have been on the road for my birthday - whether I was traveling for my sisters AAU Jr Olympics or a National Team tour, it wouldn't be my birthday without a 5 hour drive or perhaps, a 12 hour flight to Beijing!!! How Perfect!!

Well, I ought to start prepping for bed - I have a 5am wake up tomorrow!!! Good night All!!!