Goodbye palm trees! Goodbye mild weather! Goodbye Pacific waters! Goodbye surfboards and sun bleached hair! And finally, adios Olympic Training Center, Chula Vista, CA!
After many years of training in Chula Vista, it’s now time to pack-up for good. There is no leaving behind a suitcase at a teammates house, a bike locked up onsite or a mattress in storage. This time, it all has to go!
It’s a bittersweet moment; a little sad and also invigorating. After all, how could I feel anything but excited when the Olympics are nearing and my moment to be reunited with my family is just around the bend. Both events get my blood pumping.
As I sit and look around my empty bedroom, I think about all the hours spent in Chula Vista over the course of a decade. Yes, I said it “decade”… oh, how I hate to date myself.
I started coming to Chula Vista as a member of the U21 National Team when I was just 18 years old. I remember my first rode trip out west, all alone and extremely nervous about what was ahead.
I was in college and flew into the San Diego Airport late at night. Around midnight, I was transported to the Olympic Training Center by a blue shuttle bus and prepaid driver. He started heading south on the freeway and I anxiously peered out the back window. After all, I had never been in California before. I wanted to know if it was just like in the movies.
Ten minutes had passed and we exited onto a two lane, very dark road. I could no longer see anything out the window. I thought the surrounding seemed strange and could not imagine where this training center was located. We continued down the pitch-black road for nearly fifteen minutes and we were still nowhere near any sign of habitation. Now my heart was racing and I was sure the driver was taking me to Mexico to abduct me. I was beginning to sweat.
Sure enough, around the dark roads we traveled and eventually pulled up to a beautiful gate that read “Olympic Athlete Entrance”
It is still the same gate I go through today. But, now the scenery along the way is much different. The two-lane road has turned into a four and sometimes six-lane freeway. It is illuminated with bright lights and packed with homes and numerous shopping centers.
This part of the world has grown ten-fold over the last fourteen years. I hope to one-day return with my family and show the boys where Mommy spent her years on the hockey pitch.
Until then, I wish everyone at the OTC all the best. And, thank you very much for creating such a wonderful training environment for so many years!
Once every four years, people around the world gear up for the Olympics. Sports enthusiast or not, you cannot ignore the commercials and advertisements that continually use Olympic athletes to promote their brands during this exciting time.
It’s only this one time in each quad that the world comes together to celebrate, not just sport but also humanity.
I can clearly remember sitting on the family sofa with goose bumps filling my extremities as I watched the USA delegation march into the Open Ceremonies. The truth is that I didn’t fully understand why I was so excited as a child during this moment but I could feel the power through the television screen.
I believe that you have to give some credit to the broadcasters, who do impeccable work creating energy around the event and telling the stories of so many amazing athletes.
Olympians come in all different sizes and colors. They come from all kinds of social backgrounds with many diverse shapes. But, one thing is certain! They compete for their homeland and with all their heart.
From my couch in small town Pennsylvania, it was hard to truly understand what went on behind the scenes of all those athletes dressed in their tailored suits and marching behind their country’s flag. Fast-forward twenty-years and now that person is me. I will once again put on the tailored attire and gear up to represent the United States of America.
The journey to my second Olympics has been very eventful, as has the journey for every since member or our 16-player roster. With only 20 days away from the Opening Ceremonies, the road to London is becoming a true reality.
The team is back in Chula Vista putting the finishing touches on our sticks, with our sites set on winning a medal in London. I promise to take you all on this journey with me. As the team marches behind the flag on July 27th, I hope you can better understand the rode our team took to London and all the work that went into that one special moment.
You can also follow me on Twitter: https://twitter.com/KeliSmith13
Keli Smith Puzo is a two-time Olympic Field Hockey player, Wife to Inako Puzo, head coach at Miami University, Mother of two young boys and your everyday kind of gal trying to keep it all together.