It is 10:00 am here in Beijing and this is my final hour in the athlete village. The vans will arrive soon to pick up our luggage and away we will go. Back to “normal” life in the states. Leaving all of this as nothing but a vivid memory.
We have been warned that many athletes experience bouts of depression after the Games and I can certainly understand how that happens! It has been one of the most exciting months of my life. As half of my teammates departed this morning for the west coast, only eight of us still remain. Waiting for our United flight to head back to eastern standard time. A time zone that I have not lived in for quite sometime.
A lonely feeling is sitting in the pit of my stomach, as I already miss many of my friends. My teammates have become my second family and in some ways, they know me better then anyone in my life right now. Some of them have decided to retire from field hockey and others will continue on. One thing is for sure, this group of people was special and as a whole, we will never be the same.
I am excited to return to central PA and see my friends and family back home. The support that I received from everyone has been overwhelming and I can never thank you enough. It is no secret that I would not be here if it weren’t for all of you!
After a brief visit on the east coast, I will head to Barcelona, Spain to play for a club team. It is time that I learn some Spanish and take the year to reflect. I look forward to keeping everyone updated on my field hockey experiences abroad.
I will leave you with just one last photo from the Games. Enjoy and take care!
Nearly three months ago, I recall flying home from the Olympic Qualifier in Russia and trying to grasp the fact that I was about to embark on an Olympic Journey. I imagined what it might feel like to walk into the Opening Ceremonies. I tried to envision what the athlete village might look like. But the truth was that I had no idea! That reality seemed so surreal.
One morning, I woke-up and started my normal a.m. routine. I turned on the coffee pot and changed the television to the Today Show. In a moment’s time, it dawned on me! I might get to meet Matt and Meredith. I grew up watching the Today Show every morning with my Mom. Therefore, I knew that during Olympics they broadcast from the hosting city. In a weird way, I associated the Games with the Today Show.
I had since put the idea of meeting the show’s crew in the back of my mind. Until Sunday’s practice when Tiki Barber showed up to hangout. He walked onto the pitch, with the cameramen in toe. Mr. Barber stayed the entire practice, collected balls, and even threw football with the coaching staff while we warmed down. For something that would have seemed so exciting a short while ago, it was all too normal that afternoon. He was soft spoken and blended in like part of the staff.
As we departed on the bus, I remember thinking that it was cool to meet him and unfortunate that I did not have my camera. But, back in the village just minutes later, something more unexpected happened! I met Meredith Vieira in the doorway to my apartment. There she stood just waiting for the elevator as I walked in with my stick bag in hand. I did a double take, and then pinched myself to see if I was dreaming. By the time I woke-up, the elevator door was closing and all I could do was wave good-bye.
As much as I wanted to wait for her to come back down, I restrained myself. I jumped into the shower and joined a few teammates for a little game of wiffle ball in the front lawn.
It was strike 2 with only 1 out, when she walked out the front door and yelled, “I am up next.” I do not think I could pick my jaw off the freshly cut grass as Meredith Vieira swung the bat, hit the ball, and started running the bases in her three inch heals. As she rounded second base, she flung the stilettos off her feet so she could get to home plate without causing an out. It was going to be close, so she dove into home without getting grass stains on her white linen top.
I know that it sounds like I am writing a bad fiction book, but I swear to you that is the truth. Meredith Vieira came to interview an athlete on the sixth floor of my building and stopped to play wiffle ball, have a quick chat, and tell us how proud our country is of the American athletes.
I have always loved the Today Show, but now I have a deeper admiration for the program and the people that NBC hires to be in front of their cameras. If it is not your program of choice, it’s ok. But, on Thursday morning you might want to tune in. Tiki Barber will be interviewing our own Tiki (Kate) Barber. And, our entire team will be on the Today Show, with a special interview with our captain.
From China to the USA, I hope you have a wonderful “Today”
We are over halfway through our Olympic journey and the days seem to be speeding up by the hours. The team remains on a strict schedule, but yesterday we got out of the village for a special pep rally with friends and family. Everyone met at the Bank of America house/ Hometown Heroes venue. This is a wonderful restaurant that Bank of America has rented out for all American athletes and their families. In it’s three story structure, you can eat, drink, and get massages for free during the Games. It is a wonderful amenity for our families and yesterday we were also lucky to take full advantage of the perk. Upon arrival, the group greeted us with cheers and the sound of loud horns. They had made all types of attempts to show us their support and love. Signs were used to assist the team cheers, while others used red, white, and blue face paint. Most of this was caught on tape due to the presence of MSNBC and a few other media channels. For me, it was special to simply have some time with my family. Besides a few minutes after each game, we are limited to only a few hours of “family time” during the next week. I prefer take full advantage of it when possible!
Our days are now focused on competing one game at a time. We have played half the teams in our pool and now we are looking to get two wins out of the final matches. If we do that, we have a good chance of making the medal rounds.
Today was a disappointing lose to Germany 4-2. We played well but didn’t capitalize on some of our opportunities and in return, they finished 3 out of the 4 corners that they were awarded. We have debriefed the game and looked at video. Tomorrow, it will be time to focus on our next opponent, New Zealand.
With the rain coming down, I will cover up in bed and say good-bye. Take care!
The games have begun for the USA field hockey team, the family and friends have started arriving, and now the real fun is underway. We started our first game on Sunday night in the rain against Argentina, our Pan American rival. Our pre game schedule was in progress and you could see the clouds rolling in above us. We began to run and stretch just as the rain started to fall. No one enjoys a game in the rain (especially the spectators), but we knew that the likelihood of the weather affecting them more then us was high! That thought increased our, already high, confidence. The team was nervous and no one would deny that fact. More. importantly, we were ready to play. It took us 15 minutes to shake the nervous and by that time, we were already losing 2-0. But, we fought and crawled our way back and with 5 minutes left in the game, it was tied and we felt they were crumbling. We had chances to win the game but instead failed to put the ball in the net with our final corner of the match. A tie gives us 1 point going into our game today against Japan. Today will be another battle, but one that we can also win. We have a few hours ahead of us until the whistle blows. In that time, we will follow through with our normal game day routines. Four hours beforehand, we run and stretch. We incorporate sprints to spike the heart rates. Afterwards, it’s off to a pre game meal, then a team meeting, and the final 90 minutes before departure is for each individual to follow through with their personal rituals. We have played Japan five times this year with positive results. They will be fast and likely to use their quick stick speed to eliminate.
As we prepare with video analysis, the match-up looks like it will provide another exciting game for those that wake-up back home at 6am with the coffee pot brewing.
At the conclusion of today’s game, I will be greeted by my Dad, Mom, sister, and niece. All of them arrived safely yesterday afternoon. I can not wait for the hugs and comfort of seeing their faces. I am sure they will have many stories for me after just a few hours in Beijing. Today, they went to see a volleyball match and roam the Olympic Green before the start of our game. I look forward to hearing more about their experience, as it will be very different from mine.
All the best from Peking (Beijing)!
It has been nearly 24 hours since the Opening Ceremonies of the 2008 Olympic Games. I can still sense my heart racing by the mere thought of the night. It was unbelievable on many different levels.
The USA athletes boarded a bus around 5:30pm and headed to the fencing hall for a private USA gathering. All the athletes had a 2 hour block to meet and greet each other and also mingle with both President Bush’s (past and present) as well as Mrs. Barbara Bush.
The atmosphere was filled with anticipation and excitement. We were
excited to meet and talk with Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Candace Parker, Lindsay Davenport, and many many others. It is not everyday that you get a chance to just hangout with these people as if you have known them since grade school. Everyone was especially anxious to meet the men’s basketball team. A teammate of mine knows Chris Paul from college, so he brought all the guys to our area. We had a few laughs, and of course many pictures. It was nice to see how humble and considerate they are in real life!
For those two hours, it didn’t seem to matter if you were male or female, rich or poor, old or young, every athlete in the room knew that we were all about to step foot on the international stage together.
The USA delegation left the gathering and headed to the gymnastics hall where we would meet the rest of the countries. All athletes were housed in this enormous, yet terribly hot, structure until our country was called to walk over to the National Stadium. We sat in our section and watched many countries depart until our number 140 was called to finally exit. I say “exit,” but we didn’t make it too far.
Like all good things, it usually comes with a wait. We stood in line, just like you might for the roller coaster at Six Flags, for approximately 45 minutes. That hour allowed the anticipation to build in my stomach.
We picked up the flag bearer and before I knew it, we had entered the tunnel and could see the lights beaming down on center stage. We had almost made it in! The tunnel began to shack as we all started chatting U-S-A over and over again. Then, we heard it called over the speakers “The United States of America.” We had made it!!
We finished the 400 meter march and I swear, I forgot to breathe. The feeling was so surreal and we all just wanted one more lap around the field. Probably the first time ever that we wished for “just one more lap”
We finished the evening on the infield with all the athletes. Just watching what many of you probably saw on television. The Olympic Anthem, the speeches, and finally the lighting of the torch. I am not sure what it looked like from the couch as the man was raised to the top of the stadium with the flame in his hand? But, the moment he began to “run” with the torch will forever live in my memory. That was one of the most incredible things I have seen to date!
The excitement of that night will always be a part of me, but for right now our focus has changed to nothing but business. Today marks our first game of the Olympics against Argentina. The team is excited and ready to take the field!
Greeting to all, or as they say here in Beijing, “Ni How” It is exciting to write you again because the past 48 hours have been full of excitement. This feature might seem a little disheveled and the reason is, that’s the reality here. We have been running from training sessions, to meals, to the Great Wall of China, and eventually back to the village. So, bare with me!
The team has been training hard and maintain exceptional focus, in light of all the excitement and activity around the Games. To give us a break, the staff arranged a 24 hour get-away. After training on Wednesday, the group boarded the bus and headed straight for a non-touristy part of the Great Wall of China. I have seen pictures of this structure that some say is one of the Seven Wonders of the World. But, I still had my doubts about it’s enormity.
The bus weaved us up the mountain side before stopping to park. I soon realized that you had two options, take the cable car or climb. I thought for sure that the group would take the cable car, since it was supposed to be a “relaxing retreat.” I don’t know how I under estimated this trip so much, but we of course, started hiking up! It only took about 15 minutes because we are so competitive that we ended up running half the way. When we reached the top, there was not one person not sweating head to toe.
The “Wall” is amazing beyond words! I had a hard time grasping the fact that it was longer then the United States is wide. We stayed for some pictures and to walk to Gate 6 (we reached the top at Gate 8). Gate 6 has a significance too! It was the starting point for the luge course back down the mountain. Of course, every member of the group hopped into a sled and off we went, some faster then others.
The adventure continued as we headed for a town called Leisure City. The small village was full of hot springs, spas, indoor water park, and a few hotels. It looked nice, but the team was only concerned about how quickly we could climb into our beds. We needed to rest up for the water slides in the morning.
Before putting on our bathing suits, most people gathered on the street for the parade of the tour relay. It was not a planned part of the trip, but we got lucky enough to witness the flame passing next to us. It was a very surreal moment to be so close to the torch, the same one that we will see tonight at Opening Ceremonies.
The day wrapped up early and everyone was refreshed and ready to get back to work. Time to prepare for a scrimmage against Korea that evening.
The 50 minute friendly match ended in a 2-2 tie, but the result was not important. Rather, just another sharpening practice to prepare us for the start of our tournament on the 10th.
Until next time….and after the Opening Ceremonies, All the Best!
Greetings from Beijing, China! Today marks the first morning I woke up in the Athlete Village. Unfortunately for you, although I am happy to report, I do not think any words will describe what I see here….all around me! But, over the next few weeks, I will certainly do my best!
The team touched down in San Francisco, CA on Saturday morning. This was the first stop on our journey. In northern California the US Olympic Committee has set up camp for all the Olympic athletes to stop on there way to the Games. You spend 4 hours there in “processing” This is a time to get all your Olympic apparel, yes, even the opening and closing ceremony attire. We also went through security briefings, stopped to get the clothing altered, rings sized, and other fun events. I was exhausted that night, but merely because the excitement of everything was starting to sink in.
The next morning we boarded a bus with other Olympic athletes, men’s volleyball, fencing, and some track and field athletes, and headed for the airport. I was shocked to see all the media camped out just to film us walking around, but it was nothing like the circus at the airport in Beijing. All the cameras and reporters is something that they inform you about, but you can’t get the full effect until you see them in your face. Definitely not something we are used to, coming from the field hockey delegation. We had a lot of security and the USA committee whisked use off on the buses as fast as possible. From the windows, we got to see the Bird Nest, the Water Cube, and other venues in the Olympic Green. I have to say that American football stadiums do not compare.
I look forward to updating you more as the days pass. I am headed to breakfast to try and find some food in the 350 foot cafeteria. It’s so large and overwhelming that it’s difficult to keep it simple. Until next time, all the best to you!
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.