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)!
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.