Pacific Assocation of USA Track and field

Stephanie Brown-Trafton’s 2008 Olympic Journal

Stephanie in actionspacestephanie portrait

(l) photo courtesy Kirby Lee/trackshark.com; (r) photo courtesy of Calixtro Romias/Stockton Record

Stephanie Brown-Trafton’s

Olympic Journal

During the next few weeks, this Galt, Calif. resident and chair of the Pacific Association’s Elite Athletes Committee, will be sending pausatf.org firsthand reports about her experiences at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, China. Stephanie earned her place on the 2008 U.S. Olympic Discus team by placing third at the 2008 U.S. Track & Field Trials last June (62.65m/205-06). This will be her second time as an Olympian; she attended the 2004 Games after placing second at the 2004 Trials with a personal best 61.90m/203-1PR. Her current personal best is 66.17m/217-1, achieved at the Hartnell Throwers Meet on May 8 in Salinas; it is the second-best throw in the world this year and the third best in U.S. history.

Stephanie’s reports will be placed below in chronological order, with the most recent first.


8-20-2008: Volume 8

Well, we did it!  I came to China with two throws on my mind, one throw to make it to finals and one more to seal the deal and win a medal.  My last throw of the qualification round shot me to the top of the list for finals and my first throw of finals took home the gold medal!

The last few days have been so hectic for me that I still have not had the time to process the significance of the achievement.  I set a standard in my first throw in the finals of the Olympics and no one had and any fight left in them to get the lead back.  Remember when I said, “if you make the finals at the Olympics, anything can happen”?  One of those “anything” scenarios included me tossing a great throw for those stadium conditions followed by a weak response from the rest of the field.  The story here is never underestimate the power of a big first throw…..look at Aretha’s Olympic Trials toss…..season best in the first round and never looked back.

The moment my last attempt was over I still did not believe that I had won it.  I had not been watching the marks the entire competition but I could tell from the noise that the crowd made that none of the other marks had taken the lead.  Even when the announcer introduced me as the gold medalist before my last throw I still had to wait until I saw the final standings to realize that I had achieved what no other US female thrower in 75 years had been able to do.

I shook the hands of all of the officials and competitors, then ran over to the stands to get my special American flag for the victory lap. Being a novice at this I had to ask an official if I could take my lap now or wait till later.  This flag has special significance to me…..my neighbor George flew this flag in Iraq while he was stationed there and he asked me to fly it in China too.  I also had a small Chinese flag that I carried along with the American flag so I could grab the attention of some of the Chinese fans.

After the victory lap I had to make my way to the media platforms and talk to NBC, a Canadian TV station (they asked if I speak French….sorry, no).  I talked to a Greek TV station, BBC Sports, Eurosport TV.  Then on to the radio and newsprint media.  Up and down stairs, platforms, mazes and tunnels and finally out to see my coaches and coordinators with USATF.  I had to report to the holding room for the medal ceremony which was right after the event.  During the interviews I had to change into my medal stand outfit in front off all the media.  Don’t worry I was still decent.  Of course I had put my lip gloss on so I looked ok for the cameras.

The medal ceremony was amazing.  I told the reporters to be prepared for a cry fest when I heard the American national anthem playing.  I knew I would get emotional at that point.  I forgot the words to the anthem for a long while because there was so many things going through my mind.  I came to China on a sightseeing quest…..I wanted to see the view from the top of the victory stand and my wish came true.

Next I had to go to drug testing.  I can do those in record time now because I have had so many in the last few years.  Then on to the post event press conference with more reporters and media.  Then finally I was able to pick up my cell phone from the athlete lockers and call my husband and father.  Now off to catch a taxi to shuttle me to  the “managing victory” program at the USA House where all of the medalists go to celebrate with family and friends.

Finally home to bed at 2AM, take a shower and pretend to sleep.  Wake up at 7AM for a hair appointment (need to look good for the camera) then run to the village gate to meet a car to take me over to yet another press conference.  More interviews, smile and dont talk too fast.  Be personalble and interesting, have a great story to tell.  Bring props to show the folks back home and tell everyone how this amazing event transpired.  Back to the village to respond to 175 emails, oh yeah, and eat something so I don’t pass out during an interview.  Run to the gate to meet a car to take me to the Today show set for more hair and makeup, meet Tiki Barber, Matt Lauer, Meredith, Al and all the gang on set.  Take pictures with the cast and sign autographs for the crowd. Go live on the Today show, make a few people laugh and chat about winning the first gold medal for the track team in 2008 and breaking a 75 year record for discus throwers in the US.  By this time I have a smoky rasp in my voice and a sore throught.  Back to the birds nest to watch the mens discus finals and see Gerd the Estonian win.  I told you about Gerd a few days ago.  I watch his 2007 Worlds comp video on Youtube and try to emulate some of his technique.  Finally back to bed to pretend to sleep again.

I wake up to more TV interviews, congratulations, signatures, pictures with random Chinese people who love the fact that they can be so close and touch a gold medal.  More cell phone calls, media requests, hunger pains and signs of sleep deprivation.  More email interviews with reporters back home. No time to write my online journal.  Im going to ride this wave until it tosses me into the cold ocean water of reality. Once I get back to my room I find time to reflect a bit and here are my thoughts.

At this point in the game the we all have the ability to throw far, but it is the ones who can keep it together mentally that finish at the top.  I have had outstanding marks all season so I knew I had the right physical preparation for a medal, but it was my mental and spirtual preparation that may have made all the difference in actually securing the gold.  I’ll tell you my secret for success.  Look in the book of Joshua, chapter 1, verse 9. “Do not be terrified, do not be afraid for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”  How many times have you watched someone compete with that look of fire, or sometimes fear in their eyes?  Or a look of peace and determination to accomplish the goal set before them.  In that moment they have let go of the fear of failure and are focused on the job at hand.  They are not thinking about what would happen if this present attemp is a failure and they do not get distracted by the attempt that may follow it.  God has wired the human brain with the unique ability to plan far ahead into the future and this ability can just as easily be a curse as it is a blessing.  

The secret to a great performance includes preparing far in advance for each competitive moment with physical and spiritual training, controling a natural human tendancy to wonder “what if I fail” thereby overcorrecting the present attempt, and most of all having faith in God’s promise to work everything in life, good things and bad, into something special with his signature written all over it.

I know that my worth as a human does not depend on my performance at the Olympics, gold medal or last place.  God proved to all of us that we are worth dying for when he stood in our place on the cross.  An Olympic gold medal can be won and just as easliy revoked, but the price He paid for us was in the currency of blood and tears and can never be revoked.

This one is for you Mum.

8-15-2008: Volume 8
Brown Trafton Olympic throw 2Brown Trafton Olympic throw 3

Throw #2 (l) and the successful throw #3 (r)
photos by Bridget Michelsen

Today was my qualifying round in the women’s discus.  I got up and went to the dining hall.  On the way I spoke to Jerry and we chatted for a while.  I wanted to get an egg mcmuffin from Mcdonalds at the village but by the time I got off the phone they had already switched to the lunch menu.  I was disappointed but I decided to make my own mcmuffin from a bagel, eggs, bacon, and some cheese.  It wasn’t as good as Mcdonalds but it would have to do for now.  I went back to the USA athlete lounge in the dorms and watched a few track and field events on the live feed TVs.  At 12:30 I walked over to the other side of the village to join in on a bible study and fellowship that the Bahamas group had organized.  I love meeting new people, especially ones that have a common bond of faith.  I met a javelin thrower from the Bahamas, and a few other track athletes. In fact the athletes that showed up were all from track and field.  After bible study I went to one of the ‘casual’ dining halls that is smaller then the main hall.  This cafeteria was serving BBQ today and I loaded a plate with shrimp skewers and asparagus spears.  Back to the room for packing the competition bag and putting my numbers on all of my uniform pieces.  When I go to the track today I will not be allowed to bring any electronics, cell phones, etc. therefore I need to make sure that everything in my bag will pass inspection.  I walk to the athlete lounge to watch some internet video of an Estonian thrower named Gerd Kanter who I have been using as a model to visualize my own technique.  After about 15 minutes of video I start to walk back to the room.  On my way back who do I see walking in my direction?  Well it is none other then Gerd Kanter…this is a sign, and a good sign at that.  I am so happy that things are feeling good and I seem to be in the right place at the right time.  I head to the track for warm-up.  I had the longest throws in the warm-up field but that sometimes is a bad thing.  I don’t want to have the best warm-up..I want to have the best competition throw.

Walking onto the track is always a great feeling.  The birds nest is a huge stadium and it seems like every seat is full.  There is girl from China ahead of me and the crowd cheers as she walks by.  The sound is deafening.  I see a couple of  people waving American flags and I wave to them as I walk by.  When the group of 19 girls gets to the discus cage everyone starts rushing to get a feel for the ring.  I wait my turn to get into the ring before the officials stop us and put us in order for the warm-up throws.  Basically if you can get away with testing out the ring before the warm-ups start you have a better feel for the ring.  There are only two warm-up throws allowed so we have to use our time wisely.  Trying to keep a gaggle of large muscular women in line is not an easy thing to do, even with 10 officials standing around.  The competition starts on time and my first throw shows that I am off to a slow start.  I had to control myself on the first throw to make sure I got one in the sector. This throw was around 57 meters which was not enough to put me in the final round.  I had to wait another 20 minutes to throw my second attempt and I was even more nervous because I now needed a strong throw to qualify.  I had poor technique and the throw went about 100 feet out. I walked out the front of the ring which is an automatic foul.  It now came down to my last attempt. I needed a good mark to go on to Monday’s event or else I would have to pack my bags and head back home with my tail between my legs.  This was it.  I had to write down the things I needed to focus on because with all of the distractions around me it was hard to keep a level head.  I did a few drills to warm-up and asked God to help me relax and guide my feet.  I stepped in the ring and the only thing I can remember is being relaxed and remembering what my throw should feel like.  I let my body take over and put my fears aside.  My last throw was far and ended up being the best throw overall in the qualifying rounds, 62.77m.  I could really relax now and put together a mental plan for the final on Monday.  THis was a big step for me, coming back in the thrird round to grab a spot in the final round.  I think the hard part is over now but I will have to tell you if that is true after my competiton on Monday!

8-14-2008: Volume 7

We said goodbye to Dalian and ‘ni hou’ to Beijing this week.  The flight from Dalian to Beijing is about 1 hour.  I told Chef Sacks that I would miss him and his cooking and we would keep in touch.  The morning training session yesterday was a little wet, then in the afternoon a monsoon hit.  It was wet to say the least.  After the rain it was beautiful and I took a walk along the private villas that neighbor the hotel.  These villas are perched on top of the cliffs and I hear they can be reserved for $2000 a night.  Maybe next time!  Chef Sacks and a few athletes went to the hotel bar and played a few rounds of pool….no celebratory drinks quite yet, just billiards.  I can tell you that I am not the best pool player and this game was a marathon.  I was just starting to get used to Dalian and the routine but now we have to leave and go back to Beijing.  A few days ago I was dying to get back but now I can actually say that I am sad to leave.

The Olympic Village is so alive with activity now.  There are so many people walking, riding bikes, eating at the dining halls, trading pins, riding buses, hanging off of golf carts, yelling, laughing, talking on cell phones.  I cant walk ten feet without stepping to the left and right trying to avoid walking into someone who is traveling in the opposite direction. The noise is incredible.  You can hear fifty different conversations on the way to eat lunch and not one is in english.  Yesterday in the computer lounge I heard an Australian athlete get in a fight with a girlfriend during a phone conversation back home.  It was embarrassing for everyone around.  Around here I suppose privacy is something that is even harder to get then a ticket to see the Dream Team play.

My schedule is incredibly full now with all of the training sessions, traveling to hospitality suites, medical treatments (by medical I mean deep tissue massage).  I had time to check my email twice in the last two days and even then I only had ten minutes each time.  This constant running around is fun but I know it can take its toll very quickly if I don’t take some time for myself.  I found a few hours one day this week to see a table tennis match at one of the Olympic venues.  I had a good time but in truth I wish I had gone to see the weightlifting competition instead.  I thought table tennis might be exciting but after five minutes of watching I knew it was not going to be my favorite spectator sport.  Athletes get the opportunity to pick up tickets to watch other events anytime and each morning an athlete can see what events are available and get a free ticket.  This is one of my favorite things to do after I am done with competition.

I traveled to the Bank of America and Nike Hospitality suites today.  These suites are places for athletes and their families to come to relax, eat meals, watch live sports events, and get out of the rain or heat.  The Nike suite is mainly for athletes sponsored by Nike.  When I arrived I had a credential made and picked up a gear bag full of shoes, shirts, shorts, a new watch and sunglasses.  I will have to get someone to check an extra bag on the plane for me to get all of my clothes and gifts home.  The Bank of America Hometown Hopefuls suite is a place to relax and eat meals. They also offer one free event ticket for each registered athlete and four of their friends and family.  This is an awesome service because I can get tickets to see other events or give these tickets to my friends here.  I look forward to watching judo, weightlifting, BMX, and other sports.

My first qualifying round is tomorrow and I am ready to ‘throw for the gold’ as my friend Rachel likes to say.  I went to the warm up track today and got a feel for the venue.  At the Olympic games there is a more complicated procedure for checking in to the event.  It helps to do a walk through of the different call rooms.  There will be at least 19 people in my flight tomorrow so I need to make sure I have enough time to warm up thouroughly.  The automatic qualifying mark is 61.50 meters.  All three Americans should be able to throw this mark tomorrow and I look forward to going to the finals with my teammates.  Tommorow is the going to be a great day but I want to be competing in the finals on Monday. Monday will be the big day! 

8-9-2008: Volume 6

Last night the track and field athletes had a party to celebrate the opening ceremonies in Beijing.  We were so honored to have a track athlete carry the flag for the USA during the ceremonies.  Lopez is a very nice guy and he has a great story to tell.  I will always remember the time we encountered the goat on the golf course here in Dalian.  We watched the ceremony, toasted to a safe and successful Olympics with sparkling wine, and had a piece of the Team USA cake that Chef Sacks prepared.  Most of the athletes watched the ceremony in the movie theatre on the big screens.  As soon as the USA team finished walking into the stadium most of us went to bed.  I was not able to walk in the Opening Ceremony this time around but I had a good time relaxing and watching it from a lounge chair with the other athletes.  I was able to get to bed at a decent time and prepare my body to compete well when I walk out on the track on August 15th.

Today is a regular training day for me and we travel to the throwing facility in the afternoon.  One of the coaches, Chaz, was retrieving one of my discs in the tall grass and he fell through a man hole near the back fence.  I was stunned at first to see half of his body sticking out of the ground but after he got out and started limping around I had to contain my laughter.  It was just such an odd occurrence and he was actually pretty lucky that a pipe stopped his fall into the hole.  No broken bones, no twisted ankles.  A nasty deep thigh bruising and some skin lacerations are battle scars that he can show his grandkids.  I told him that his fall was the reason that he came all the way to  China.  It could have been me out there getting that disc and falling into the manhole.  My Olympic dream would have ended right there….I would not have been able to practice or lift. Do you remember the joke about digging a hole to China?  We think that this was that same hole.  He was just trying to find a cheaper way home to the USA…the express route.

Chef Sacks has prepared an awesome meal for us tonight.  The serving lines are so crowded and everyone is bumping into one another to be the first in line for grilled cheese sandwiches.  There is an awesome tomato bisque and this reminds me of those cold winter days at home with warm tomato soup and grilled cheese right out of the pan.  He has also prepared roasted chicken with a coconut cream sauce and I ask the head Chinese chef for a side of extra sauce.  It is marvelous.

After dinner we have a team meeting to tell us about some breaking news in Beijing.  Two Americans were involved in an attack by a Chinese man and one of them died.  I was a little stunned to hear that the man who died was family of a volleyball coach.  It was sad to think that a tragedy happened like that in such a public place.  This kind of act of violence could have happened to anyone and I am actually glad that I don’t have to worry about my family members or friends safety here in Beijing.  All of my family is safe at home away from all of this Olympic craziness.  Back to the room for some TV and bed.  The Chinese TV has lots of sports event coverage and it is great to be able to watch some of the different events.

8-6-2008: Volume 5

Today was a training day at the National Training Center. I slept on the memory foam mattress for the first time and it was heavenly….I’m sure it will take a couple of nights for my body to read just to the mattress but it was a heck of a lot better then the stone mattress. The hotel is pretty nice and the staff is very friendly. The hotel even bought a washer/dryer so that we can wash clothes, which we do a lot because in this heat our workout gear and all clothes gets soaked with perspiration daily. The food is awesome and I will miss Chef Sacks when I leave here. I do have some bad news to report though. Last night when I returned the couch cushions that I borrowed to sleep on, I saw a rat dashing from the dining room to a back hallway. I told only a few people about it. I am going to casually mention it to Chef Sacks and hope he doesn’t tell me, ‘Oh so that’s where he escaped to…..we’ll have to substitute pork for the rat fried rice tonight’. Only kidding! I’m sure a lot of places have rodents around but I’ve never seen a rat at any resorts back home making their way out of the dining room after a meal. I think it is the year of the rat on the Chinese calendar so maybe they are giving this guys and his pals a reprieve. We had our first bible study meeting today. Many athletes attended (about 12) and some were new to christianity and had never been able to share their story with anyone because they did not feel comfortable talking about it in public. We had people open up like never before. Our first session was ‘Waiting on the Lord’ and our next will be ‘Rethinking Success.’ We have mondays and wednesdays scheduled, but the athletes asked to add a third meeting so now we are meeting on Fridays too. Out at the training center I did a normal workout and things felt great….body is moving well but I am a little tired. I have been up late at night checking emails, updating facebook, obsessing about plans to get back to Beijing. I guess it is taking its toll. I put in a full three hours at the track and then back home for ice bath, laundry, dinner, shower and bed. The rec facilities at the hotel are hopping tonight. Movie is showing in the theatre, bowling alley is full, a group is taking turns at the golf simulator. I try my putting stroke out and put a few balls in the ‘virtual cup’. The ice bath has been too warm and I find someone to dump a few blocks of ice in. The ice blocks are about 2′ x 1′ x 3′ and they float around like glaciers. We have a TV in the ice bath room but it only has Chinese stations. I watch one of the soccer matches with chinese commentary. When I pick up my laundry it is still damp….I don’t think dryers are up to our standards here in China, the clothes always come out damp and we have to hang dry them.

8-5-2008: Volume 4

Yesterday I had a full training session at the Chinese National Training Center in Dalian. This is one of those centers that you might have heard about where kids are sent to train and compete in a particular sport based on their talents in recruiting programs. This center is for the track and field athletes. There are hundreds of athletes here…..I guess it is like a boarding school for athletics. Once again there is a police motorcade and traffic is stopped 15-20 cars deep at most intersections as we drive by. I cant imagine what the traffic is really like when there is no police car as an escort. It might be a bit dangerous but I guess I’ll never know. The training center has an indoor track with a weight room that is pretty old but gets the job done. They have one whole room dedicated to the Keiser machines, which look like regular weight lifting machines at the gym but they use pneumatic air pressure to give resistance instead of weight plates. This is great for me because I use these machines back at my training room at Results in Sacramento. Ill bet Tony will be happy that I can get some of my normal workout in even halfway around the world. The training center has a special area dedicated to the throwing events with several rings and cages available for practice. My throwing practice goes well and the coaches are impressed. I feel like I am very explosive and am moving well through the ring. Today we had another shopping excursion planned for downtown Dalian. 

Once again we had several dozen plain clothes officers following us around and I made another break for it on my own. I had an officer following me closely for a while and I decided to ignore him and venture out of the shopping mall area. I have seen thousands of shopping malls in my life and I don’t want to be stuck in one here. A block away from the mall is a side street with an open air market…basically a place where vendors have set up tables and chairs, umbrellas and tarps. This reminds me of the farmers market. It also reminds me of the streets of Athens near the Acropolis. Of course I take pictures with my tiny stealth camera. This camera is about the size of a tiny cell phone and about 1 cm thick. It has a rotating lens so I can take a picture of something in front of me but to the casual observer I am looking down at my cell phone. This allows me to take pictures while avoiding looking like a tourist. Still I am a 6’3′ white girl in China so I cant hide very easily. By this time I don’t see any officers following me but they are probably watching me from a distance. I don’t care anymore, just as long as they don’t try to get me to go back to the mall. I venture around the side streets for while and dodge traffic. Around here the cars do not stop for pedestrians…..I am not joking about this. Cars have complete right of way and if you are unlucky enough to get hit by a car they will not even stop. On one of the main roads I see people cross over one lane and wait in the middle of the road for cars going 35-40 mph to cross about 1 foot in front of them and cars are crossing behind them going the other direction at high speeds. This is the original frogger game. I wasn’t that brave or stupid so I had to wait until there was no traffic to cross. I went back to the mall only because I was on a mission to find a mattress pad that I could take back to the hotel. The mall is huge…about 7-8 levels with a grocery market on the ground level. On the way back I walked through a open air market and saw all kinds of interesting items in the meat department….chicken feet, pig nose, all types of animal organs….nothing goes to waste! I walked by a young chinese guy and suddenly felt something hit the back of my heel….felt like a big bird dropping. Then I realize that I had been the recipient of a large wad of spit. Whether it was intentional or not is an issue I will wonder about forever. It was very nasty to say the least. I was wearing flip flops and this nasty spit wad stuck to my heel. Glad I wasn’t wearing shoes or the slimy wad would have slid right down into my shoe. Fortunaly I had wet towelettes in my purse and I wiped off the nasty wad. I sat down for a while and watched people walk by. I noticed that there were others spitting right on the sidewalk too….I guess the anti-spitting campaign had not reached this far out of Beijing. The mall was an almost exact replica of MC Eschers ‘Relativity’ sketch with stairways and escalators going up, down, sideways. Stairs and escalators had some order in the central skeleton of the mall but I didnt see a pattern of the side corridors and their level changes. I did happen to see a sign for bedding and I tried to navigate my way up the building until I saw a display for sheets and bed linens. I searched for a mattress pad and finally found the jackpot….a memory foam mattress pad. I flopped down on the display and rested my sore feet. I had been on a long search and I was tired of walking. I was very excited to find this treasure and tried to communitcate to the sales girl that I wanted to purchase a bed pad. If I was going to spend money I wanted to get a king size pad that I could use on my own bed at home so we used sign language and a pen and paper. Several girls came to see what the commotion was about and they all chatted in Chinese trying to decide what it was that I was trying to say to them. I wanted the largest size available and I wanted it today. After another round of chatting between the girls a matronly woman arrived and she started to make a few phone calls. Finally she wrote down 6:00 on a piece of paper to which my responce was 5:20 because our bus left at 6:00 and I did not want to be late. She made another phone call and I could tell by her face that getting a king size was not going to happen. I asked them what size they had at the store and to my surprise they did not have anything accept the display model–queen size. I made the decision right then that I was not going to leave the mall without my memory foam mattress pad and I was determined to bring the display model home with me. After a few unsuccessful attempts at telling them that I wanted the pad I was sitting on I got up and started to pull the pad off the model. This seemed to do the trick and we started to talk price. I have to admit that I wasn’t in the mood to bargain down the price shown on the tag. I just wanted to pack this thing up and get it back to the hotel for a good night sleep. They found a large plastic mattress cover and rolled it up. They asked me if I had a taxi and I told them I had a bus. The sales girl and the mantron picked up the mattress roll and we walked to the service elevators with me triumphantly in the lead. The ladies lugged the roll about two blocks back to the bus. 

The police and security gaurds hanging out next to the bus let us through into the safe zone and opened up the storage bay underneath; the ladies tossed in my purchase and that was that…..no more rockhard box spring to keep me up at night. No more couch cushions from the downstairs lobby piled on top of my bed. Hooray for memory foam! I had fourty five minutes left before the scheduled departure time so I decided to celebrate by going to McDonalds. Going to McDonalds ued to be a big ritual of mine after all major competitions in high school. Win or lose, Dad would drive me to McDs to get some hot crispy french fries. I though I would try them out in China to see if they were as good as back home. I stood in line and when it was my turn I pointed to a picture of a happy meal and voila….two minutes later I recieved my toy and some crispy fries, coke and a chicken wrap. The toy was called a ‘milk pinapple card holder’ but to me it was a perfect call phone carrier. It was fuzzy, had a pocket big enough for my cell phone and a loop ato ttach to my lanyard. Today was a success and now I could sit down in peace with my french fries.

8-4-2008: Volume 3

My first rest day of the trip is here….nice to just sleep in and mosey a little bit.  I went down to breakfast and ate egg omelet, bacon, steamed buns (a Chinese favorite) mini crepes egg burrito….Chef Sacks says that since be do not have tortillas here he makes crepes for the breakfast burritos.  Next I finish up the signage to let people know about bible study which we are holding in the movie room two days a week. The Monday group meets in the morning and the Wednesday group meets in the afternoon so we can accommodate people who have morning or afternoon workouts.   I go back to the room to get ready for a walk down to the beach.  I take my camera with me but I think it has a low battery….I will have to charge it when I get back to the room.  My first picture is of the cow statues that are grazing at the gold course.  Not sure I why they are here but it makes for a good picture.  Next I walk out to the 9th hole on the course which is on an island.  To get there I have to cross a rope bridge and I feel like I am in an Indiana Jones movie.  One of the athletes, Lopez is taking a stroll and we decide to take a walk up to a house that is perched on the sea cliff.  There are a few fisherman at the house playing cards and they invite us in to take a look.  After a few minutes of watching the game I sat in on a round of the card game. It is probably called Zheng Shangyou but in USA we call it President.  I’m sure if my husband were here he would be playing this all day and winning too!  I really wish I had a knack for playing cards but what I lack in card strategy I make up in enthusiasm.  We stayed for a few rounds and I gave all of the guys American flag pins and said ‘Ni hou’.  One of my friends gave me a bunch of pins to take over here and they are great to give to people and trade for pins from different countries.   Lopez and I walked along the cart path of the golf course taking pictures of the scenery and spotted some scallop shells on the top of the cliff.  We wanted to take one as a souvenir but though it best to ask someone if they were available to take.  There were several girls with little umbrellas crouched down in a sand trap about 50 meters away and we walked over to ask them about the shells.  They were all plucking the crabgrass out of the sand trap and we asked if we could help out.  Some of them spoke a little english and they asked us many questions about our sport and the Olympics.  They invited us back to their shack next to the clubhouse and we talked, took pictures, and signed autographs.  The girls were so excited to see us and invited us back tomorrow.  We decided it was time for lunch so we strolled back to the hotel. On the way we saw a few goats that were grazing on the golf course and went over to pet them….Lopez was scratching one of the goats under its chin when I noticed that the goat was peeing all over the place. Lopez got goat pee all over his shoe and I laughed at him the whole way back to the hotel. After lunch about 35 athletes and staff travel to a mall at Dalian Development Area. There are several multi-story retail malls as well as traditional Chinese shopping.  I practice my Chinese term for ‘thats too expensive’.  

The bus drops us off at one of the malls and several security guards follow us around.  We stroll through the mall which looks like a high-end department store with cosmetic counters and such.  The whole procession starts to walk out on to the public street to look around but the security guards stop us before we leave.  I think they must expect us to stay in that high-end mall for three hours.  The athletes are not accustomed to being wrangled up and told where they can and cant go on a shopping excursion.  There is a huge protest by the athletes and staff with the Chinese security trying to decide if they are going to let us roam the streets of Dalian.  They are treating us like small children and we have had enough.  During the commotion, I along with some of the other girls head out a side door and walk fast for a few blocks until we arrive at another mall.  We have made our escape and I know freedom is near.  I am on the run and guess where I am headed….Starbucks!  We all pile in to the Starbucks which is very well airconditioned and order our iced lattes.  This mall is much larger and has better stores for brousing.  The basement has a Chinese open market with stalls of vegis, fish, spices, teas, etc.  There is a nail salon and I sit down for a pedicure and manicure.  I havent had time to get a nail appointment back in the States and I figured it would be cheaper here anyway.  At the nail salon I meet a few ladies who live here in Dalian. Their husbands work for Intel and live near our resort.  One named Mellissa is from Portland.  I tell her about our stay in Dalian and I ask her opinion on the best places to shop around town.  We chat untill her nails are dry then we exchange numbers.  My mani-pedi is finished and I pay..total cost is 150 RMB which is probably more than what the locals pay but still it is way cheaper than California.  It is probably the best foot scrub I have ever recieved and I feel like I came out ahead.   Back to the bus, back to the luxury prison.  Tommorow is a lifting and throwing day at the track and I watch some video footage of the previous day’s throwing to get prepared.  For dinner Chef Sacks has a surprise….mini chinese corn dogs! I asked him if he could have a corn dog night and he came through for us.  They are good but they just cant compare with hot-dog-on-a-stick.  I am looking forward to a good old fashioned corn dog when I get home….I will have to dream until then.

8-3-2008: Volume 2

Dalian - Beijing         Dalian close up

My first rest day of the trip is here….nice to just sleep in and mosey a little bit.  I went down to breakfast and ate egg omelet, bacon, steamed buns (a Chinese favorite) mini crepes egg burrito….Chef Sacks says that since we do not have tortillas here he makes crepes for the breakfast burritos.  Next I finish up the signage to let people know about bible study which we are holding in the movie room two days a week. The Monday group meets in the morning and the Wednesday group meets in the afternoon so we can accommodate people who have morning or afternoon workouts.

I go back to the room to get ready for a walk down to the beach.  I take my camera with me but I think it has a low battery….I will have to charge it when I get back to the room.  My first picture is of the cow statues that are grazing at the gold course.  Not sure I why they are here but it makes for a good picture.  Next I walk out to the 9th hole on the course which is on an island.  To get there I have to cross a rope bridge and I feel like I am in an Indiana Jones movie.  One of the athletes, Lopez, is taking a stroll and we decide to take a walk up to a house that is perched on the sea cliff.  There are a few fisherman at the house playing cards and they invite us in to take a look.  After a few minutes of watching the game I sat in on a round of the card game. It is probably called Zheng Shangyou but in USA we call it President.  I’m sure if my husband were here he would be playing this all day and winning too!  I really wish I had a knack for playing cards but what I lack in card strategy I make up in enthusiasm.  We stayed for a few rounds and I gave all of the guys American flag pins and said ‘Ni hou’.  One of my friends gave me a bunch of pins to take over here and they are great to give to people and trade for pins from different countries.

Lopez and I walked along the cart path of the golf course taking pictures of the scenery and spotted some scallop shells on the top of the cliff.  We wanted to take one as a souvenir but though it best to ask someone if they were available to take.  There were several girls with little umbrellas crouched down in a sand trap about 50 meters away and we walked over to ask them about the shells.  They were all plucking the crabgrass out of the sand trap and we asked if we could help out.  Some of them spoke a little English and they asked us many questions about our sport and the Olympics.  They invited us back to their shack next to the clubhouse and we talked, took pictures, and signed autographs.  The girls were so excited to see us and invited us back tomorrow.  We decided it was time for lunch so we strolled back to the hotel. On the way we saw a few goats that were grazing on the golf course and went over to pet them….Lopez was scratching one of the goats under its chin when I noticed that the goat was peeing all over the place. Lopez got goat pee all over his shoe and I laughed at him the whole way back to the hotel.

After lunch about 35 athletes and staff travel to a mall at Dalian Development Area. There are several multi-story retail malls as well as traditional Chinese shopping.  I practice my Chinese term for ‘thats too expensive’.  The bus drops us off at one of the malls and several security guards follow us around.  We stroll through the mall which looks like a high-end department store with cosmetic counters and such.  The whole procession starts to walk out onto the public street to look around but the security guards stop us before we leave.  I think they must expect us to stay in that high-end mall for three hours.  The athletes are not accustomed to being wrangled up and told where they can and can’t go on a shopping excursion.  There is a huge protest by the athletes and staff with the Chinese security trying to decide if they are going to let us roam the streets of Dalian.  They are treating us like small children and we have had enough.  During the commotion, I along with some of the other girls head out a side door and walk fast for a few blocks until we arrive at another mall.  We have made our escape and I know freedom is near.  I am on the run and guess where I am headed….Starbucks!  We all pile into the Starbucks which is very well air-conditioned and order our iced lattes.  This mall is much larger and has better stores for brousing.  The basement has a Chinese open market with stalls of vegis, fish, spices, teas, etc.  There is a nail salon and I sit down for a pedicure and manicure.  I havent had time to get a nail appointment back in the States and I figured it would be cheaper here anyway.  At the nail salon I meet a few ladies who live here in Dalian.  Their husbands work for Intel and live near our resort.  One named Mellissa is from Portland.  I tell her about our stay in Dalian and I ask her opinion on the best places to shop around town.  We chat untill her nails are dry then we exchange numbers.  My mani-pedi is finished and I pay..total cost is 150 RMB which is probably more than what the locals pay but still it is way cheaper than California.  It is probably the best foot scrub I have ever recieved and I feel like I came out ahead.

Back to the bus, back to the luxury prison.  Tomorrow is a lifting and throwing day at the track and I watch some video footage of the previous day’s throwing to get prepared.  For dinner Chef Sacks has a surprise….mini chinese corn dogs! I asked him if he could have a corn dog night and he came through for us.  They are good but they just can’t compare with hot-dog-on-a-stick.  I am looking forward to a good old fashioned corn dog when I get home….I will have to dream until then.

8-1-2008: Volume 1

I have arrived in China safe and sound. On the trip from SFO to Beijing I had an exit row seat and I was able to stretch out my long legs during the 11 hour flight.  I traveled with athletes from the fencing team, diving, and men’s gymnastics.  I also was able to lie back almost flat and take a much needed rest on the plane.  I sat next to a woman who lives and works in Beijing and we exchanged numbers.  She is from San Diego and she too feels far from the sunny beaches and skies of California.

The Beijing Airport has just been remodeled and its Terminal 3 is the largest in the world.  When the plane taxied up to the jet way I looked out the window and the sight reminded me of the Star Trek movies where the starship Enterprise opens up the door to the landing bay and the shuttlecraft hovers for a landing.  The air was thick and swampy and did not seem like it had improved.  There were about 80-90 people with our group on the plane and a few of them had issues with their passport not matching the PVC (pre validated credential) that the Beijing Organizing committee had issued.  We all had our passports and credentials taken away while they checked each one and made photocopies.  About an hour later we all had made it through the credential validation process and took a shuttle to get luggage.

Luggage was claimed and we waited in the main terminal for our shuttle to the Olympic Village.  There were hundreds of people lined up to see the athletes walk out to the waiting area and photographers were taking pictures, fans were asking for autographs. Eventually all of the athletes were allowed to board a bus to the Olympic Village where we were to spend the night before heading to the Track and Field training camp in Dalian, China.  We checked in to our rooms and went to the dining hall for dinner.  They served a variety of meats, potatoes, vegetables, salads.  Peking Duck was on the menu at the Asian station.  Mcdonalds had a special restaurant serving hamburgers, apple pies.  I didn’t see any fries on their menu….maybe they are trying to make it healthier for the athletes.

Stay tuned…

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