Monday, May 5. 2008
Well, I'm not even really sure where to begin. Thank you for all of the emails... it sounds like most of you have checked the results and have realized that it has been a pretty crazy 48 hours for the US team over here at the World Championships in Spain. I'll try to give you a little bit from our point of view...
The women's race was yesterday (Saturday) morning. Everything went according to schedule for the preparations - our girls were up early, at breakfast, warmed up in the river, and had their numbers and transponders on well before they were sent to the call room. The organizers did a great job of getting all of the competitors organized, lined up, announced and on the dock right on time for a punctual start. There was a bit of an issue with a false start, actually - one of the volunteers had a siren that went off and a few girls (including Micha) jumped in early. They were not disqualified, though, and they got back up on the dock and the official re-started the race.
The race was fast and rough. It was clear that the pack was tight and that they were working to hold their positions and to swim fast enough to stay in the group. We were able to see a lot with our binoculars and we also had radio communication with coaches on the feeding pontoon and with coaches on bridges and on the other side of the course. Kirsten was in the top 5 or so almost the entire race. Micha was right up there, too - sitting at about 12th most of the time. Cassie Patten (from Great Britian) had a VERY gutsy swim - she led the ENTIRE way (well, right up until Larissa from Russia passed her in the last 400 meters.)
Anyway, I could write more but I'm sure you can find race reports online. Basically, the last 1K was a shock for everyone. Girls surged ahead that had been at the back of the pack and girls that had been sitting out in front all of a sudden fell off. Kirsten wound up 21st and Micha was 31st. My good friend Britta from Germany (who, in 20 World Championship races throughout her career has NEVER finished lower than 7th place) came in 39th yesterday. Her teammate, Angela, made the Olympic team but Britta did not. Edith, another best friend, came in 11th and will represent the Netherdlands in Beijing in August. I can't possibly explain the emotion invovled in watching the finish of yesterday's race. It was just a bizzare experience to witness. Watching from the stands, you could look around and see some countries rejoicing with girls that were living the happiest moment of their lives... and then you could turn the other way and see girls just completely devastated and in complete shock and disbelief.
That said... our girls do have another chance. They did not qualify for the Olympics yesterday, but there is one more race where 9 more girls will be selected. That race is the Beijing test event at the end of this month. Right now, we're not sure which Americans will be going. Most likely, it will be Kirsten and Micha again. The decision is up to the head USA National Team coach, though, and that is Mark Schubert. He will wait to see how the team does throughout the rest of this week and he will then decide who we will take to the test event in Beijing. At most, we can qualify one girl now. It is our job now to get these girls back on their feet and to show them that we're here for them and proud of them even though they did not qualify for the Olympic Games... yet.
Switching gears... today we witnessed the men's 10K race. Like the women's race, it went off smoothly and was a fast and brutal race. The referees were whistling and going crazy and there were several "yellow cards" given. In fact, Australia's amazing and world famous swimmer Grant Hacket was disqualified today - something that very rarely happens at a World Championship event. I'm going to go ahead and omit more race details here because I'm sure you will be able to read other reports online. Davies (Great Britain) had an incredible race - he never stopped to feed at all and led the entire way (until, similarly to yesterday's race, Vladimir from Russia touched him out at the very end.) Turns out, by the way, that neglecting to feed is not necessarily the best tactic. Davies passed out on his way off the awards podium after the race. No worries... his teammates were there to catch him and he was taken to the medical tent and is fine now.
Anyway, it was once again an extremely emotional finish for the American team to witness. Mark Warkentin finished 7th, earning a spot at the 2008 Olympic Games and becoming the first open water Olympian from the USA. Chip Peterson finished 13th... and therefore does not get to go to the Games. I have spent several weeks throughout the past 2 years training with Chip and he has become one of my closest friends in the sport. Catherine, his coach, has taken me under her wing and coached me at several international races. Watching the two of them after his race was absolutely heart breaking. I still have no idea what to say. It's not okay. There isn't necessarily another chance.
So... that's where we are today. Right now, we're waiting for dinner and then we'll have a team meeting later this evening. We still have 4 more races here at the World Championships - both the men and women will race the 5K on Tuesday, May 6th, and then both the men and women will race the 25K on Thursday, May 8th. Tomorrow will be a day to re-focus and help each other and I'm sure we'll be fired up and ready to go again by Tuesday.
For a quick personal update... although the past two days have been a roller coaster of emotion, I'm still focused and ready to go for a great 25K later on this week. My training has been GREAT over here in Spain and it has been so much fun to catch up with friends and live this experience one more time. I can't wait for Thursday!
I'm not sure we'll have much internet access after this, so this might be my last email for a while. Keep cheering for the USA - and thank you for all of your support and encouragement. More fast thoughts on Tuesday and Thursday!
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