Tuesday, July 22. 2008
July 21st 2008
On Saturday the team went to San Jose State University to do processing for the United States Olympic Committee (USOC). Last week weíd already gotten a lot of clothing from USA Swimming but the USOC (the parent governing body for all American Olympic sports) has a different set of clothing for the athletes. At certain times over the next month the USOC wants all American athletes to look like a team, regardless if we are 10K swimmers or basketball players or high jumpers. For instance, when we get off the plane in Beijing, all American athletes are required to wear a particular outfit Ė no questions, complaints or requests otherwise will be tolerated. Similarly, when we give official press conference interviews we are required to wear an outfit with a particular sequence of shoes, pants, shirt and jacket. Diana can attest to the fact that I hardly ever dress correctly for any social engagement, so Iím a bit nervous of the dress code police that will be monitoring my outfits.
The primary focus of the processing was to get fitted for our Opening Ceremony attire. My good friend Ralph Lauren is the official outfitter of the USA Olympic Team, and Iíve got to give the guy credit for designing a pretty cool looking Opening Ceremony uniform. The uniform was modeled after the 1920 Olympic Team uniform (as seen in the movie ďChariots of FireĒ) and the attached picture finds me enjoying my new wardrobe.
Let me back up. We got to SJSU and were taken into a room about the same size as your high school basketball gym. The room was set up like a grocery store, except instead of frozen foods, dairy products and vegetables, the room was filled with shirts, shoes, pants, jackets and hats. So, per instruction, we all grabbed a Home Depot Shopping cart and started filling them up.
It wasnít a free-for-all (I had a checklist of things that I was issued) but it was still a rather surreal experience. It took about an hour and a half to get through the room and I was as happy as a pig in mud. My favorite part was getting our measurements taken by a tailor with a thick Italian accent. He looked me over once: ď44 Regular, 32 LongĒ and someone appeared with a sport coat and pants. We chatted about suits, neckties and buttons as he sized me up, finishing with ďExcellent, this is very nice.Ē
When I got to the last section of the room my shopping cart was full (actually it was overflowing) and my face hurt because I had been grinning for at least a full hour. It was a lot like that moment on your wedding day when you realize that youíve been smiling for a long time because the muscles in your cheeks hurt.
After we got through the clothing section we were taken to a room where we got measured for commemorative Olympic rings. Now Iím not a jewelry man, but itís hard not to appreciate a ring that looks like it could be used for a Roman Empire style signature. We wonít get the ring until after we get home from the Olympics, and Iím sure Iíll never wear it, but it felt rather stately to pretend to be Ben Hur for a brief moment.
I left the USOC processing having achieved a longtime goal. Former Olympians always talk about the day they got their shopping cart and filled it with Olympic stuff, and for so many years it was a fantasy that I feared would never become a reality. After the processing I did the math: averaging 30 hours a week for 50 weeks a year I have been training for 62.5 days of every year for the last 15 years. Sometimes, when the practice got really lonely I would question the motives for it all. Why? Whatís the point? Is it all worth it? I donít want to be callously materialistic and say that my experience on Saturday was the point for the struggle, but I will say that because of my experience over the past 2 weeks, I am more appreciative of the struggle itself. I donít know if I would have appreciated Saturday if it had been an easy road to get there. It was something that couldnít be bought with money, only with time, pain and sacrifice. Iíll cherish it because I know it was difficult to get there, not just because I was there.
When we got back to the hotel we were told that we had more stuff than we could possibly wear in China and that we had the option of sending some of it home. I packed up a box and sent it back to Santa Barbara because I knew that there was a very good chance that something might get stolen or lost in China and I wasnít about to let that happen.
Iíve got some stories on other topics that Iím working on, but I thought Iíd share that one for now.
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