Sunday, August 3. 2008
This is my final post from Singapore, and tomorrow I will be in the Olympic village in Beijing. I feel like I Aubrey Montague from “Chariots of Fire” writing home to his mum. Actually, at various points over the past few months, I can identify with all four of the major characters from that movie. I’d love to write that during the journey thus far I’ve emulated the life of Eric Liddell, but often times I find that I am behaving like Harold Abrahams…
We leave for Beijing tomorrow and there is a logistical item I wanted to share before I get there. Apparently blogs are monitored quite strictly (some are getting this as an e-mail some are reading it on a blog). Not only are there China laws, but there are also Olympic laws and both sets of laws carry with them a punishment for lawbreakers.
The China laws are pretty straight forward. Don’t write anything bad about China. I don’t know exactly what that means, but I don’t plan on being critical of Beijing just in case. However, if criticism is warranted and necessary, I’ve created a word substitution key for readers. If I have something critical to write about Beijing I’ll refer to it as Stockholm, as in “The smog in Stockholm is really bad.” (Word substitution key at end of post).
The Olympic laws are totally obnoxious. There are restrictions on the use of the word “Olympics,” and restrictions against posting pictures, so if you’re reading this at swimroom.com, usatoday.com, wsj.com or 10kswimmer.com you won’t be able to see any of the pictures I may be referencing. (I may have just broken a rule in the previous sentence by advertising websites). Also, I can’t write anything about any of the other swimmers so, hereafter, Michael Phelps will be referred to as Batman.
The point is that there are lots of rules and I hope the administrators of those sites are able to censor me when I forget.
Additionally, if you want to get more information on the particulars of the race in Beijing and of Open Water Swimming in general, go to 10kswimmer.com. Steve Munatones, one of the most knowledgeable members of the 10k swimming community created a website with up-to-date info of everything pertaining to the race. There’s a popularity contest currently underway and I am in a close battle with a guy from Egypt - your support in my favor would be appreciated.
Final thoughts from Singapore
I’ve got to give credit to the people of Singapore. When I was back in Palo Alto I signed quite a few autographs, but most of the fans wanted my signature because they recognized I was in the same costume as Batman. Here I have people coming up to me saying “Mark Warkentin, could you please sign my autograph book? Good luck in the 10K in Beijing.” They even pronounce my name correctly.
The autograph books themselves are incredibly impressive. Many of the people would take a picture one day then return with the developed photo the next day. All the athlete photos would be organized alphabetically and next to each photo was an accompanying athlete biography. It’s not hard to see why Singapore is an incredibly successful country.
On Saturday the USA Team was invited to a 6 course dinner at the country club we’ve been training at for the past week. I sat at a table with Chinese people who lived in Singapore because it’s a more financially advantageous location. At least that’s what I gathered from our somewhat spotty conversations. I was given another crash course in Chinese and again I forgot almost everything, except now I also know “Thank You” which is pronounced “Shea Shea.” The attached picture is of me enjoying a Singapore country club salad, or as I call it “A culinary garage sale in a glass.”
My final practice this afternoon was pretty good. Coach John gave me a set that we’ve done a few times over the past year.
50 Ez 50 Strong – 29
100 Ez 100 Strong – 1:00
200 Ez 200 Almost Fast 2:02
400 Ez 400 Fast 4:07
800 Ez 800 Fast 8:28
At the end of a long week of training, working with less sleep than I normally get, I was pretty happy with the result. Next stop - Beijing
Word substitution key in case I need to criticize China
Beijing = Stockholm. As in “The smog in Stockholm is really bad.”
Chinese people = Norwegians people. As in “The Norwegian guy that I stood next to in the elevator could have used a shower.”
Chinese food = Danish pastries. As in “I’m sick Danish Pastries.”
Chinese bathroom = Soviet Gulag. As in “A Soviet Gulag is a place one doesn’t want to spend a lot of time.”
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