USA Wrestling’s Jason Bryant will talk all things wrestling and all things not wrestling for the 2012 London Games. Follow the blog, updated semi-regularly starting July 27.
August 8 – Clarissa explains it all
Some of you might clearly understand the reference. The 1990′s show on Nickelodeon has absolutely nothing to do with Clarissa Chun’s bronze medal finish tonight in London. As the clock on the wall (or computer in this case) approaches 1:30, Chun becomes the first in hopefully many emotional Olympic memories.
There will be no further references to Melissa Joan Hart in this post.
As Craig Sesker outlines in his blog from tonight (click here), he remembers watching Clarissa fall in the bronze medal match to the same opponent back in 2008. This being my first Games, Clarissa’s medal is the first emotional moment I’ve had since arriving in London.
As I mentioned in a previous blog, when you know these athletes and you’re around them so much, you tend to ride their emotions with them. Granted, we’re not in the training room, practice facility or recovery rooms at the Olympic Training Center, but personal relationships affect your professional relationships. When you cover athletes for a living, their ups are your ups, their downs are your downs.
Wednesday night was an up in all ways.
Clarissa’s one of the most likeable people in wrestling. Always laughing and giggling off the mat, her tenacity has been a thing of brilliance — at times. She’s fought through adversity, past and present, and came out with her first medal. She might not have been better than Azerbaijan’s Maria Stadnyk on Wednesday, but maybe Thursday she would have been. But there’s no point in Monday morning quarterbacking a performance by an Olympic medalist.
Flashback to two years ago. My wife and I went to Kelsey Campbell’s birthday party. It was a smoothie party because it was close to World Team Trials and everyone was watching their weight. Kelsey asked me to bring my wife Abby along. I thought this was a good idea, because she was still relatively new to Colorado and figured it would be good to introduce her to some women who would be in and around the tournaments we’d be attending.
About 20 minutes in, Abby asked me, “Who’s the shorter girl in the flowered dress with the guns?” And by guns, Abby meant biceps. For as diminutive as Chun is — standing below the 60-inch mark (that’s five feet folks) — she’s pretty cut. And being near to fighting weight, her biceps were kind of hard to miss.
At another tournament, Abby asked me “How did um … ‘guns’ do?”
So moments after Clarissa wins her bronze, I texted the aformentioned wife to say “Guns won the bronze.”
Clarissa’s such an enjoyable person to be around. Seconds after she hit the thrilling armthrow for three points to essentially seal the match, my eyes started to well up. Yes, I’m not ashamed to admit the fact I was bordering on tears when I saw Clarissa run around the mat with the Stars & Stripes waving proudly over her head. I still tear up during that last scene of “All Dogs Go To Heaven,” where the little girl hugs the dog and goes “Charrrllieeee.”
But my almost gush was well placed. After Gary Abbott finished running the mix zone interview with Chun (heard also here on themat.tv), I took time to do something I rarely do — hug an athlete in the confines of the arena. Clarissa deserved it. Her repechage was the two best matches I’ve seen her wrestle in years. She was fearless at points and willed her way to that win. She expected gold. She trained for gold. She was rewarded with a bronze.
Clarissa’s shining moment in the Games will likely go unnoticed by the mainstream media. There are too many NBA players racking up triple-doubles in London for any network to notice a presence like Clarissa Chun.
Wrestling’s first hero in the Games comes in the form of a 4-foot-10 giant. Meeting and taking pictures with Olympic medalists is all well and good for the fan, but as I walked out of ExCeL Exhibition Centre on Wednesday night, I would not miss the opportunity to give Clarissa another big hug and get a picture with our fourth Olympic women’s medalist in history.
She fought through tough times and prevailed. With over 30 family members present and hundreds of friends, teammates and coaches in London, Clarissa’s beaming smile won over everyone. It was sweeter than the chocolate-covered macadamias the Chun entourage was handing out.
Clarissa Chun is a friend and a warrior. My hat’s off to you … even if you don’t like to tell people you’re in your 30′s!
August 6 – When it’s rough, it’s rough
No, this title isn’t intended to draw anyone into a pity party of sorts, but the last two days have been rough. They’ve not been rough on Craig, Gary and I as they have been on our U.S. Greco-Roman team, but a lot of our performance as media professionals stems off of the success of our athletes.
As I just told Scott Casber after an interview on TDR, when the team is down, you’re down. One silver lining is we had two first-time Olympians win matches in their first time to the Games. The obvious counter to that silver lining is we’ve wrestled five weights and we have no medals.
This bears a strong resemblance to 2010, when the team didn’t start off so hot at the World Championships in Moscow. Just a few wins will change all that. Justin “Harry” Lester is the guy going tomorrow, but we’ll also be keeping an eye on Egypt’s Mohammed Abdel Fatah, who trains in Colorado Springs.
Two wins by Lester will go a long way in pumping up morale. Three wins will make us try to accentuate the positive vs. dwelling on the negative.
There isn’t much to report from the outside of the venue, because that’s been our home the last two days. The only recommendation is to stay glued to our twitter account and our Facebook page. Between that, you should get all the updates, interviews, audio and pertinent information about the games, even if they aren’t showing them live on NBC.
So now it’s just time to relax and recover for day three. Nothing too exciting here. No European Vacation jokes, no more bad accents, no more Danger Mouse queries.
August 4 – Maximizing London
With the wrestling portion of the Games starting up on August 5, Saturday was probably the last real chance I had to get out and explore London, and of course, get some work done in the meantime. After an 11 a.m. meeting with Gary Abbott and Craig Sesker, I met up with Kevin Miller of Maximized Living, the official chiropractor of USA Wrestling. Kevin gave me a quick adjustment and after the “power was on,” I got back to work.
I set out around 2:30 to head over to Royal College of Art, next to Royal Albert Hall, but the trip also included a stop-over at Westminster, so I could take the obligatory pictures of Big Ben and Parliament (Hey Kids!). I decided it might be a good idea to walk down to Royal Albert, which was about two miles down the road past Hyde Park. Not exactly the best idea.
Living in Colorado Springs has made me spoiled due to lack of humidity. After a sweaty walk down to Buckingham Palace, my route was interrupted … by the Olympic Triathlon. Great. As I decided to head back to Westminster to hop on the tube, I ran into Mike Novogratz, Zeke Jones and Mark Manning.
“Hey, come with us, we’ve got a ticket to Beach Volleyball,” said Novo. I haven’t seen any other events, other than the second of the triathlon which was running by us at the time. I had to get to the USA House and couldn’t blow this off. I trekked back to Westminster and promptly got on the wrong train. I realized this quickly and got off the train, got back on going the other direction then sought out Royal Albert Hall.
Tony Black, Harry Kalofonos and Larry Nugent were there waiting, so I pulled out the camera and started snapping away.
Fred Roberto, also of Maximized Living, is one of a handful of Old Dominion alums here at the Games. Fred was doing some video from Belarus during the freestyle training camp and once that’s downloaded, we’ll post some of the interviews. Kevin and Fred were part of the Maximized Living social with judo and wrestling earlier tonight (it’s about 2 a.m. now) which featured the judo medalists, Dan Gable and the U.S. Women’s Freestyle team. It was a good night. At one point, a woman walked up to Gable and asked her to come over to meet Olympic judo champion Kayla Harrison. Kayla saw Gable’s autograph on the woman’s shirt and reportedly said, “Gable’s here? Can I meet him!”
Sure enough, it happened (picture above). For more pictures from the Maximized Living social, check out the USA Wrestling Facebook album by clicking here.
After the shindig concluded, the women’s training partners, Alyssa Lampe, Helen Maroulis, Adeline Gray and Jennifer Page, were looking to get some dinner. Terry Steiner was headed back to the Olympic Village, while the girls were staying the same place I was at East London. We scoped out a few places on the walk outside of Royal Albert Hall on the way to the South Kensington Station and grubbed on some pizza and pasta. The dinner took a long, LOOOOONG time, and we didn’t end up getting out of there until around 11:30.
One of the coolest moments of the night was when the waitstaff dimmed the lights and played a song for a six-year-old girl celebrating her birthday. Instead of it being a line of clapping and a cupcake like you’d get at say, Applebees, the brought her a big strawberry cake. A big cake. Then Carrie Harmon-Moore, the trainer for the women’s team, along with the rest of the table, which included a large group of Maximized folk, serenaded the youngster with “Happy Birthday.”
The kid clearly enjoyed it. At the end of the night, the girl and her father took a picture with the group, flexing and all.
As the group dispersed, Alyssa, Jennifer, Helen and I traversed the tube and got back to East London way after midnight. Once brackets got updated, pictures posted and this blog written, it was well after 2:45 in the morning.
Wrestling begins in less than 12 hours! Go Team USA. Mango and Provisor are out of the blocks first.
August 3 – Alfred Hitchcock it ain’t
The last two days have been a bit of a whirlwind. After failing to secure my credential yesterday by leaving my passport in my room, I secured the laminated piece of paper which will be around my neck for the next week and a half.
Shot some pictures from Greco practice this morning, where it was mainly Ellis Coleman and Chas Betts getting workouts in with their training partners.
Afterwards, I made the jaunt over to the MPC (Main Press Centre) to acquire aforementioned credential and drop off some media guides up on the third floor. Mark Jones of the USOC urged me to take a walk through Olympic Park, which is basically limited to people who have tickets or access, like the media. Score.
After coming back on the shuttle from the MPC, I hit the Underground and met up with Nate Engel, Andy Bisek and Gerard Habibian for a picnic at the park. No, I’m not kidding. They had a picnic.
Don’t believe me? Watch the video here (after you’re done reading) Birdwatching with Bisek.
The title reflects the second video, one where Bisek terrorizes the local avian community.
One thing about the Underground (or any mass transit system) in large cities is you end up sweating. And sweating. I’m sure the guy standing next to me was as uncomfortable as I was standing next to him, as he gushed perspiration for about 10 stops before we cordially parted ways.
Ended up running into Dennis Hall, his wife and his son, who was celebrating his 16th birthday. Ben Provisor’s mom and sister were also along the way. That crew decided to hit up Big Ben, while Nate ended up jetting out to another stop to meet up with Dremiel Byers, leaving Gerard, Bisek and I to head back to the UEL.
Not much of a real update today, as it was mostly spent on mass transit, in hordes of people at Olympic Park and doing some late-night work before getting dinner (which I haven’t yet acquired).
For some of my personal pictures along the way, check out my Facebook album by clicking here.
August 2 – The flight across the pond
There’s a whole lot of random thoughts that goes through one’s head when you’re on a plane for a large length of time. Mostly, it’s music and movies, two things most people find to occupy their minds when on trips across the Atlantic Ocean.
It started in Colorado Springs, where my wife Abby dropped me off at 8:30 a.m. to catch my flight from COS to O’Hare, the airport which is the bane of my existence … or at least one of them. After an uneventful flight which saw me catch up on some sleep, I was at O’Hare. I’ve got a pretty good level of status with United, despite having a few run-ins with them trying to short me on miles in the past. After unsuccessfully trying to talk United into giving me one of the five open seats in first class, I took to my seat at 21B. The guy I was sitting next to was on the normal Louisville-Chicago-London run. I told him I was surprised he didn’t take the non-stop from Paducah to Heathrow. He said it was booked.
Once we took off, I cat napped for about 45 minutes before I finally plugged in my faux noise-canceling headphones. Since I’m writing this in the past tense, already arriving in London. Here’s a thought breakdown as the flight and delivery to the University of East London ran through the day. I typed most of the notes on my iPhone, casting aside any question of grammatical and literary rules along the way.
Awful movie about a prison in space called MS One. Didn’t recognize any of the actors … and for good reason.
I ordered a Coke Zero. The guy next to me ordered a Sprite Zero. Older gentleman flight attendant started quizzing us on how we could drink “that stuff,” then joked he was actually 93-years-old. Good pun, considering all the preservatives in beverages. Wait, should I talk about that? Coke is an Olympic sponsor.
Changed the channel. Some movie with that guy from forgetting Sarah Marshall is working in a taco truck. Jason Segal I remember.
Next up is a scene were a guy says, “I wake up in North Dakota, which is the worst place on earth.” I get a chuckle, but I disagree, having spent at least 10 days of my life the past 14 years in Fargo. I think he said he was going to UND, which might explain it. NDSU is the place to be in NoDak.
I flip the channel again, wondering why Big Bang Theory is always a featured sitcom on flights. Did this show always have Mayam Bialik on it? I don’t watch it enough to know (or care), but I just remember her from Blossom. The awful show which spawned the “actor” Joey Lawrence … those of you who grew up in the 90′s know him as the guy who made “Woah,” such a detestable catchphrase.
I decide to dig into my book, which I bought from the bookstore outside of Gate C-15 in Chicago. It’s called “Invisible Monsters,” by Chuck Palahniuk, the same guy who wrote Fight Club, and a collection of short stories called “Stranger than Fiction,” which features a section on the 2000 Olympic Trials qualifier in Waterloo. The clerk told me “it was depressing.” Thank you for that. Now I don’t have any expectation of what I will find in the 296 pages. Considering Palahniuk is off the wall with some of his stuff (like Pygmy, which is almost impossible to read), I feel like I just wasted 15 bucks.
It’s about 6 p.m. Central Time … we’re over what I believe is Northern Quebec by switching the monitor to the map channel. I think to myself, Greenland is huge. Why do the airlines like to use Mercator projections on their flights? It’s damaging to the minds of kids who are traveling overseas for the first time and will actually believe the island of Greenland (owned by Denmark) is as big as the entire continent of South America.
Iceland is also out of place …
So I’m back to this Jason Segal movie, which I don’t have the time or care to look up it’s title. There’s a scene where he’s talking to his father, I can only place him as the guy who constantly said “Hello, Hello, Hello,” in the late 80′s Dudley Moore movie Crazy People.
I get up to grab my neck pillow. The guy sitting behind me was the same guy I ran into at the gate who pointed out my Red, White and Blurr Asics. He said “Are you with the wrestling federation? My brother works for Asics.” Coincidental win.
This is also the first time I’ve used this red neck pillow since I bought it at the Philadelphia airport coming back from the 2011 NCAA Division I Championships.
I decide to go back to the Big Bang Theory. The Indian character is obsessing about his relationship with Siri, of iPhone fame. It’s somewhat comical. Those with iPhone 4S’ (proper apostrophe use?) will find the dialogue pretty amusing. “Find Gelato.”
People are getting up to use the lou (getting into my English state of mind). The flight attendant working the intercom has a real problem with being nice. He starts talking down to the passengers who are waiting to use the lavatory (official airline parlance) like they are in kindergarten. Will tweet to @United about this after I land. This guy must have the stick removed … well, you know what I mean.
The movie channels are now recycling. I catch the opening sequence of that prison movie. It’s called “Lockout.” Awful. Still awful.
The Jason Segal rom-com starts over. Nope. I decide to take the pain of watching “The Three Stooges.” Meh.
At this point, I try to go back to sleep. The guy next to me is now on Chapter 9 of the book I saw him start reading on Chapter 3. Didn’t catch the name of the book, but later, I notice the Epilogue is about 50 pages long, unless there is a lot of MLA citations and footnotes.
The Guy Ritchie movie “Snatch,” is on my seven-year-old iPod Classic. Since we’re heading to London, I figure it might be as good a time as any to bone up on my quotables from that flick. I love it. Used to watch it all the time in college. You hear that Doug? I’m coming to London!
I got about halfway through it and decided it was time to reacquaint myself with the 10,000+ catalog of music which usually sits unplayed on said iPod. Hit shuffle and the first song was from Atmosphere off the Lucy Ford EP. I thought it was fitting, since my one-month-old daughter is named Lucy. That ended the only distinctive connection between the Minneapolis-based hip-hopper and my kiddo. I moved on to some vintage Social Distortion before jumping around to random albums from my college days. I actually group my playlist by full album, which isn’t uncommon, but some people find it odd that I don’t go by artist, rather, I search my actual playlists.
Mr. iPod tells me I’m listening to a song by The Urge, a band I absolutely loved when I was at ODU. I saw them open up for the 2 Skinnee J’s back in ’98 at the Boathouse, a legendary concert venue/dump back home. My favorite track is “Brainless,” off their first album, “Receiving the Gift of Flavor.”
The older Swedish couple in front of me are on their fifth or sixth whiskey. They predictably fall asleep shortly thereafter.
I shuffle through my playlists again. At this point, I just go shuffle songs and skip anything that resembles music my wife Abby likes. Very little crossover when it comes to our musical interests. Sorry babe, I’m not going to be listening to the Wailin’ Jennies on my own time. You got it on the wedding playlist. That’s about all I’ve got for them.
There was some Buffett and then some Pantera before I tried to read the book again. Then the next two hours were wasted enough to the point I don’t feel like recalling them.
Now I’m in Heathrow. I walk about 10 miles in the airport before going through passport checks (I was the only one in line at the time, score!). I get my bags, hit the Heathrow Express to Paddington Station (bear was not present) and then get a shuttle over to UEL.
My driver is a guy named Michael who was born and raised in London, but his family is from the small Mediterranean Sea. Seriously, he actually said “you bleeping wanker,” at a guy making an illegal right turn (from the left lane … we are in London).
This guy’s name is Michael and he’s got all sorts of great information. He really made the ride from Paddington enjoyable with his foul language and questions about wrestling. Much like the guy in Craig Sesker’s recent blog, he heard wrestling and immediately talked about the WWE. “My dad loved Haystacks Calhoun,” he said. Well, so did my grandparents, I thought.
After getting to UEL and getting my access credentials, Nate Engel stopped in as I waited for Gary Abbott … and that’s where this journey ends.
July 27 – Team behind the team Tailgate (Click here for Facebook photo album)
Communications department comrades Gary Abbott and Craig Sesker are already in London. I don’t jet across the pond until August 1 with an August 2 arrival time at London’s gargantuan Heathrow Airport. While still stateside, there are a number of things going on in Colorado Springs to celebrate the opening of the 2012 London Games.
On Thursday, the members of the USOC staff launched the Games off with a tailgate at the U.S. Olympic Training Center, with many of the summer sports who call the Springs home in attendance. With hundreds of Colorado Springs residents, friends and family of staff and Olympians present, the trot down the Olympic Path with torch in hand signified the start of the Games, much like it will during the Opening Ceremonies in London, albeit at a much smaller scale.
With the torch being run up the stairs and then the flame lit, it was time to grub down on some burgers, brats, hot dogs and some solid barbeque (or is it barbecue?) chicken. Several NGB’s had areas set up to play cornhole (or bags, whichever term you perfer), although notably missing was the now-banned lawn darts. I think we were responsible enough to be able to throw some javelin-esque darts through the air with bystanders five feet away, don’t you? I mean it’s lawn darts.
From the USA Wrestling side of things, we had the skeleton crew on hand, with Rich Bender, Tony Black, Cody Bickley, Karen Robinson, Shonna Vest, Emma Randall, Derek Sikora, Bill Zadick, Brandon Slay, Ike Anderson and myself grubbing out.
The grudge match was set as Bender, Bickley, Sikora and Zadick got after it in a fiery game of cornhole. (picture below)
Later on Thursday, the entire downtown area of Colorado Springs will party down celebrating the start of the Games. The Olympic Committee’s offices are right in the heart of downtown and for many residents, having the OTC and the USOC call Colorado Springs home is something they’re very proud of.