Wrestling official Rusty Davidson of New Mexico will also be blogging about the experiences of heading to the 2012 Olympic Games in London. Read on!
Sunday, August 19, 2012
We got home to New Mexico just fine, but not without a story. Our plane from Heathrow to DFW was on time and things were good. Something woke me earlier than I planned and, looking at the GPS thing in the seat back, I was confused.
The time wasn’t right, but it said we were 22 minutes from destination. As I continued to fight the confusion, I finally learned we were being diverted because of a “Medical Emergency”. It seems one of our passengers suffered a mild coronary episode. The last time I saw her, she was sitting up and speaking. I’m confident she came out OK.
But, Eva and I have actually been on the ground in Goose Bay, Newfoundland. Have you ? Goose Bay is, pretty much, the first runway in North America for the big birds coming in from Europe. From what I’m told, they have great maintenance and hospital facilities, and it’s a big part of their economy. Makes sense.
The side trip crushed our layover in Dallas. We had to absolutely sprint through Dallas to make our connection. Of course, after we did, that plane had a “maintenance issue” and we sat for an hour.
We got into Albuquerque about 1:00am, slept a couple of hours, and I got to school early so I could be ready to rock. In the west, we start school really early, so I missed the first day on Monday. The kids did a great job, though, and had plenty of questions ready for me.
Which brings us to the point. It takes awhile for the intensity of the Olympic Games experience to mellow enough to really tell the stories. I can’t imagine what it must be like for Burroughs and Varner on their whirlwind media tour.
It’s Sunday, now, and we’ve been back in the world for a week. The stories are beginning to flow and they are great ones. I’m enjoying being able to challenge kids with ‘em. I couldn’t wait to share ‘em with Sterling. People around our small town can’t get enough.
I got all my laundry done and I’ve started the packing process for the Junior Worlds. Two weeks from tonight, I’ll be in Pattaya, Thailand. Between now and then, I’ll drop in a couple of times, just so my publicist, Jason Bryant, knows I’m still alive.
This is the place where I say that I truly appreciate the extra work Jason does to get all these bolgs posted. I appreciate you, too. A lot of people have taken the trouble to make me feel like writing these is a good thing. I’ll keep working on it.
Monday Morning, August 13, 2012
What a way to finish ! Thanks to Varner, the last song we listened to, in London, was ours. Well… at least the last official song, during competition.
So, what to make out of all of this ? I’ll finish packing, in a few minutes, be back in the States tonight and teach class tomorrow morning. For most of us, it’s “Back to the World”.
We’ll all answer those questions: “What was London like ? Don’t you think we should have won more medals ? What’s the deal with the rules ? What’s the deal with the officials ? Did you bring me a T-shirt ?”
London nailed this thing and I think most of that is due to the spirit of its volunteers. I’m sure Team GB’s own medal count made it easier for these people to smile and greet every morning, but they really spread a contagious spirit of good will.
Even the weather was happy to host the XXXth Games ! We got here, ready for 16 days of rain. We opened an umbrella ONCE.
With four out of seventeen, right at a quarter of our athletes got on the podium. We all kind of think, maybe, we should have seventeen (no, make that 18) Golds. The Olympic Games give us a chance to re-ground and reign in our definition of success. We see, every four years, it really is a Big World.
We get to USA Wrestling’s State Leaders Summit and Board of Directors meeting in two weeks. We should mimic London’s spirit there, and celebrate the product of our last four years before we tear into the challenges of the next four.
I we want some templates to study, I might suggest we revisit Japan’s scheme. We might take a look at what India and Egypt are doing. Obviously, Iran has revitalized their program. Russia may have lost their edge and it will be fascinating to watch their response.
Russia is likely to do what I hope we don’t. They may try to fix their problems by ‘throwing’ money at them… but with no heart. I hope we can start and end with throwing our own hearts into polishing our American effort, and then figure out the budget.
As for the rules and officiating, I’ll be happy to chew the fat with you, but it’ll have to be face-to-face and you have to buy ! I have spent my time in purgatory for things I’ve written and things I haven’t… so I won’t.
What I will do is remind you to look for the forest, not the trees. Part of our plan must always be to control the things we can and recognize the things we can’t.
Not long after we listened to the Star Spangled Banner, we were sitting in the coffee shop of the officials’ hotel, saying our goodbyes. A friend, a young official from another country, working his first Games, walked up.
“You have three seconds to decide,” he said. “Would you like to go with us to the Closing Ceremonies ?” We did not use our full three seconds. The tickets he provided were un-used by some dignitary from his delegation. They were VIP seats… very high dollar.
We chose to sit up higher with about 30 officials from several countries. What a party ! The Olympic experience reminds us all that life is pretty glorious.
Got your T-shirt in my bag !
Friday, August 10, 2012
Coach Jones chose the perfect word: SWAGGER ! Jordan Burroughs has SWAGGER.
One of my favorite college football coaches defined the difference between cockiness and swagger. He said, “Cockiness shows when a person does something routine, then acts like it was hard. Swagger comes from doing hard things routinely”. Jordan Burroughs has SWAGGER !
I don’t know Jordan very well, personally. I think the last time I called one of his matches was when he was a kid. But, like all of us, I love watching him pull that trigger.
I understand that it helps a lot to be the physical freak that Burroughs is. But it’s the combination of Jordan’s intelligence and drive that has me mesmerized.
The big question, a few days ago, was whether the others had figured out Burroughs’ offense. Clearly, both the Russian and Iranian thought they had. More clearly, Jordan had figured out that they were figuring him out. The adjustment, though subtle, was brilliant.
There’s nothing I can say that hasn’t been said. I appreciate, as do we all, being able to hear our National Anthem. I want to thank Jordan Burroughs for making us say, “Wow !”
Let’s not forget, we still have five more dogs in the fight. I’d love to hear the Anthem a few more times, before we leave London.
I asked, when we first got to London, that the coaches among you try to identify the Seven Basic Skills of Wrestling, as you watch. As many times as you’re likely to see the Burroughs matches replayed, please take advantage of the clinic he puts on.
Wednesday & Thursday, August 8 & 9, 2012
We had a snack, between sessions yesterday, with Craig Sesker and John Sachs. I told Craig how much I appreciated his piece on watching athletes celebrate a Bronze medal.
It was a treat to watch Chun celebrate our first medal of these Games. All of us breathed a little sigh of relief but, I’m sure, it was nothing like the sigh Clarissa breathed. This kid’s been through a lot.
While we arm-chair quarterback for Fraser and Terry and Zeke, it will do us good to remember that ALL these kids have been through a lot. Injuries, emotional roller coaster rides, the stress of balancing life with training: All these elements, and more, play into the preparation for Olympic glory or the lack thereof.
The general age range for Olympic Wrestlers stretches our definition when we call ‘em “Kids”. But, even those well into their 30’s have given so much of their lives to sport that they really are. Some, like Ellis, bloom early. Some, like Byers, have great longevity. On both ends of that spectrum though, and all along it, there is a price.
As we sets our dream for the next quadrennium, we all have favorites. It’s fun to see some of the great, young ones knock on the door. It’s fun to hope the great one’s from this batch have one more in ‘em. It’s fun to be able to celebrate both the highs and the lows with such great humans.
Speaking of great humans ( and on a lighter note ), we had dinner with about 30 after last night’s finals. David Sudron, British official, set us up in a traditional English pub. We had a variety of pub fare, as well as a variety of Pints.
Our group included some old ones and some young ones. We represented 10 different countries: Croatia, England, Estonia, Greece, Hungary, Puerto Rico, Serbia, Slovenija, Switzerland, and the United States.
It was one of those evenings that keeps us all coming back. The few minutes we spend turn into lifetime friendships. The room was filled with laughter and love. Wrestling is a pretty cool way to live.
Monday & Tuesday, August 6 & 7, 2012
Ok… the Greco tournament is over and I’m as flooded with emotion, opinion, thrill and agony as anyone. What to do with this ?
I think, first, I’ve gotta’ note how much I agree with Craig Sesker’s observation. Watching a kid (maybe thirty-ish, but still a kid) celebrate winning a BRONZE medal is something special. I don’t really care what country he’s from. I came here to watch humans celebrate.
We sat directly in front of a Hungarian family while Harry wrestled their Lorincz. All of us waved our flags and hooted and hollered. Lorincz won. Here’s the deal: I collected myself to turn and congratulate the Hungarians. But, before I could, the Mom congratulated us. This lady was so classy. She said, “Your athlete is very brave.” Yes, he is. Thank you.
So, where I’m going with this is: Yes, we got smoked. Yes, we gotta’ fix it. But, I believe we are all taught not to make decisions in the throws of passion. Step one in “fixing it” is to take the time to mourn and ease into a plan that will challenge us for the next quadrennium, but one we can execute.
Step two may be the most difficult. Each one of us has got to step up to our small role in executing the plan. And we do… each one of us… have a role.
I am so tempted to drift into the parallels between sport and economy. I’m fighting it, but I think just mentioning it will cause you to see those parallels. We’re not getting what we think are our fair share of Greco medals. Is our first impulse, as Americans, to figure out who to blame ? Or, do we dare look deep inside and start with the question, “What can I do?”
I really got hooked on something I heard Coach Brands say, about a month ago. He was answering a question about the Hawkeyes’ performance at the NCAA’s. In complimenting Penn State, he said, “Clearly, what Cael is doing is a great thing. Whatever that is makes me want to get up a little earlier, every morning”.
Whatever Iran and Russia are doing are great things. They make ME want to get up a little earlier, every morning.
Sunday, August 5, 2012
We had a pretty tough time, last night. Got to experience some of those “Big City” problems. But, it’s all good, and I can actually tie it to a wrestling / life lesson. I prefer to do that later… not now.
Now is about the Greco tournament. I will not report draws and outcomes, for a couple of reasons. If you’re reading this, you are certainly keeping up with wrestling via Gary and Craig’s pieces and Jason’s commentary. They write and speak for a living, and they do so punctually. I write when I can and stay at least a couple of days behind !
One of the best things about ExCel, where wrestling is being held, is the “Spectator Hall”. This huge open space, between the main Excel corridor and the competition area, suits wrestling people perfectly.
The Olympic Games is like a giant, global family reunion. Wandering the spectator area, checking out their displays (very well done) and concessions (equally well done), we got to see old friends from all around the planet. Some, we saw just a couple of weeks ago. Many, we had not seen since Beijing. Wrestling is s special life, isn’t it ?
Mango and young Ben both looked good, both made a decent fight, and both got beat. Like everyone, I like medals and want Americans on the podium. But, we must remember, “These are the Olympic Games”. Founder, Baron Pierre de Coubertin said, up front, “The important thing is to have fought well”. Our kids fought well. Just love ‘em !
Saturday, August 4, 2012
Like every big city, London has its difficulties. We ended up horribly lost, just minutes from our hotel. Even our ultra-modern GPS device admitted to being lost ! Finally, around 3:00am, we found a group of “Street Preachers”, who helped us learn there are many streets that share a name.
After a couple of hours sleeping, we got up to take our rental car back to Heathrow. We had coffee at the airport and made our transition plan for public transportation.
London does do a great job with public transport. We easily hopped on the “Tube”, and stopped at Piccadilly Circus. We walked and looked, visited Trafalgar Square, and made plans for the few tourist opportunities we might get, later in the week.
The good part of the wrestling schedule is that the first session doesn’t start until 1:00, each day. The down-side is that there will only be a short break between sessions. This will make it tough to do both wrestling and tourism in the same day. We will have to prioritize.
Wrestling tomorrow !
Friday, August 3, 2012
After a lovely breakfast at our ‘Mansion’, we began our castle-watching tour. Many of the castles of Scotland are quite far from the beaten path, so we viewed them from a distance. The few we were able to get close to, we did.
We picked up a pebble near each. This has become another little collection… bringing home pebbles from each adventure. We have a small spot, in the garden, containing pebbles from six continents. I believe one of the most powerful things a human can accomplish is to move a stone. Deep thought strikes again !
We finished the evening with dinner in Stratford upon Avon. We had a nice stroll through Shakespeare’s birthplace, then back in the car for our last two hours to London.
The “Kick” of the day was between Scotland and Stratford upon Avon, though. We discovered Sherwood Forrest, not too far off our original route plan. The extra time was worth it !
We took a good, hour-long walk through the Forrest and saw the Great Oak, where Robin Hood is said to have held meetings with his Merry Men. The tree, said to be nearly a thousand years old, is one of nature’s awesome displays. The peacefulness of the walk was a much needed calm, before the storm that awaits us in London.
Thursday, August 2, 2012
We had a rough start today. Leaving Hotel Arrochar, promptly at 4:00am, we had plenty of time to drive to the ferry at Kennecraig. That was until we got about an hour into the hour and a half drive and found the only highway closed, because of a landslide.
We ended up driving around a mountain, and a huge lake, as the only detour route. I may never tell some of the details of my driving, as we attempted to make our 7:00 departure. Suffice it to say, I scared both of us. James Bond’s got nothin’ on this pilgrim ! We got to our 7:00 departure at 7:09… boat gone.
Catching the 9:45 ferry turned into another stroke of fortune. We had time to stop at a local café, as well as to take in some of Scotland’s rural charm. The later ferry is also a warmer ride, so we sat out on the observation deck. The entire two and a half hour ride… both ways… we were serenaded by the car alarms, set off by vibration, three decks below.
You either know what Islay is, or you don’t. One of Scotland’s western islands, Islay’s distilleries produce most of the great whiskey in the world. We were there to visit Laphroig.
We had a wonderful tour of the distillery. The weather was uncharacteristically beautiful and the island is one of those quaint, rural masterpieces.
Another two hour ferry ride, and four more driving hours put us in a Bed & Breakfast just outside Edinburgh. The place is called Kirkhill Mansion, and it REALLY is… a mansion. Tomorrow, we will see many of Scotland’s famous castles, as we drive south.
Wednesday, August 1, 2012
Woke up, this morning, east of Cardiff, the Capital of Wales. Going to sleep, tonight, in Arrochar, on the west coast of Scotland. Clearly, we had a long day of driving.
We could have driven AROUND Wales in less than half the time, but we drove THROUGH instead. Taking the central, two-lane highway, right along the central mountains, was worth every minute. What a beautiful countryside !
This evening, we had a pint at the Cavern Club, in Liverpool. The Cavern is the place where the Beatles got their start. This is one of the Meccas for many people in our generation. After watching Sir Paul McCartney perform at the Opening Ceremonies, this side-trip was a must.
Three hours further north, we checked in to a small hotel, on the shores of Lake Lomond, Scotland’s largest. It’s 1:00am, and we need to leave here at 4:00 to catch our ferry to the island of Islay.
Tuesday, July 31, 2012
Like most good things… if you love wrestling right, it’ll love you back. Eva and I visited Stonehenge today.
We arrived in London about 8:00 this morning and we’ve got the next
Four days to soak up all the English history and culture we can. Starting next Sunday, wrestling will return to its position, as our primary focus.
Stonehenge is one of those places that makes you say your “Wows”, quietly. Just pondering the dedication in effort, the commitment of generations to a single monument, validates all we stand for.
I add Stonehenge to a pretty great list of mankind’s Wonders that wrestling has given me the chance to savor: Pyramids and Sphinx, Great Wall, the Palace at Versailles, Colosseum, Opera House, Hagia Sophia, St Basil’s, the Statue of Cristo Re. All have their special place in this pilgrim’s memory.
But, today belongs to Stonehenge and to Eva. Just driving through the English countryside, beside this beautiful angel, rocks my world… ‘nuff said.
Monday, July 30, 2012
As we fly, I want your help starting another project. I’m working on a piece for our National Coach Education Program, celebrating the 25th Anniversary of the Seven Basic Skills of Wrestling.
We have frequent discussions, in the modern wrestling world, about those Seven Basic Skills: Position, Motion, Changing Levels, Penetration or Attack, Lifting, Reversing Direction or Back-Stepping, and Back Arch. Are seven enough ? Do they have the right names ? Do they work for all styles ?
As you replay your favorite Fargo video and, more importantly, as you watch Olympic matches, please keep a good eye. See if you can identify these Seven Basic Skills, as you enjoy the technique of your favorite American. Better, yet, identify the skills in the technique of the villain you love to hate.
Between the end of Olympic competition and the first match of the Junior
World Championship (Bangkok, September 4 – 12), I will follow up and put your results into action.
Time to sleep.
July 29, Leaving for London
As we watched the Opening Ceremonies, last night on television, the wonderful flood of memories I get to relive every quadrennium came back instantly. Eva and I leave, for London, early Monday morning, but getting to watch the Ceremonies really drives the experience.
In the Winter of 1976, I had just graduated (mid-term) from college and was immersed in the poverty of a beginning teacher. I lived in an 8’x35’ trailer, in the middle of nowhere and the black & white TV my little brother loaned me got a total of one channel. But, it was the channel that covered the Olympic Games in Innsbruck.
I decided, that February, that I absolutely had to see an Olympic Games in person. Not long after that, Los Angeles was selected to host the 1984 Summer Games. Being a teacher gave me the time. Being a wrestler gave me the motivation.
Los Angeles was big for me. At almost 30 years old, it was the first time I had seen the ocean. Wrestling competition was right across the street from Disneyland… another first for me. We won a lot of medals in wrestling that year. Hearing our National Anthem locked it in for me. I will never miss a Summer Olympic Games !
The Opening Ceremonies triggers a lot of looking forward and looking backward, a pleasant combination. I got to watch Dave (Schultz) win his medal, and I got to watch him carry Kenny (Monday) on his shoulders. I got to watch Sasha (Aleksandr Karelin) win three, and I got to watch him lose one. I got to watch KJ (Kevin Jackson and Terry (Brands) win theirs, and I got to watch them hand Henry (Cejudo) his flag. Fraser and Blatnik and Paulson and Hall and Wheeler and Miranda… I was there. I got to celebrate being alive !
I get goose-bumps, anticipating what this group of Americans have in them. Frayer, Chun, Ali, and the artist formerly known as Harry. All of ‘em… they are yours, mine, ours. I am off to London, absolutely positive these young heroes will make me celebrate being alive !
I was entertained, listening to some locals in a restaurant, a few nights ago. They were griping that, “All this Olympic coverage”, is cutting into their ability to watch, “Real Sports”, like pre-season football and NASCAR.
All we can do is chuckle and pity the narrow-sightedness of people like those. I am jazzed about spending my next two weeks sitting in various pubs, surrounded by rather plain folk of all different languages, religions and sports, celebrating that Olympic theme that we all revere excellence.
More from London.