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Monday, August 16, 2004

Life at the Olympics

August 16--Life at the Olympics

The Games have begun and it doesn't even feel like it out here on Crete. Sun, sand, and five-star service make it hard to believe that just a short flight from here in Athens, the world's best athletes are struggling to acheive their dreams. I'm so glad that I went to the Opening Ceremonies and soaked up some of that Olympic spirit before coming back here to concentrate on two more weeks of training.

Sequestered out here on the island, I'm getting as much Olympics as anyone else in the world with a television. Admittedly, I'm also surrounded by some of the best track and field athletes in the world. Amy Acuff (high jump), Ian Waltz (discus), Jarred Rome (discus), John Nunn (20km racewalk) and I had a lively lunch-time conversation. Over dinner, Meb Keflezighi (marathon), Dan Browne (10,000mt and marathon), Breaux Greer (javelin), Deena Kastor (marathon), Jonathan Johnson (800mt), Daniel Lincoln (steeplechase), and I enjoyed authentic Greek dancers who, after dessert, led the athletes around the open-air patio in a spirited rendition of the Zorba the Greek song and dance. It has been great being able to meet and mingle with the big names of track and field in the US. I'm getting as many of the US team to sign my US Olympic flag as possible.

When I got up today, I was welcomed by the first stormy day we've had here in nearly two weeks of quiet surf and gentle breezes. Until now I had thought the Mediterranean was a big lazy puppy dog. I see how the weather might have convinced Homer to described it as a wine-dark sea and a tempest. The waves crashed relentlessly, pounding the sand, while the wind tore at the inadequate blue resort umbrellas. Rain fell off and on all day. A bright red flag warned that the beach was closed to swimming. Those of us who live on the West Coast wanted to go out into the first real surf we have seen and do some body-surfing. We were sent packing by the over-zealous lifeguards. Today's surf would have been described as one to two feet with poor form and most surfers wouldn't have bothered to load up their boards and head to the beach. Here it's a crisis.

Other than the unexpected treat of Greek dancing and the rain, it was just another day of training, therapy for my knee troubles before lunch, lunch, reading and resting in the afternoon, dinner, and an impromptu water-polo match in the evening before bedtime. John Nunn thought it would be fun to have what he called a 'pool party.' He even dressed for the occasion with a towels wrapped around his waist and shoulders as a toga and branches tucked behind his ears as a wreath of laurels. Hardly anyone showed, so we drew inspiration from the water polo we had seen earlier on TV and played in the resort's largest swimming pool. I won, 3-2, though I'm not giving up on racewalking yet.

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