Friday, August 17, 2012

Withdrawal and the Future???

It's all over. London seemed very quiet and contained the last two days of my visit. What do you do when everything you prepared and hoped for has come to an end? Where do you put your energy and excitement when there's no expected event?

The past year has been filled with preparations for this trip, along with school and work, but my excitement and anticipation was building for the sole purpose of being involved in the Olympics. Now it's finished.

There isn't anything else I would have rather done with the last two weeks, and if I was asked to do it again I would not hesitate, but now it's done. The thing I look forward to every two years, Olympics (whether summer or winter), is done and to have been a part of one has been invaluable.

I met other volunteers from all over the world, I made great friends, I saw new things, I learned about sports that I had minimal experience with and I have enjoyed every minute of it. I miss the Olympics, I miss London, and I miss my friends in London. I'm going through withdrawal. Now on the plane ride home I think about life and what's ahead for me. There's no doubt in my mind that I want to have a career in athletic training, that has most definitely not changed and if anything that decision has become more concrete, even if I have to be in school for 5 more years, although unlikely, I will become an athletic trainer.

But what will I do along the way to that goal? The Olympic winter games will take placed in Sochi in 2014. Should I add winter sports to my experience? Will I take time and money to learn to speak Russian in order for this to be possible? It's a good idea and one that I entertain on a daily basis, volunteering has its rewards, but although I need experience in the winter games they do not fall at a
convenient time like the summer games do. Unless I will have graduated from UWM by that time.

I also was fortunate to make a contact who works for the Commonwealth games. These are something I didn't even now existed until I volunteered at the test event. Quite honestly I'm not confident trying to explain it, I understand it to be a mini Olympics that happens halfway through the "off" time for the summer games. But I don't know what sports and countries participate. Anyways, if I were to get the opportunity to have a paid job, through my contact, at these sporting events I would have to take time off and move to where they are taking place, which is Glasgow. I've never been there and I think that
opportunity would be invaluable but then that brings up the topic of school. I will most likely have to take time off of my courses in order to take a job there.

Which brings up another question. If I were to get a job at the Commonwealth games would it be possible for me to add/take a course in Europe that would add to my current and future degrees and allowed me to practice as a physiotherapist in the UK? The UK does not have the career of athletic training, as far as I am aware, but if I would take just one or two courses that allowed me to be a physio
in Europe then what would stop me from taking time off from my courses at Uwm, moving to Glasgow, if I got a job for the Commonwealth games, and take courses there while working? 

So many questions, so many feelings and emotions, and I'm still over water. I haven't even landed in the U.S. yet!!!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Last match photos

Last Shift

For my last shift we were scheduled to arrive at the venue at 6:30 am. Of course this was impossible for the majority if the volunteers as the first tube did not leave until 6:20. I arrived at 7:30, after previously alerting my team leader of my arrival time. 

There was nothing to do. It was actually quite a normal shift despite starting early. No weigh-in's needed preparation or assistance. Only two weight classes were competing and it honestly ended up being the most exciting day to watch the wrestling matches. Fortunately help was needed in the tunnel and I managed to snag a spot doing that work. I was able to watch all the repechage and medal rounds of wrestling. It was especially exciting when the U.S. won the gold medal in the 96kg round. The spectators erupted and there was so much excitement. The atmosphere was incredible.

The day finished early so that athletes were able to go to the closing ceremonies. There was a small get together for the wrestling volunteers at the venue, but it actually ended up being very anti-climactic. Pictures were taken and goodbyes were said and then a few of us went to get dinner and find somewhere to watch the closing ceremonies.

I found out later that the volunteers who worked at the Olympic park had been invite to the opening and closing ceremonies, that was not an option for my group unfortunately. I would have liked to have watched the closing ceremonies in  the Olympic park, instead we found a screen in a park to watch the ceremony.  It was very busy at the park and I didn't stay for the whole thing. I ended up watching the final parts of the ceremonies back at my hosts house, which was great. No crowds, no shoving, and the ability to determine how cold or hot I was.

Then it was done. Two years of anticipation, application, interviews, preparations, fundraising, planning, scheduling, and in two weeks it was all over.

Now what?

Friday, August 10, 2012

Jumping around

So I am going to jump around in this blog and try to catch everyone up on my week. I have been kept very busy during my shifts, and exhausted when I'm finished so I haven't really organized my thoughts or what I should put on the blog. Although Clarissa's bronze medal win had to be put up because it was so exciting.

Let me go back to this past Sunday, this was the first day of greco-roman competition and it was fairly exciting. The USA had two athletes competing and one lost and one won in the first round. The athlete who won his first round lost his second, and the other athlete did not make it back in to the repechage.

During their matches I introduced myself to their athletic trainer and doctor. The AT is from Colorado Springs and works near to the Olympic Training Center. He was very nice and helpful to me and didn't mind talking about athletic training and working with the athletes. One of the wrestlers injured his elbow, in his second match, so the AT came in to the store room to get some ice. He told me he had a possible Ulnar collateral ligament tear in his athlete and invited me to watch him evaluate it, of course I did. The AT went through a history, observation, palpation and special tests. He explained everything that he performed after speaking with the athlete. It was great to be able to be involved in that evaluation, there was no torn ligament.

This athletic trainer does not work with athletes of the other disciplines of wrestling so I did not see him much this week. After Tuesday he was gone and we haven't had any injuries in general in wrestling which is good although I haven't been able to observe because of that. The women's team and the freestyle have not had an athletic trainer, although team USA has had the same doctor here all week.

My volunteer job has changed a little bit. I'm not sure if it's good or bad honestly, I get to do more things, but only because a different group hasn't show up to do their job really. My team has started working as security of sorts during the day. We make sure that when athletes are making their way to the media that a. They don't skip out on press time and b. the spectators aren't crowding them and blocking their path. Their path crosses the areas spectators enter to get to their seats so I guess we are more of traffic control, telling spectators to stop and directing athletes and coaches in the right direction. It is kind of a nice job as we get to watch the wrestling matches and see the different countries reacting differently to winning or losing. Other than that my job is the same. In the morning I get things ready for the field of play, at 4pm we assist with weigh in's, and at the end of the day we help with clean up.

I now have two more shifts left and I am starting to get sad. Even though I haven't done as much athletic training type things as I would like I have loved being here! It's been exciting, I've made friends, I've observed a lot about how emergency action plans and medicine works in different countries, it's been a great experience and I'm not ready for it to end.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Clarissa Chun takes Bronze!

Today was the first day of the women's freestyle wrestling competitions. Wow! Much more excitement today then the previous days. Not that Greco-Roman wrestling isn't interesting but it's much harder to follow; with freestyle wrestling I actually can understand what is happening. 

Again the competitions went by weight class, so today the U.S. had two women competing, one I each weight category. Clarissa Chun won her first match and lost her second. The other U.S. athlete lost her first match. 

In wrestling the losers get the opportunity to continue competing in what is called repechage. This allows the loser of the original match to get back in to the competition, they just need the athlete beat them to win two more matches. So the U.S. athletes had a bit of time to wait in anticipation hoping that the person they lost to would win. 

For Clarissa Chun, that's what happened. Clarissa was able to get into the repechage and compete to go on for the bronze medal. A different thing with wrestling is that they give out two bronze medals. If Clarissa were to win her first match she would move on to the bronze match, which she did. She battled inane won and had a break before competing against Ukraine for the bronze medal.during the match she flipped her opponent amazingly and scored 3 points! She had fought 3 times before the medal round and went on to win the bronze! Her first Olympic medal (she had also competed in Beijing) and the first women's wrestling medal.

I had the pleasure of meeting Clarissa during my internship in Colorado. She is a wonderful person and so king and friendly. I was very glad to be able to watch her compete and very proud to say that I know her. I couldn't be happier for her! 

That's my excitement for today!

Monday, August 6, 2012

What Number Please?

So let me explain wrestling now, but please keep in mind that I'm no expert, so I will just explain what I confidently understand.

There are three styles of wrestling but two different disciplines; the styles are women's freestyle, Greco-roman, and freestyle wrestling. The different disciplines are the freestyle and Greco-roman, women only compete in freestyle. The difference between the two disciplines is: Greco-Roman wrestling the athletes can only attack from the hips up, they are not able to attack the legs to flip and gain points. Freestyle wrestlers are able to use the legs in addition to the upper body to flip and gain points. There are additional differences but I'm not sure what they are.

Similar to other combat sports, such as judo, the athletes compete in weight groups. The smallest or lightest group to start the Olympics competitions off was 55kg (for those similar to myself who are bad with the metric system that is about 121lbs) Yesterday two weight classes competed, 55kg and 75kg. In order for the athletes to compete they had to weigh in to determine if they matched the weight class they registered to compete at.

As a sport equipment team member we had to prepare the scales for the man who would calibrate them for each weight group. We also stood outside the weigh-in areas with stress balls with the number the athletes had in the draw on them and gave them to them after their weigh in. Just as a souvenir and a reminder as to what order they wrestle in.

Weigh-in always happens the day before they are scheduled to compete, and it seems to be a slightly stressful time for the athletes. They typically let themselves be a little heavier than they want so they wrestle and practice against heavier counterparts, then when competitions come around they do as much as they can to drop weight and get in the category they register in. Once, in Colorado, i saw wrestlers in the saunas on bikes in hoodies and sweatpants, at least for an hour. As far as I can tell, if the athlete doesn't fit in their weight group, or "make weight" they are done. Kicked out I suppose you could say. Here they have 30 minutes from the time weigh-in starts to the time they can't weigh in. We had one wrestler take the whole 30 minutes and we could tell that he was trying to get down to weight. He made it. No one has gotten kicked out yet.

Please Mind the Gap

Saturday was my first shift for the Olympic wrestling competition! The actual shift wasn't too exciting. But I'll start with the morning, as I had venue training first.

I arrived at the venue much earlier than I had planned. It's been advertised everywhere in London that the tube will be busy from 7am to 9am. I left about 7:45 expecting to be late, I had to be at the eXcel arena at 8:30 and the trip planner said it would take an hour. I arrived at the venue at 8:10. Much faster than I thought it would be. As soon as I stepped off the train I heard someone say my name and sure enough another volunteer that I had met in December at the test event was stepping off the train with me. It was very nice to have someone else to do everything for the first time together.

During training I found the rest of my assigned group, who except for two, I had met in December. It was so nice to be back together and it seemed like the test even had just been last week. My team leader was just as funny and energetic as he had been and everyone gets along great. The actual training itself was repetitive, essentially all the same information we received at the test event we got again,  but not everyone volunteering currently was at the test event, so I suppose they appreciated it.

After lunch our actual shift started, and almost everyone in my group had to work immediately. We started putting up the flags for the dressing room assignments so that athletes and coaches knew what room they should be in. We organized our storage room, and threw away some things that the judo volunteers had left, and then we had some downtime.

Most of what my team does happens out where the competition takes place, the field of play, but there was a turnover of the field of play from judo to wrestling which needed to be done in 24 hours. To be honest the turnover itself went smoothly, but it took longer than expected I think. We were to be done with our shift at 6pm but we were unable to get equipment out to the field of play until the mats, arena, and technical/electronic things had been set up. Although things ended up getting done, nobody likes delay, and of course no one would admit that things were behind.

While waiting for the competition area to be finished weigh-in's for the following day's competition took place, which fortunately my group is involved with. We had to get the scales into the weigh in rooms, there are three, and organize some stress balls with the number 1-22 on them for the players to have when they did the draw. For people who aren't familiar with wrestling I will explain weigh-in's and the disciplines of wrestling in a following post. I ended up leaving the arena at about 9:30. Some of the other competitions at the arena were finishing at that time so the train back to the flat was busy but of course emptied along the way. 

Friday, August 3, 2012

Photos from the day

There's a palace here?? Who knew?

Today I decided to go and watch the changing of the guards at Buckingham Palace. There is a website you can go to and find out the days and times the changes will take place. The guard changes every day but with the Olympics taking place here their schedule has changed just a little. The change takes place at 11:30 officially but before they actually change the guard the guard "band" walks around the fountain and road in front of the palace with the current guard walking being them, and then the new guards will take a turn, following the band, of course. So the entire process is close to a full hour long.

The band is very entertaining. Today I heard renditions of the Indiana Jones theme song, Star Wars theme song, a Lady Gaga song (which I couldn't identify) as well as the national anthem. They were all executed wonderfully, which is what you would expect from members of the Queen's guard I suppose.

I arrived early, or what I considered to be early, at 11am, only to find the entire court and surrounding areas of the palace completely crowded. This event is not just commonly attended by tourists but the residents here are high in attendance as well. I did not get anywhere near the palace for quite a while. My standing place was along the road and I did seem some of the guards and the band pass by from my position, but not very clearly unfortunately. But I was able to hear the band very well which was nice. When I got up to the gates I was near the front as the area had emptied out about half of its spectators. While standing at the front close to the gates; the flag bearers, and I think section leaders, marched right up to the gateand stood there smiling. Just so people could take pictures of them. They had their bright red coats on, sabers at their side, and huge black hat things that came just below their eyebrows making me wonder how well they could actually see. When they got near us and stopped everyone around was pretty quiet, possibly wondering why they had come so close to the gates, as none of the other guards had. After about half a minute of silence one of the guards smiled and said, "Good morning", everyone started giggling and snapping pictures, the guards counter part took his turn and said, "Lovely day", of course that brought more laughter and after about two minutes the gentlemen turned and walked away. Even though I wasn't able to see the actual "changing of the guard" that exchange was well worth the trip to the palace.

Once I had stopped taking pictures and being a tourist, I started my walk back to the flat. This had been determined last night after looking at a map and seeing that Buckingham Palace was only about three miles away. This morning I rode the tube to Buckingham but walked back so I could walk through Hyde Park, Kensington Gardens, and past Kensington Palace. Although it was not far, I like walking so three miles didn't seem too bad, my initial route had to be changed. I kept coming upon signs that stated "ticket holders only" so I had to go around, or down a different street. But I did get to walk through Hyde Park, and past an Olympic venue, I think it was for triathlon. I took a few pictures but whatever was competing there had either finished or hadn't started. I also walked through Kensington Park and was very excited to see Kensington Palace as well, when i came up to where it is located a sign said "Kensington Palace is being transformed" not quite sure what that means but whatever it is, I could not see the palace. So I walked the rest of the way, which was maybe half a mile, back to the apartment.

London is so compacted that what seems like a far way away is actually very close. You just pass by lots of buildings to get to where you need to be. Kensington Palace and Gardens is probably a ten minute walk away from where I am staying and all this time I thought it wasn't in walking distance.
So I got some pictures and will put a few up with this post, I walked around London and discovered there are very nice parks walking distance from where I am staying.

Tomorrow, venue training and shift one.