Tuesday, July 24, 2012

London Daily: My Olympic Experiences (day by day)

Day 7 (July 28)
Watching Swimming with the First Lady
My time with the First Lady of the United States Mrs. Michelle Obama was surreal. From waiting with secret service and traveling via motorcade, to sitting at an event chatting like old friends, the experience was everything I could have imagined and more. We laughed and cheer with everyone inside the Aquatic Center on the opening night of swimming. And it was such an honor to be able to introduce her to a sport I love so much. She is so passionate about getting America healthy and activity and so supportive of those that represent our great country so well, that I was a bit stunned when she was truly surprised at how important and memorable it was to the athletes that she was there. I conveyed to her that for every single swimmer wearing the flag and competing for our country, it was special and meant a lot that the First Lady would take the time to come watch their events and support them.  We talked Olympic experiences, memorable moments, technique, even why the athletes often bite their medals during photos. But in the end, she and I shared one very important distinction and title that always drives a conversation, that of "mom." We are both working moms, and no matter what your status in life, the conversation always seems to come back to your family and how you balance your life.

All in all, the experience was a bit hectic but a pure joy. So it was a pleasure to relive the fun when I awoke to the plethora of messages via text, email and twitter about how much all of you enjoyed seeing me share swimming with the First Lady.

Day 6: (July 27)
Delegation Perspective 
I’ve been to nine Olympic Games, but until this Games, I’ve never been to an Opening Ceremonies, either as a spectator or participant. Thus, watching my first Opening Ceremonies in person was amazing. I walked into Olympic Stadium with the same feeling I had when I watched my first Olympic event in 1984 in LA. I took in every sight, sound, and sense possible, almost as if I was afraid to blink because I might miss something.
What I learned from my delegation buddy, Olympic soccer star Brandi Chastain - who was watching her first ceremony as well - is that athletes don’t get to see the production and spectacle when they participate in Opening Ceremonies. Instead, they’re in another venue, hanging out, doing team cheers, chatting with other nations, and trading pins. We each thought we knew everything about experiencing the Olympic “moments”, yet together, we were both able to experience something new. It was a magnificent, emotional night. The moment the countdown was done, I was already bailing, and I finished off the night with watching the lighting of the flame with a few more tears.

Day 5 (July 26)
Oh my! Well, today I discovered where I will be spending any downtime I have at these games, The P&G Family Home! Absolutely amazing with it's 65,000 sq ft space and an endless supply of P&G products. There’s so much to talk about, but instead, I’ll let my photos speak for themselves.
I wrapped up my day by being picked up by The White House….Yep, I wish I could tell you where I am, but then I would have to kill ya.

I have the honor of being part of The First Lady's delegation and an Olympic-sized “Let's Move” event. More on that and Opening Ceremonies tomorrow. GO USA!

Day 4 (July 25) 
I felt like a super lucky kid on Day 4 when I got to start my morning with my kids, having a great breakfast on a double-decker bus with a few friends named "Tony the Tiger", "Snap, Crackle and Pop" and "Mini" wheat!

We had the opportunity to tour some of the big London sites, including Big Ben, Buckingham Palace and Westminster Abbey. It was amazing.

Then I went onto a second event without the kids to meet up with my other family, the swimmers and Speedo. I can't tell you how fun it is to be a Speedo athlete again. Being around all of the current swimmers makes me feel young again and makes it hard for me to believe that Barcelona was 20 years ago. I even got into a new swimsuit (a little piece for Yahoo! Sports, but that’s a whole story in itself.) You can see that and more of my coverage here and here.

Day 3 (July 24)
It was a gorgeous day to be with my Yahoo! girls getting stuff done in London. Lisa Antonucci, our coordinator; Sam Kilgore, my extraordinary manager; and Shannon Miller, Olympic gymnast and fellow analyst; and I were cruising from Tottenham Court to Big Ben and Parliament, getting credentialed and learning the lay of the land. We only got lost a couple of times, and a couple of us forgot our passports during the process…that would be me...But we asked some very kind Brits for directions and they did not steer us wrong. Life was grand. So far, the credential count around my neck is three...how many will it end up being in the next 20 days!

Day 2 (July 23)
I am not going to lie, today I missed home and I am not sure why…Maybe it was because my hubby took off for home for a week. Maybe it was because we had to hoof-it college-student style to the launderette 10 blocks away to clean ourselves up. Or because the kids and I got lost for 1.5 hours walking in what ended up being circles. And I got yelled at a few times for not doing things right, i.e. ordering food and walking across the crosswalk. Just feeling a little out of sorts.

But on a brighter note, we found an amazing playground for the kids in Regent Park where, for the first time (because I think they are outlawed in the states), they discovered the dizzying joy of a merry-go-round. And during my second lost in London moment, I stumbled upon the outdoor pool I was hoping to find for the kids. Also a plus, we have clean clothes again J So, today wasn't all discouraging. And, like a true Olympia, I muscles through. We are 3 days from what is my favorite night every two years, THE OPENING CEREMONIES!

First Day in London (July 22)
This is my Ninth Games as either a spectator, competitor or reporter/host, and I am just as excited today as I was that first time in 1984. However, this is the first Games where my kids are with me and have potential of truly remembering the experience. We popped thru Heathrow when I ran the torch a few weeks ago, but now we are settling into our hotel, i.e. our home, for the next three weeks and I can't believe it is actually here. And honestly, I can't believe I am saying that because I kind of feel that only an athlete has the right to say that as they have been busting their butts every single day, sometimes three-times a day, to get here and have a shot at bringing home a round treasure. But none-the-less, we’re here and I’m still a little in awe.
To really get into the spirit (and partially just to find my me), we took the Underground to the gymnastics venue and Olympic Park upon dropping off our bag. This kids' eyes lit up when they say the magnificence of it all. And all I can think is this is just the beginning…Wait until they see their first event. Up next, getting all of my many credentials and passes. Only a few days left of not wearing my awful picture around my neck every moment of everyday.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

I carried the Olympic Flame

What a day it was. And what a journey it was to get there! I had dreamed of one day running the Olympic torch and on July 10th my dream came true! Coca-Cola has been a proud sponsor of the Olympic Games since 1928 and has sponsored the Olympic Torch Relay since the 1992 Games in Barcelona. We our both celebrating a 20th Anniversary, and we did it together on the streets of Windsor.

My trip, however, was almost derailed by a case of appendicitis and an emergency appendectomy, which took place only three days prior to my run. But thanks to great doctors and a very helpful family, I was able to make it to London and participate in this historic event. It was a little painful, being only two days removed from the hospital, but I wouldn’t trade the experience for the world!

The day started with a short bus ride from our hotel, Malmaison Oxford Hotel, which until 1996 was a prison (creepy yet extremely cool), to our section of the relay in Windsor. I was on the bus with 10 other runners, all of whom were chosen for different reasons. One happened to be local and a swim coach of 40-plus years. Another was a friend from my TV roots at NBC who has worked 9 Olympic Games from the inside. And then there was Gina. Gina told me she coached, "Netball for 60 years and was fulfilling two dreams, running the torch and handing the flame to HRH”... or as we know her, Her Royal Highness The Queen. She was running leg #73. I was leg #71, which gave me just two degrees of separation from the Queen. Pretty cool.

My torch kiss (that's what it’s called when the two torches come together to transfer the flame) was with a Columbian Futbol star named Carlos Valderama, and he really got the crowd going. The bus dropped me off at the designated spot and went ahead, and it seemed things were moving so fast yet so slow. I couldn't wait to hold that flame, and I put the torch up as high as my arm would let me. Then before I knew it, Carlos' torch was touching mine and I was receiving the Olympic Flame. I gave him a huge high-five and my face simply lit up with perma-grin at seeing its light. I then waited for the “ok” from all eight security that were running with me and away we went down Charles St. The streets were packed, everyone was cheering, and I couldn’t stop waving or smiling. I carried the flame my assigned 370 yards down a cobblestone street so small, it was hard to image it was wide enough for a mini-cooper. Everyone wanted to see the flame or touch he torch, and just ahead of me was Windsor Castle.

To say the experience was amazing is an understatement. I love everything Olympic and have since I was a little girl. I never thought I would get a chance to run the torch. And while physically running was not an option for me, that didn’t change a thing. To hold the Olympic spirit in your hand is a truly awesome feeling, and I am still in awe of the event and the honor bestowed upon me by Coke. It was a once in a lifetime moment, or as they would say over in the UK, "It was absolutely Brilliant!"

Thursday, July 5, 2012

PaceClub Blog: Swim Today

Swim Today
Posted on Speedo's Pace Club 

As an 18 month old, I cried during every swim lesson. I was so scared of my swim lessons, in fact, that I even cried whenever my swim instructor’s name was mentioned. But I lived in California and we had a backyard pool, so learning to swim was not a choice for me, it was a life skill necessary for my safety. My mom knew that and knew I would thank her later, so she pushed through and continued with my lessons. Two-and-a-half years later, I was chomping at the bit to get my first shot at competitive swimming. At 4 years old, I was hooked.

Not all kids will have the competitive bug, but all kids need to be given the chance to learn to swim, to be happy and safe and experience being a part of the aquatic community...

Click here to read the rest of the article and be sure to check out Swim Today.