As the years go by, it sometimes gets hard to remember how I celebrated a certain birthday. Was it my 23nd when the team threw me a surprise party? Was it my 16th or my 17th that fell during our family raft trip on the St Joe River? How old was I when we celebrated with a backyard bbq? Well, I will never have any problem remembering my 26th birthday: I WAS AT THE OLYMPICS!
Coach tries to stress that, for all intents and purposes, this event is just like any normal World Championships, but there are still minute-by-minute reminders that this is no ordinary competition—this is something special!
The magic started the moment we landed at Heathrow. A LOCOG (London Organizing Committee) host and a USOC rep met us at our gate to expedite our trip through Customs and Immigration. On the bus to the Olympic Rowing Village, we took advantage of the “Olympic Lanes” on the highway—designated lanes to help athletes and othe VIPs avoid the typical London traffic.
We arrived at the Village, where a security team greeted us, checked the bus for bombs, screened and x-rayed our luggage, sent us through a metal detector, and put us onto a secure internal shuttle to pass through two more guarded gates before we reached the Village Center. (For all the media hubbub over Games security, the athletes at the Rowing Village are feeling *very* safe! It seems that there are more policemen, soldiers, and armed guards than there are athletes!)
This superstar treatment didn’t end at the security checkpoint– as we were one of the first delegations to arrive, our reception was especially enthusiastic. The LOCOG volunteers and staff could not be more cheerful or accommodating (“Oh my, look! A real athlete!”, spoken by the volunteer in the athlete internet lounge). We have single rooms (!), a laundry service (!!), a well-equipped gym and hi-tech rec center, and a 24-hour dining hall! AND, if all this wasn’t enough to make my birthday special, there was the gear! Nike and Ralph Lauren were almost overwhelming in their generosity, and thanks to my awesome teammates, Amanda and I are outfitted in head-to-toe USA Olympic gear!
Of course, we don’t spend all day just trying on posh Ralph Lauren outfits and noshing on tea and biscuits in the dining hall. We also have a job to do: stay fit, hone our top-end speed, and perfect the final race plan. We’re logging the miles out at the race course in Eton Dorney, enjoying the quiet boatyard before all the other countries start arriving. (Like the Village, we’re one of the first countries to show up at the course, so the multitude of officials and volunteers are extremely excited to see us!)
All in all, I couldn’t have asked for a more memorable birthday! Definitely one for the record books!
I just posted many more photos up online! For a more detailed behind-the-scenes look at our life at the Games, check out my two facebook albums!
–“Headed to London”: Team USA flies across the Atlantic and arrives safe and sound at the Olympic Village
–“Welcome to the Olympics”: Team USA begins their final week of preparations at the official Olympic race course at Eton Dorney