Tuesday, August 26, 2008

And That's A Wrap

(I forgot to mention in my last post, a pretty exciting fact…our gold medal was the 1000th gold medal won for the United States in Olympic history.)
I wanted to take this time to wrap up my blog. It was a lot of fun to write and keep everybody back home up to date on what was happening over in China and what my Olympic experience was like. These past several months have been very demanding both physically and mentally. Both I and the team have been through many ups and downs during that time, but in the end, what really matters is that we found it in our hearts to unite as a team and go out and prove to everyone what we really are capable of achieving because we believed in each other all along.
The entire Olympic experience was amazing. Even though we did not get to be right in the heart of Beijing for the entire Olympics, we did get to experience a lot more of the Olympic atmosphere and the Village the last few days once we finished competing. I was able to go see some men’s team handball with my family, the men’s soccer final (Argentina vs. Nigeria), the women’s basketball final (USA vs. Australia), and the men’s water polo final (USA vs. Hungary). We crammed a lot in the last few days we were there, and despite getting very little sleep, we had a great time. Even though we did not get to experience the Opening Ceremonies, we were able to conclude our fantastic Olympic run in fashion, by attending the Closing Ceremonies. It was such an amazing experience, so I cannot even imagine what it was like at the Opening Ceremonies. To be down on the field with so many athletes from so many other countries to bring the games to a close and see the brilliant choreography was remarkable. It was a great way to celebrate one last time before heading home.
Yesterday, we left the Olympic Village behind us as we all traveled home to our respective homes, but the memories will last a lifetime. It is still hard to believe that I am an Olympic gold medalist. Many people ask me if I am disappointed that I did not get to play in any of the games, and it would be a lie if I said no. Of course I would have loved to have had the opportunity to play in an Olympic game, but at the same time I had a role to fill and mine just happened to not be on the field. I had to be mentally and physically ready to go in at any time, just in case something did happen. I still feel like I was such a huge part of the team, and I believe that we could not have won gold had it not been for a complete team effort from everybody. In the end, I made my first Olympic Team, had my first Olympic experience, and won my first Olympic medal, which just so happens to be GOLD. Now who can complain about any of that?
I want to send a warm thank you out to everybody for taking the time to read my posts and follow the team throughout the tournament. A special thanks to all of my family, friends and everyone else for all of your support, encouragement, and comments and emails you have sent me during my journey. It was so great to hear from everyone and it means a great deal to me that so many people have been following me along this great journey. I do not really think my words could do the whole experience justice, but I hope what I was able to share with you all helped you to have a sense of what the Olympic experience is about and how I was able to live a dream.

Friday, August 22, 2008

A Dream Come True

It is hard to even know where to start, or how to put everything I am feeling and everything I have experienced over the past day into words, but I am going to do my best. The game last night was such an amazing and enthralling experience. Once again, the stadium was packed with a roaring crowd; I cannot even begin to describe the atmosphere, especially because it seemed as though everybody in the stadium was chanting “Jiāyóu” and cheering us on at times. The noise was just riveting and that is something that you just have to experience yourself to truly understand. Both teams put up a very hard fought battle. At times, we had a little bit more of the momentum, which meant that at other times, we had a tough time keeping the ball and possessing, causing us to defend a lot against a very quick and skillful Brazilian team. Despite both teams having some chances, at the end of 90 minutes, the game was still tied 0-0. We played very solid defense throughout the game, and even managed to gain a little of an attacking momentum going into the overtimes. When we were huddled up to go out to the first half of overtime, we looked over and saw the Brazilian players on the ground, exhausted. Despite being tired ourselves, we got a little more pumped up, looked each other in the eye and just knew in our hearts that we could win. Even in the extra time we spent a lot of time defending, but we made the most of our chances, and got a goal in the 6th minute to go up 1-0. Brazil continued to put us under a lot of pressure and created some chances, and we also missed a few chances to really put the game away, so the final 25 minutes was a real nail biter. It felt like time was passing by so slowly, especially in the final 1 minute of stoppage time. Arm in arm and hand in hand, those of us on the bench eagerly awaited the final whistle. When it finally did blow, we sprinted on the field and celebrated together. Even after running around the field with American flags we were given from the fans and celebrating, it still seemed a bit surreal to us. In fact, we had to tell each other, “We just won Gold!” I think standing on the podium was the first that it really hit me as to what we had achieved. We had to overcome a lot this year. There were many ups and downs along the way, but we never stopped believing in ourselves, and I think that is what really helped to get us on that podium – Belief in ourselves and the Heart and Commitment to put in those extra hours of training and those extremely hard days of training that really paid off in the end. For us, it was an extra special achievement because it was such a collective team effort the whole way through. Standing on the podium with a gold medal around my neck, proudly singing the National Anthem with my teammates is by far my most memorable moment – a dream come true. After such an incredible journey and an extra special moment like this, it is hard not to sit back and reflect upon how lucky we all really are to be given such a tremendous opportunity. And for that, we are all very grateful.
It was so hard to wipe the smiles off our faces last night. At points, it seemed as though our cheeks hurt from grinning from ear to ear for so long. The best part was that we were able to celebrate the achievement with our friends and family right after. So, even though it was very late until the game and all of the media was done, we were so excited to hang out and celebrate some more with everybody who traveled so far to support us over here in China. Despite getting very little sleep, we then had to be up kind of early this morning to take care of some more media commitments as a team and then this evening we went over to the Olympic Green to be on the Today Show and share our gold medal experience with those back home. Now that we are done competing, we are all excited to join in the Olympic festivities and cheer on other teams as they finish up their events. And it is always a little easier to enjoy the experience after when you end with a big win.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008


The past few days have been busy trying to get a little more acquainted with the village, training, and spending a little time with the family. I think it took until about today for us to figure out how the bus system in the village works, which saves us the fifteen minute walk to each of our meals in the dining area. Being in the village definitely makes seeing the family a little more difficult than when we were in hotels, but we have all been managing to spend at least a little bit of time with them.
Last night, was by far the most memorable game of the Olympics. Just when I thought the last game couldn’t get any better, the next seems to always top it. We played Japan in the semifinals in front of a spectacular crowd in Beijing’s Workers’ Stadium. This was our first game in Beijing, and the atmosphere was awesome. There were over 50000 fans there and it seemed that most of them were cheering for us. Throughout much of the game you could hear the chants of “Jiāyóu USA” or “Měi guó Jiāyóu” ringing in the stands. Both translate to “Let’s Go USA.” We gave up the first goal of the game, going down 0-1 after a little bit of a slow start. But we pretty quickly picked up our game and continually put them under pressure. Just before half, we got the equalizing goal, and minutes later, we went up 2-1 off a brilliant goal from Lori Chalupny. Going into halftime we definitely had the momentum and never looked back. In the second half, we got two more goals to go up 4-1 before conceding one final goal in the final seconds. The win means that we will be playing in the gold medal game against Brazil. I don’t think it has really hit all of us that we are playing for the gold medal. Just the whole idea seems a bit surreal. The most exciting part is that we will be walking away from this next game with a medal, and hopefully it will be gold.
Today we had most of the day off, after a short recovery workout in the gym/pool. Most people chose to spend the rest of the day with family. I met up with my family over at the Bank of America Hometown Hopefuls Family Center which they set up for USA Olympic athletes and families to hang out, relax, watch Olympic events on TV, and get meals. The place is great, and has definitely made my family’s stay enjoyable. So, we all grabbed a quick bite to eat, and then ventured off a little more. Our next stop was over at the Nike Hospitality Area, which Nike set up for all of their Nike athletes. It took us a little bit to actually find it, and in the process we wandered through a neat little park that everybody kept sending us to (if you look lost and confused, which we tend to be a bit here, people will usually offer to try and help you), but in the end, we finally made it there and got to relax a little bit. From there, we decided to head back to my family’s apartment. After walking back and forth several times (seems to have been the theme of our day), we finally found the station we needed, and hopped on the subway for a few stops. So, I had my first subway experience in China, and it was not bad at all. My sister and I had picked up tickets to one of the men’s field hockey quarterfinal games, so we quickly ventured off to find the stadium. We hit a bit of rush hour traffic, so it took us a little bit to get there, and we had to walk a good ways to get to the entrance gate, but we made it for most of the second half. When we got there, Spain was up 1-0. The stadium was really neat and we caught the end of a great game. Korea ended up scoring a late goal to keep it even more exciting, but they couldn’t quite get that final goal they needed to tied things up, and Spain won 2-1. So, that was my first Olympic event experience in Beijing and outside of the men’s soccer games I have been to. Hopefully, I will have a chance to get to a few more, but the first thing we are worrying about is our upcoming game against Brazil. So, tune in to watch and cheer us on as we compete for gold.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

A Nail Biter

On Thursday morning we got out of the hotel for a bit and ventured out on a shopping expedition to an area known as Old Town. Many of us were very familiar with this area, as it is only about a ten minute walk from where we stayed for last year’s world cup. The main attraction there was the pearl shopping and then the Coffee Bean and Starbucks. Right as we arrived, there were a few minutes of heavy rain, but luckily it held off. I did a very little bit of shopping, buying some pearls and then bargained for a few other souvenir items. The whole bargaining aspect is what makes the shopping here so fun, because you hardly ever pay what is asked, but bargain for a more reasonable price. Sometimes, it is easy to get the price down, but other times, it takes a little more work. At the end of the day, I think everyone was very happy with their purchases.
Yesterday, we played rival Canada in the quarterfinal match. It was a little more exciting than any of us would have like, but in the end, we played a great game and got a well deserved 2-1 victory in extra time. We started off the game by putting a lot of pressure on Canada and scored a goal about fifteen minutes into the half. Unfortunately, there was a bit of a weather delay about twenty minutes into the half, as torrential rains and lightning hit the area. After sitting in the locker room for about an hour and forty minutes, we finally kicked off again around 8pm local time (the game originally started at 6pm). Canada came out and got a quick goal, which tied the game up, and that was the way the score remained at the end of the ninety minutes of play, despite our team possessing the ball and creating the majority of the chances. In the first half of extra time, we got a goal to put us up 2-1, and the next twenty minutes of play felt like the longest ever. With a lot of encouragement from the bench, my tired and wet teammates fought off the Canadians to advance on to the semifinal round where we will face Japan.
This morning we left Shanghai and flew to Beijing, where we are finally getting to really experience the Olympic atmosphere and stay in the Olympic Village with the other athletes. Today was a little hectic once we arrived, because it took us a little while to settle into our suites (I am with five teammates), grab a bite to eat, and then a few of us had to leave pretty quickly to go train. The dining hall is pretty amazing. First off, it is huge. Secondly, there are so many athletes from other countries that you cannot help but people watch. And thirdly, there are so many food options that you cannot help yourself. There are so many different cuisine choices, and after eating a lot of rice and pasta over the last few weeks at our other venues, we all pretty much pigged out at lunch. The village campus is pretty amazing. The landscape is beautiful. The village is pretty spread out, as we have about a fifteen minute walk to the dining hall. Most of the other USA athletes are all in one building, but since soccer teams are always moving in and out, there is one building that has been designated soccer specific. But just in the little bit we have been here, we have run into a few other USA athletes, and I have even come across a few familiar Stanford faces. It’s nice to see some ‘familiar’ faces after having been in China for so many weeks.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Oh What A Night...

Yesterday, my family arrived in Shenyang for the game. It was fun to get to hang out with them for a little bit and hear about their adventures over to China. They definitely picked the best game to come and see. Our team started off our group play against Norway on a pretty low note, losing 2-0 after giving up two quick goals, but we ended our group play in dominating fashion. Last night, we played New Zealand for our final group match. We knew we needed to come out and get a big win, but we ended up with much more than that. It was probably one of the most exciting soccer games I have been a part of with this team. Soon after the opening kickoff, we scored our first goal of the game, setting a new record for the quickest goal in women’s Olympic soccer history. Once we got that goal, we never looked back. The game ended a very exciting 4-0, but the biggest surprise was when we learned that Japan beat Norway 5-1, putting us in the top spot in our group, and earning us a berth in the quarterfinals against rival Canada. There was a lot of yelling and screaming and hugging and cheering on the field after we realized what we had accomplished.
This morning, we travelled to Shanghai, which is the site of our quarterfinal match. It was a quick two hour plane ride, which was our first in a while, because we have been travelling everywhere by train. It was a smaller plane, basically filled by our entire team and staff. After an hour bus ride to our hotel, we arrived and settled in. The last few minutes of our drive were the most exciting part, as we all eagerly searched for a Starbucks (which to our delight can be found right across the street by the stadium) and we also discovered a few other places of interest, including a Cold Stone.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

A Much Needed Win

After suffering a loss in our first game, if we did not win our second game, it meant packing up our bags and heading home early. On Saturday, we came out playing like we had everything to lose, and got a 1-0 win against Japan to keep us alive and fighting in the quest for gold. Tomorrow we play New Zealand in our final group game that will decide our fate.

Yesterday, we took a morning train from Qinhuangdao to Shenyang. Once again, we had about one minute to get on the train and then about one minute to get off the train. It was not quite the same adventure as the first train ride, but we still always joke about the people at the back of the car not getting off in time. We then bused to our nearby hotel and got settled in. A few of us decided that we wanted to be adventurous, so we went on an excursion find a Starbucks, since we have been deprived of one for the past several weeks. There were too many of us to fit in one cab, so we split in two groups and were on our way. Let’s just say it was quite an adventure. If you have ever driven in NYC, then you have a slight idea what it is like to drive here in China. The cabs just zip in and out of traffic (as does everybody else) like it is nothing. I think at one point we were a little concerned, but it was more for the people that are trying to cross the street on foot and bikes. In the end, we made it to Zhongjie Street, where we were told we could find a Starbucks. When we got dropped off, we met up with the other cab of people and then tried to figure out which direction to head in the busy shopping area. We tried to ask people where it was, but most did not speak English. Finally, someone told us to walk down the one street and go a long ways. After hearing that news, we began our trek. We probably walked for a good fifteen minutes, eagerly scanning for the well known Starbucks green and white sign. Every person we asked gave us a confused look or pointed in the direction we were going. Finally, off in the distance, Amy Rodriguez spotted the pot of gold. You probably have never seen six people so excited to see a Starbucks. After walking in the heat for such a long time, we were thoroughly elated to get in the air conditioning and order some refreshingly cold drinks. Our trip back to the hotel was a little shorter as we were able to catch a cab on one of the streets we crossed on our way to Starbucks. So, our little excursion to Starbucks turned into a little more of an adventure than we had planned, but it was fun and we were glad to get out of the hotel and wander around for a bit.

Later in the afternoon, several of us went to watch the men’s soccer game with Brazil facing off against New Zealand. The stadium here in Shenyang is awesome, and it was filled with many eager people, waiting to see Brazilian star Ronaldinho in action, and he did not disappoint. He plays with such ease and is magical with every touch of the ball. It was a very fun game to watch, even though the score was 4-0 Brazil when we left in the 75th minute. So, yesterday was a pretty event filled day, and it ended with me getting my photo taken with Ronaldinho here at our hotel. All in all, it was not too bad of a day if you ask me.

We have training this afternoon in final preparation for our game tomorrow. My family is getting in to China today, so I am excited to get to see them and hang out a bit tomorrow when they get in to Shenyang. I cannot wait to hear about their travels (as they are not the most seasoned international travelers) and I am excited for them to have their first Olympic experience as well.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Let the Games Begin

Yesterday was the official start to the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Because our team is off at satellite cities and also has a game today, we were not able to attend the Opening Ceremonies. Instead, we had our own little celebration at the hotel while watching the ceremonies on TV. To start off the morning, I went with a few players to a nearby market to help pick out some snacks for the party. It was definitely a different experience than what you would normally think of at your home store. First off, the food was very different than you would find at home. So, our trip found us buying a lot of familiar things in chips, cookies, chocolates, popcorn, etc., because these were the things we could actually recognize and understand what it really was we were getting. One thing that caught us a bit off guard was the people with microphones, basically all ‘yelling’ to try and sell their products. At one point, I think all of us looked at each other and said, “Stop yelling at us.” It was a bit overwhelming and a bit too much sensory overload in such an unfamiliar environment. I think the most shocking thing to us, because it is extremely different than what we have at home, was the meat section. It was pretty much a large freezer area like you would see at the grocery store, but all the meat was just sitting out unwrapped for anyone to inspect before buying. To us, this was astonishing to see these giant slabs of meat and other parts just sitting out in the open like that.
So, when 8pm rolled around, we all piled into our meal room to watch the ceremonies on the big screen. Unfortunately, we did not understand a lot of what was going on, because it was all in Chinese, but there were many cheers as we enjoyed the splendid choreography and art that was displayed throughout. As soon as the athletes started entering, we became a little more attentive in anticipation of the USA walking out. Since it was not in alphabetical order, we really had no idea when we were going to be next. As more time passed, more and more people wandered off to bed to get some rest for the game today. Finally, several hours into the ceremonies, the few of us that remained yelled in excitement as we saw the US flag in the background. All of us stood and cheered and clapped and screamed as the US athletes paraded around the stadium. We made it our own little exciting ceremony, and then all ventured off to bed.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

First Olympic Experience

Well, yesterday was the start of the 2008 Olympics (for soccer, at least). After weeks of anticipation and waiting the big day finally came. As I mentioned earlier in the blog, my experience as an Olympic athlete is quite a bit different than most Olympians, because we are not right in the heart of everything that is going on in Beijing, but in satellite cities. At times, it almost feels like you are just at another tournament, and other times, it really hits you that you are in fact at the Olympics. I think yesterday, for the first time it really hit me that I am at the Olympics. While on the bus over to the stadium, the nerves could be felt a bit, but the excitement was much greater. As a child, I dreamed of an Olympic experience and that moment finally came true once that first whistle blew. The day did not go quite as I imagined my first Olympic experience would, as our team fell behind two goals in the opening five minutes, and we were never able to recover. It was a very physically and mentally demanding game as it was rather hot and humid even at that time of night, and even as a sub on the bench it takes its toll on you as you are so engaged in the game and cheering on your team. Obviously you never want to lose a game, but if you are going to lose one, it is better for it to happen now than later on down the road in the tournament. We still have two games in group play and a very good chance to advance, so the universal feeling after last night is that we have to move on, forget about what happened yesterday, and come out and take care of business these next two group games.

Monday, August 4, 2008

A Dragon's Head?

Yesterday was another day off, as we gear up for our first game of the Olympics. We had the morning off, and then we took a little excursion to the part of the Great Wall here near us in Qinhuangdao. Old Dragon’s Head (Laolongtou) is the eastern end of the Wall that dips into the Bohai Sea . This section of the wall was constructed during the Ming Dynasty between the years 1368 to 1644. Its name is derived from a legendary stone-carved dragon head that used to face the sea. The original structure has long since crumbled away, and what stands today is a 1980s effort by the authorities to replicate the original. Other sights of interest at that location include the Changtai Tower, and the Temple to the Sea Goddess that sits in its center, which was originally built in 1579, but is now covered with replica soldiers in Qing Dynasty costume. This section of the Wall was not nearly as spectacular as what we saw in Badaling, but it was still neat to see where it begins. The area is much more flat that what we faced during our previous Great Wall trip, which was a great relief to us. I have included a photo of myself along with Lori Chalupny standing with the Old Dragon’s Head in the background. Right where our bus dropped us off, there was a small labyrinth. As we were waiting to get on the bus to leave, Shannon Boxx, Christie Rampone, and I decided we wanted to go through it. So, we quickly raced through, with a few minor detours and made it to the center in time to bang on the drum before we had to race back out to board the bus. It was a fun little excursion that ended up being a bit harder than we had anticipated, but luckily only took a few minutes to get through. The rest of the day was spent relaxing back at the hotel.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Secrets, Secrets Are No Fun...

Okay, maybe they are sometimes, and in this case, the secret was well worth the wait. On Friday, our General Manager told us that there would be surprise excursion on Saturday afternoon for only the players. Of course, none of us like secrets, so we all tried our best to get some information out of her. The only bits we got were: 1) wear shorts 2) any shoes will do 3) bring a sweat top because it might get a little chilly 4) you may want to bring water. With these vague clues, we were not really getting too far with our ideas as to where exactly she was taking us and we had many varying guesses; in fact, one of my teammates thought maybe we were going up to the mountains. So, yesterday afternoon, we boarded our bus (have I mentioned that they close the roads and stop traffic for us and we have a police escort wherever we go?) and eagerly awaited our destination. After a brief trip, we finally stopped, got off the bus, and were told that we were all getting foot massages. At first we were all a little skeptical of the idea, but in the end, we were all very pleased and cannot wait to go back. Upon entering the place, we were all given slippers and then escorted upstairs to our respective rooms. Some people were in doubles and others in quads. I was in one of the quads. Each room had a comfy little bed to lounge on and a TV to entertain us while we waited. Before long, four ladies entered our room carrying buckets of warm water. We soaked our feet in the water while they gave us a neck, shoulder and back massage. Once our feet soaked long enough, they dried them off, and we sat back and relaxed while they went to work on our feet. It was amazing! At some points, it was a bit painful, but in the end, it was well worth it. It’s amazing how often we are on our feet and how rough we are on them, but we never really take the time to care for them like this, so it was a wonderful treat to all of us. I think everyone’s favorite part was when they all pulled out these wooden mallet-looking objects, and in unison began tapping/massaging our feet and legs. It made a very unique sound and they never missed a beat. It was pretty fun and intriguing to watch. After about 50 minutes our foot massages came to an end. Many of us did not want to leave, but after a few pictures with all of the staff, we departed for our hotel. So, this was a wonderful surprise for all of us, and I must say, my feet do feel extraordinary this morning.

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