August 16, 2008

[Postscript - all my photos from today just got dumped when I tried to save this, but I did send them over to our SID so check out

OK, today was a day where I'll be able to say, "I was there" and people will know what I was talking about and what we're talking about is the day Michael Phelps tied Mark Spitz's record of seven gold medals (maybe you've heard about it). No question that was a highlight, but first we need to discuss dinner.

I think I'd mentioned that I was a bit finicky when it comes to meals. Well tonight I was finally got together with one of my former swimmers, Susan Woessner along with Larry Herr of USA Swimming. I'd been telling them all about how exciting the team sports were so we'd tenatively planned on going to something - anything. Around 4:30, I'd texted her and said, "Soccer at 6." A couple of hours later we were in the smallest 60,000 seat arena you've ever seen watching the Belgium and Italy go at it. [Personal note, I haven't the slightest idea about soccer, but it was obvious today that this was the highest level of the game I'd ever seen, in person or on tv. It was . . . EXCITING!]

Anyhow, afterwards, we were starved and we made our way to the only restaurant we could find (aside from McDonalds - my fear of unknown foods couldn't compare to the shame I'd have felt from eating McD's in Beijing). No English? No problem. I'd learned from dinging with Mr. Chapman that the eldest orders for the entire table, so I led the group in ordering some broccolli, some chicken, beef, and fish. So here's what happened:

  • They brought out three beers. I'd gestured that I wanted some glasses. They promptly took the beers away and brought out three warm beers.

  • They introduced us to our fish - IN A NET. "Is ok?" Um, yes. Away went the fish.

  • We replace the warm beer with cold and set to devouring the broccolli.

  • Next comes the fish - a very hot, very spicy, very good fish. OOPS! Wrong fish (guess we didn't recognize him). After a few bites they take him away and bring back OUR fish. This guy isn't as spicy, but is still tasty.

  • Out comes the chicken. Now here when you get chicken, they cut it into pieces - bones and all. Seeing the bones gave me my first impression that it was chicken. Seeing the head sitting in the middle of the plate confirmed that impression, elicited a "A Head, That is a Freaking Head" and pretty much ensured that Susan was done eating for the evening.

  • Out came the beef - by now we were out of our league. We poked at it, took photos of the bounty, finished off the chicken, broccolli and rice, and spent good times with friends. Imagine a Chinese family stopping into Perkins and taking photos of pancakes and then pushing them around the plate for awhile. That's kind of who we felt.

So that was my adventure in Chinese eating for tonight.

Back to the history though. Today was far and away the biggest of them all. Mr. Chapman scored an extra ticket for the session so he, Mrs. C and I all embarked on a trip to the Water Cube. My ticket was unbelievable - Section 105, Row 5, Seat 12. One row in front of me, on my left were Kirsty Coventry's parents. Next to them and on my right were Margaret Hoezler's folks. I hoped neither was supersititious and got this picture by asking, "Can I get a photo with the parents of the Gold & Silver medallists in the 200 backstroke? Mrs. Coventry told me they got up at 5:00 am that morning, just to leave early and make sure they didn't miss their girl setting the World Record.

Then of course, the scene turned to Michael Phelps. You've all seen the replay dozens of times by now - in fact, Michael's mom (sitting three rows in front of me) was even holding up the number two after the finish - but the fact was, MP out-touched Mike Cavic by 0.01 to get Gold Medal #7. Amazing stuff indeed.

Next, Great Britain's [I've forgotten her name] obliterated the oldest record on the books, Janet Evans' 800m freestyle. It was a great finish for a British team that just seems to get better every day.

Auburn picked up its second gold of the day when Caesar Cielo won the 50m free. This is a guy who has obliterated short-course records, but struggled to equal the success in long course meters. He did that today, but more telling was seeing how emotional this huge guy was. He's been 18.47 in yards, and the photos of him are of a confident, exuberant, even brash guy, but not so today - he was just a big ole weepy Brazillian.

After the session was over, I went to the lobby to wait for Susan. While there, I was fortunate enough to meet the parents of Ian Crocker and Caroline Burckle, bump into Matt Zimmer, the main man at TYR, take a photo with former World Record-Holder Misty Hyman, shake the hand of the starter John Williams, see my great friend Nichole Ellis of Northwestern (along with her sister).

This is where things got a little crazy though. You see, I was wearing a big red shirt, bright blue shorts, had a red white and blue foam top-hat on and an American flag draped around my shoulders. Apparently that type of thing isn't too common in China because I was besiged by people wanting to take my photo or interview me. I now know what Britney et all feel like because you couldn't move. I'd turn one way and it was as if a guy was giving his wife or son to me as a gift. During a particularly heavy part, I'd mentioned the "1.3 billion people in China and I've had photos taken with half of them," line and one of the people in the picture started laughing. "Uh oh, you understand English?"

"Yep, I'm from California..."

Funny, because I thought all they spoke there was Spanish.

The crowd finally got so big that security came up. It turns out the crowd gathered around me had grown so large it was preventing people from leaving the exits. So get this - they asked me to leave the building! Can you believe that? The biggest day in the history of intercollegiate swimming and I get kicked out. Unbelievable.

Alright that's it for now. It's almost noon there which means I need to get my but in bed so that I can be up bright and early to see Michael achieve the luckiest of Chinese numbers - eight.



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