August 14, 2008

China can duplicate just about everything. Shirts, CD's, North Face jackets, even some of the cars are designed as knockoffs of what you can find back home. The only thing you can't find, however, are Olympic souvenirs. For Olympic shirts, pins, bags, hats, umbrellas, stationery, hairpins, drums, dolls, flash drives, silk scarves, pens, porcelan vases, Buddhist sculptures, coffee cups, shorts, socks, laptops, water bottles, ties, flags, ornaments, chopsticks, nailclippers, sunglasses, stamps, photo albums, jackets and rain ponchos there's only one place to go - the Olympic Souvenir Superstore.

Actually, I'm lying a bit - they don't sell rain ponchos.

For those you have to find a vendor just outside of the gates, but I digress. Today I DID get into an event - swimming. I filled in as Nathaniel and Erin returned to the states. It was a fantastic morning session even if we didn't hear the Star-Spangled Banner. Actually, truth be told, China, France, and Australia all have prettier national anthems if you ask me. We opened with the men's 200 breaststroke. Kosuke Kitijima of Japan won his second Gold of the Games and third overall. In some ways the race was a bit anti-climactic after former World Record-Holder Brendan Hansen failed to qualify last month at Olympic Trials. Privately, I was hoping to see Nebraska-boy Scott Usher make the team again, but he was third - interestingly enough, the Olympian from the smallest USA town, is a wrestler from a little town in Nebraska.

The morning followed with the women's 100 freestyle semifinals. This turned into quite a shootout as Australia's Libby Trinkett, the reigning World Record holder finished 9th, thus failing to qualify for tomorrow morning's finals. She was given a reprieve, however, when the top qualifier, China's own Jiayaing PANG was called for a false start. In the states when a DQ is posted to the board the crowd lets out a collective moan (except for Emory parents who cheered when Kenyon's 200 Medley was DQ'ed back in 2004) and the swimmer cannot help but show disgust or disappointment. Here, however, the crowd along with Pang simply offered what I can only describe as a shrug saying, "Darn it, I just DQ'ed, but my time, otherwise was excellent and I did the best I could." Of course, when she got out of sight from the cameras she might have destroyed a water cooler for all I know.

There were a couple more semifinals mixed in there, but the morning highlights were still to come. Way back in 1981 Mary T. Meagher set the World Record (2:05.96) that stood for nearly 20 years. After this morning, the World Record took a big leap forward when Zige Liu and Liuyang Jiao led a 1-2 finish over the former World Record holder (Jessicah Shipper) and former Olympic Gold Medallist Otylia Jedrezejcak. It was really a trememndous win. The pool erupted and for the second time I found my spine tingling.

The final event of the day was the women's 800 freestyle relay. This one didn't disappoint either as four teams went under the previous World Record. In the end it was Australia leading the way - taking over five seconds off the old mark. The USA had to battle for bronze, but it was fun to watch nonetheless. Incidentally, Chip, Henry and I all made it onto the big screen was we were waving our big old American flag. There is a system. After they introduce a swimmer at finals, they pan on fans waving the flag of that particular nation. BUT you have to wave the flag early enough that their spotters can spot you and be ready. We made it on the big screen twice today and hopefully you were able to see our garish outfits back home on NBC. I tried to look extra tense during the relay in order to look good in HD.

As for the superstore - I don't even want to know what I spent, but I do know that VISA called me concerned about fraudulent use. I'd gathered several items (gifts for me and for others), got to the line only to think, "Hey, I really should get a bag to hold this stuff in so it doesn't get wet." So the cashier gladly held up the line so I could go running through the 3-4 acre building in pursuit of a bag. Problem was, I kept bumping into people I knew including Elizabeth Beisel's coach, Chuck Bachelor and Marc Christian, who worked at camp this summer. About 10 minutes later, I finally arrived. She'd packed everything and was waiting patiently for me to return. Nice people they've got here.

Afterwards, we had passes to get into the Coca-Cola VIP booth. Now its off to dinner. TOmorrow its swimming and kayaking (eat you heart out Sue).

Some more photos are up, just haven't posted them here - go to:



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