August 10, 2008

After two days of 8+ miles of walking, today was a rest day of sorts. We didn't have tickets to this morning's finals so we started the day by watching events on television and what a morning it was.

  • Michael Phelps shattered his World Record in the 400 IM. I remember being at the 2002 Duel in the Pool when he broke the WR. Back then it was a 4:11. Today when he stepped onto the blocks Roberto (a CCIW 400 IM Champ) asked me what I thought - "4:03.8" I said. 4:03.85 minutes later, I was looking like a genius.

  • The men's 400 free was another amazing race - and after what we saw last night in person you knew it would be. Taewan Park got gold for South Korea - (it was a banner day for the Koreans as their women's team also captured gold in team archery and silver in women's weight lifting and men's air pistol.) China also captured its first-ever medal in men's swimming when their swimmer edged USA's Larsen Jensen. Like the IM, I also predicted the winning time.

  • As much as we bleed Red, White and Blue (see the attached photo of Chip, Roberto and Henry), the truth is, I like seeing it when there's good competition across the board. I think its good for our sport when so many countries can have a vested interest in the sport and their respective heroes. I've had a similar conversation with Jim Steen at Kenyon. It's not good for the sport to have the same team win year after year after year. At the same time, we can't expect the U.S.A. (or Kenyon in Division III) to just roll over. The rest of the world needs to work hard to catch up.

  • Our women's team had a mixed morning. Christine Mangussen goes into finals as one of the top flyers, but Stephanie Rice blistered Katie Hoff in the 400 IM and our 400 free relay took silver, thus negating head coach Mark Schubert's stated goal of winning every relay.

After watching the morning session, we set out for the Silk Road Market. The place was a mixture of 7 Mile Fair and the Vatican open market. Everything you could imagine was there and in the words of the hundreds of salespeople, "very special price. . . .for you. . .how much you want to pay?" Now unless its coming from Amazon, Bike Nashbar or, I'm not much of a shopper, so I can't say for certain, but it seems to me that a Gore-Tex North Face jacket with zip-out fleece liner is a pretty good deal at $8 right?

The market was really a fun experience because it really was the first real interaction with the locals. I can tell you this much - capitalism is alive and well and AGGRESSIVE. It almost became overwhelming because as soon as your eyes locked on an item of interest, the booth's owner was locked in on you. I'm going to go back later this week and shoot some video of me trying to go through the gauntlet (and also to pick up one of those $8 Gore-Tex jackets).

In the afternoon, I was out of the ticket rotation so I did some more neighborhood exploring. One thing I always like to try looking at is the local supermarket because it makes it real easy to compare something that you're very familiar with. The market I chose today had four levels to it and everything you could possibly imagine from $80 Gore-Tex jackets to meat you could pick up and check out with your hands to, well, crack (see photo)?

Tonight, with my matching blue shirt and red white and blue boa out to the cleaners, it was Henry, Chip, Roberto and Crystal that were treated to a show at prelims. First, Matt Grevers, who they all raced in high school set the Olympic record in the 100 backstroke. Then, they were treated to a World Record in the 400 Free Relay set by our 'B' squad. It's been kind of humorous because in the CCIW our A & B relays both score. It's rare, but its also awesome because it enables more kids to become involved in the meet. Anyhow, they've all been trying to figure out - if these guys are on our 'B' team, then who is on the 'A'? [Answer, there's just one relay with one set of guys swimming in prelims and another set in finals, essentially giving six guys medal opportunities in an event where just four guys stand on the podium.] It wasn't just the Americans though - four teams went under the old mark which will make tomorrow a big time shootout. If we can pull off an upset over France, then you can write it down in pen, Michael Phelps will have eight gold medals.

That's it for now. We did get a lot of rain tonight and hopefully that will help clean up the air. The smog has been almost as bad as feared. The locals say it isn't bad, but having hiked over 20 miles here in the past few days, and having climbed up Vatican City through the smog, it makes you truly appreciate the air quality we experience (for the most part) in the Midwest.



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