Pre-London Paralympic Games: Training Camp
In today’s world, we all dread flying. What happens if my bags get lost? How much does it cost to check this? What if there is a delay? Take all of these questions, multiply the number of bags by 3, the level of importance by 30 and the chaos that ensues when a large team of disabled athletes travel together by 300.
Then, take a deep breath and erase that number in your mind, because realistically, none of it is in your control. That’s what it is like traveling to the Paralympic Games.
You think getting to the airport 2 hours early is a nuisance? Try leaving at 12 noon for a 6:20 PM flight to an airport that is 2 hours away but because of the pure volume of baggage and equipment, you pretty much just make it in enough time. That’s what it is like traveling to the Paralympic Games with a small portion of your team.
Once all of the flying nonsense is over and done with, then comes the waiting for the buses, the loading of the buses, the picking up of more of your team at a nearby terminal, waiting some more for their flight that has been delayed, and finally arriving to an incredible welcome ceremony and excitement from those around you. Suddenly the fact that you cannot keep track of the number of hours you have been up does not matter in the slightest.
We arrived at Royal Air Force Lakenheath Base at some point during the day on Saturday after leaving our home training facility at 12 noon on Friday. This arrangement, worked out with the U.S. Department of Defense, is pretty neat. We come as the US Paralympic Track & Field Team and get to stay and train on an American military base to get acclimatized and adjusted to the time zone. The really neat part about it though is we are each paired up with a sponsor family, someone either stationed here, who lives and works on base or has a family member with some tie to the base. We were greeted with hugs, flowers, food, gifts, enthusiasm and above all: American pride.
Member of my host family and me.
It is neat to be on base and having the opportunity to meet men and women who protect our country. It is also neat to have the thanks reciprocated for our service as members of Team USA.
Our training has consisted of 1-2 sessions a day on the road and/or track depending on the workout.
One of the coolest parts about our experience on this base is the tradition that occurs each day at 4:30pm. At 4:30pm everything stops: If you are driving, you pull over. If you are conversing, you stop mid-sentence. If you are working, you temporarily stop. At that moment, everybody directs their attention to the nearest flag and the UK national anthem is played followed by the US national anthem. Pretty neat that we all share the same love for that song!!
Bring Your A-Game
Yesterday morning we got the news of the updated competition schedule. To my surprise, all of my events are going to be run as straight finals. This was certainly unexpected. I have mixed feelings about this, but it is another one of those things that is totally out of my control. There are certainly pros and cons. Now I have the opportunity to channel all of my energy into the finals. We will all have our A-Game on that start line for sure!
The part of it all that is most upsetting is that some friends and family purchased tickets to prelims with the assumption that I would be racing prelims. We always tell people to plan ahead and on good faith working off of the “tentative” schedules, and even not knowing the final team selection until quite close to the Games time. I trust other folks will be able to use the tickets, or that my friends/family will enjoy some other high caliber competitions during those sessions.
Sharing the Joy of the Paralympic Movement
In between our training sessions, there are lots of eager children and families around asking questions, stopping us for pictures or autographs. It is a small glimpse of what is to come at the Games, but even more exciting that folks know about the Paralympics and are genuinely excited to meet us, the athletes and to hear about the events we will be competing in. Our week of training was just a perfect balance of work, relaxation, fun and joy.
We head to the Olympic Village in London on Sunday!
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