Posts tagged "Olympians"

“Wrestling” my way into a Team USA event

On Tuesday, Aug. 7, I had the most fun I have had since arriving in London. I was lucky enough to attend the Team USA men’s freestyle wrestling practice and media day.

I used to wrestle—starting in the fourth or fifth grade and continued through my senior year of high school. Needless to say, I loved every minute of the practice and media day.

While I was there, I got to interview and talk with many of wrestlers. Going in, I was most excited to talk with Sam Hazenwinkel, and I did just that. I talked to him for most of the media day. He was such a cool guy and had great stories to tell.

After talking with him for a while, we parted ways and I changed my focus to his roommate Tervel Dlagnev, the heavyweight. He was a fun guy to talk to as well. He had a great sense of humor, all the while keeping his seriousness at the forefront.

I traveled around the room for about 30 to 45 minutes, talking to as many wrestlers as I could before they started practicing. They began with a warm-up and then grabbed their wrestling partners and got to work.

Watching their practice made me miss wrestling and want to start back up again. In all reality, I probably won’t, but it was a nice thought at the time. I didn’t think I would miss wrestling that much after high school, but I do now. Getting back on the mat would be fun.

What may have not sounded fun to others was something I loved. I wish I could go back to more of their practices and media days. They were really cool guys and the atmosphere was awesome. It was easily the best day I have had during this trip.

Charlie Akers  |  Sports Reporter

@The8thKing

Daily Video: Sam Hazewinkel | USA Wrestling

BSU at the Games continues its daily video series introducing you to athletes from Team USA. Today, meet USA Wrestling’s Sam Hazewinkel prior to a recent practice in London for the Olympic Games. Hazewinkel competes Friday.

Sam Hazewinkel – USA Wrestling

From green sports bras to peanut M&M’s–the strange habits of Olympic athletes

By Emily Thompson  |  BSU at the Games

Olympian Anna Tunnicliffe is not like other superstitious sailors. Most wouldn’t let anything the color green near their boat, but Tunnicliffe has green on hers at every major competition.

An old sailing tale claims the color is bad luck on a boat, and Tunnicliffe and her teammates were always careful not to chance it. But before one competition, Tunnicliffe forgot to change out of her green sports bra beforehand. She won and decided it was lucky.

“So I wear that on finals day, but don’t tell [my teammates] that,” Tunnicliffe says.

She laughs.

“I do wash it.”

Tunnicliffe, whose team lost in the quarterfinals of the Elliot 6m sailing race Wednesday, hasn’t been the only 2012 Olympian with a quirky habit. Many of the athletes who have competed  in London have routines, rituals and superstitions, from peanut M&M’s to specific warm-ups. But Sean McCann, United States Olympic Committee (USOC) senior sport psychologist, said it’s important to make clear distinctions between the three.

“I’m a big fan of routines, rituals make me nervous, and superstitions I actively discourage,” McCann says.

Routines

McCann said routines can help keep athletes on track before a big event like the Games.

“Routines are really useful because under pressure at the Olympic Games, it’s so easy to get distracted from the normal business of doing your sport,” he says. “It becomes a way of helping the mind actively flow into the action, as opposed to stopping and thinking and potentially getting in your own way.”

For some, routines come naturally.

“I am a pretty routine type of person by nature and by personality,” said cyclist Dotsie Bausch, whose team won a silver in the team pursuit.. “So I tend to do the same process the night before [a competition], which involves a certain type of music, then I go into a meditation, then I go into prayer time and then a music time. I pack my bag the same, and it helps with calming.”

When setting up a routine, McCann said athletes should start with the moment they’re in action and work backward.

“Virtually every athlete can control the last 10 seconds before they do something,” he said. “That’s a good place to start a routine, to get your mind in the right place, whether it’s using imagery or visualization or a specific cue word that reminds you about technique, for instance.”

Boxer Joseph Diaz Jr., who lost in the men’s bantam round of 16 in the 56kg weight class, said right before a fight, he tries to pump himself up mentally.

“To stay focused, I just think positive thoughts,” he said. “I think about me winning; I think about my family.”

Rituals

Rituals are not as clear-cut as routines. McCann said some rituals are harmless, while others can interfere by making the athlete anxious if he or she can’t complete the ritual. The difference is how much control athletes have over the outcome of their rituals.

“A ritual might be something like, ‘On game day, I need to put on my right sock first, then my left sock,’” the psychologist said. “That sort of thing becomes more magical thinking, in terms of, ‘I need to do something the same way.’”

One of the examples of a popular ritual McCann gives is food.

“I won’t travel without eating Peanut M&M’s on a plane,” Travis Stevens, who lost in the semifinals of the 81kg class in judo, said. “It started from finding it at every airport in the country. It was the one thing that I could always find, so it’s my staple when I travel.”

Diver Brittany Viola, who is competing in the 10m platform diving this week, is very specific about her diet surrounding her sport. She likes to have salmon the night before a big competition.

On the other hand, some athletes prefer not to eat at all the day of a major event.

“I don’t like to feel very full, so I usually don’t eat breakfast on the days that I compete,” diver Nick McCrory said, who won a bronze with partner David Boudia in the 10m platform synchronized diving and has individual competitions this week. “Then I’ll snack on a protein bar and drink water later.”

Rituals can also come in the form of a familiar item.

“I travel with my pillow everywhere because it’s something that’s consistent,” Boudia said. “I sleep in a lot of different beds all around the world, but one thing I can have from my own bed is my pillow.”

Superstitions

Unlike rituals, which can sometimes be harmless, McCann says that superstitions put athletes in the wrong mindset.

“Superstitions are to ward off bad things from happening. Or if something happens, like a black cat crosses your path, then you’re worried that something bad will happen,” he says. “Right away, it engages your brain in thinking about bad stuff that could happen. So I really try and discourage people from having outright superstitions.”

Diver Kristian Ipsen admits to being superstitious.

“I do certain things before a dive, and if a dive goes well, I will keep doing that,” said Isepn, who won a bronze in the 3m synchronized springboard competition. “And if it doesn’t go well, I will switch something up. I won’t wear this one red suit that I wore at one of my college meets because I had a terrible, terrible meet. And for finals, I usually wear a black suit because I dive well in a black suit.”

Gymnast Logan Dooley, who was Olympic alternate who didn’t end up competing, tries not to be too superstitious but says he gets freaked out if he bounces on the trampoline.

“It’s OK if you bounce and you stop, and then you recollect your thoughts and go,” Dooley said. “But if that happens to me, I’m very superstitious about that. I think that it’s always bad luck.”

According to McCann, many athletes’ habits stem from all of the pressure they face.

“It’s not only natural, but it’s probably advantageous, to have a certain level of nervousness and anxiety for competing,” he said. “You do need to be a little on-edge so you’re focused, but that also exposes some of this stuff, and it makes some things that should be a small deal become a bigger deal.”

Because there’s so much stress surrounding the Olympic Games, McCann said he encourages athletes to stick to routines instead of getting caught up in everything that could go wrong.

But regardless of McCann’s advice, Tunnicliffe wore her green sports bra under her sailing uniform at the Games.  Some athletes may even have a lucky rabbit’s foot, a horseshoe or a four-leaf clover.

Behind many athletes’ tough exteriors, they need some sort of comfort, just like the rest of us—even if it doesn’t produce a gold-medal result.

Emily Thompson is a senior magazine journalism major at Ball State University and features reporter for BSU at the Games. Follow Emily and the BSU team at@ekthompson2410@bsuatthegames and www.facebook.com/bsuatthegames.

An unexpected day

While in London, I never expected to go to Olympic Park or the Main Press Center. That changed when I was told I was picked to receive a guest credential pass. I would tour the center and walk around Olympic Park.

I left the flat early in the morning to meet up with our contact, Peggy Manter, that was getting me in. On my way from one tube to the other, I ran into my first problem of the day — the tube I needed was down, so I had to take a train to Olympic Park. Sounds easy, but it wasn’t the case. I only knew where to go through the tube stations and the stops made on the above ground train are not the same. So, now, I am someone who does not know London very well trying to get to Olympic Park. It was very frustrating until I finally asked for help from the people who work for the trains.

I finally arrived at the proper station and got off the crowded train. I walked through the crowd of people, making my way to the area where I would get our guest passes. After about six minutes of battling traffic I got to the proper place.  I walked in and received my pass without any problems. I headed to security where I was told I could not go any further without an escort. I spent the next hour frantically trying to get a hold of Peggy. It was the most frustrating part of the whole trip because we had no WiFi outside Olympic Park. Whose idea was that? WiFi outside the park would have made too much sense. So, I had to keep returning to the crowded mall, which was a three or four minute walk, which I had to do almost 100 times. Peggy finally emails me and said she will not pick us up but someone named Nikki would.

Nikki finally showed up about 30 minutes later and took me through the park. She was my ticket to get through security. She walked us through the park, stopping and letting me take pictures of all the amazingly big complexes. I wanted to go inside all of them and watch what was going on. I arrived at the Media Center and was told I could go to a press conference being held.

Snapping a picture with Jorge Posada, former New York Yankees catcher

I knew there was one with Team USA Track & Field, but didn’t know if I could get in. Finally, I get in and I get a big rush as I realize I am a journalist covering the Olympic Games. It was an amazing feeling, making me for sure know this is the career field I want to get into. I sat and listened while other journalist shot questions at the Olympians. It was an amazing experience as I gathered material to write my own stories. The press conference is the best and most enjoyable thing I have been to this whole Olympics.

After the press conference we went to the official Olympic store. It was full of people trying to find the perfect gifts. I found a T-shirt for my younger sister and I got my younger brother, who is about to get his drivers license, an Olympic key chain. As we made our way through the mall, a fellow BSU at the Games student spotted a former New York Yankees catcher, Jorge Posada. I am a huge Yankee fan, so I was star struck. I wanted to go get a picture with him didn’t want to bother him. After thinking it over, I was convinced to go and talk to him because what was the worst we could do? Say no and then we just keep on our merry way? So I walked up to him and shook his hand as I said I am a huge Yankees fan and he was one of my favorites. I then asked for a picture and he said he would. When he said yes I could not stop smiling.

I felt like I was on top of the world.

So, what started out as a rough morning of delayed tubes and not knowing who was coming to get me, ended with a great story to share with people and a picture with one of my favorite athletes.

Charlie Akers  |  Sports Reporter

@The8thKing

Daily Video: Update from London

BSU at the Games provides this update on events to watch in the closing days of the Olympic Games. Featuring USA Track & Field’s Wallace Spearmon and USA Swimming’s Alex Meyer.

Update from London

I got more exercise than expected while watching the women’s triathlon

For a second while I was watching the Olympic women’s triathlon, I thought I was in a race myself.

As my group of BSU at the Games members stood around Serpentine Lake, surrounded by thousands of people watching the triathletes furiously swim in front of us, some fans around us began to turn around. They started pushing through the massive crowd of people until they reached a clearing, and then it was a full-on sprint to the other side of Hyde Park.

Jonathan Batuello, one of our group members, was among those hurrying away from the lake even though the swimming portion wasn’t over. I hurried after him, but he ran so fast from the crowd I lost track of him.

At that point, it didn’t take long to figure out what everyone was running toward.

As the triathletes pulled themselves out of the water and onto their bikes, fans were racing over to the cycling track to get the best possible view of the next portion of the race.

It was funny to see how the rows of people next to the street worked itself out. Those who ran fast enough and knew they had to leave the swimming portion early earned the ultimate prize of getting great photos. Those of us who didn’t had to deal with photos that had heads and cameras in the way of the shot.

Our group learned from the first run through the park and made it over to the running track after the cycling was halfway finished. No running was necessary this time, and after a half hour of waiting, we were able to get a decent view of the triathletes sprinting by us.

For the first Olympic sport I’ve ever seen in-person, the women’s triathlon is memorable just for getting me out of a seat. That’s not something I’m used to as a football and basketball fan.

Still, the next time I sit down to comfortably watch a sport with a hot dog in one hand and a drink in the other, I know I won’t take it for granted.

Andrew Mishler  |  Sports Reporter

@andrewmishler

Daily Video: Under the water with U.S. Synchro

Above the water, their routine is simple. Under the water, Mary Killman and Mariya Koroleva would say differently. BSU at the Games takes you “behind the scenes” with Team USA’s only two synchro athletes at the Olympic Games.

Under the water with U.S. Synchro

Daily Video: The Errol Spence Jr. Story

His journey began inside a run-down boxing gym in southern Dallas. Now the No. 1 U.S. welterweight boxer, Errol Spence Jr., finds himself fighting for a medal in the 2012 London Olympic Games.

The Errol Spence Jr. Story

My Olympic moment: a long wait, the rings and … wow

As I walked out of Westfield Shopping Centre near the grounds of Olympic Park, I was awestruck by the view.

The biggest set of Olympic rings I’d ever seen were right in front of me, plastered on the northeast wall of the Aquatics Centre.

There were countless fences and security tents to get through before I reached the massive building, but the sheer size of it made it look close enough to touch.

Unfortunately, the whole scene was just a tease for two and a half hours because I was denied access with my guest pass.

The whole park was on lockdown, but when I was finally escorted through, all the frustration became worth the wait.

Every direction I looked, there were thousands upon thousands of people walking around the venues and fighting their way into shops. It was the never-ending madhouse that usually gets me annoyed and angry, but this time it was different. The row of stadiums made me feel like I was at the heart of Los Angeles, New York City and Chicago sports all at once.

It was then I had my first real moment of disbelief—these were the Olympic Games and I was actually there.

Connor Hockett  |  Sports Reporter

Daily Video: Lance Brooks | USA Track & Field

BSU at the Games continues its daily video series introducing you to members of Team USA. Today, meet USA Track & Field’s Lance Brooks who didn’t begin his career as a discus thrower.

Lance Brooks – USA Track & Field