Monday 8/4: Feeding off the crowd
This is going to be my first day of throwing, so naturally I am very excited because training is finally beginning. I grab a quick lunch and then go up to my room to talk to my wife before she goes to bed; she is looking beautiful as usual.
Then I have to get on the special bus for the throwers. I guess they don't want us to mix with the track athletes. Just kidding! Their track is in a different area. Just like when we arrived, they close down both sides of the road and we have a police escort to the training facility.
I decide to throw inside because I was forewarned that the outside area is a little sloppy. When I enter, it seems like everyone is watching me, I try to block it out of my mind and try to focus in on what I need to do. After about 20 minutes of stretching and jogging, I put all my wraps and bands on and take my first throw. It goes over 65 feet and then bounces over a five-foot ball that is 74 feet away from the ring.
Every single person in the facility starts cheering as if I did something great. I feel a little bad because I think I broke one of the heaters they have on the other side of the track. So for the next five throws, every time I would throw they would cheer, and if you cannot throw well in that kind of environment, you may not be human. I finished my throwing session with a 70-plus-foot bomb that got the loudest cheers of the day.
I then move on to lifting, where I had a gang of 10 male throwers wanting to watch me lift. It took me about 20 minutes to finish my workout and then I posed for pictures with my new Chinese fans. I then had a police escort to the long throws ring about 100 yards away. It was crazy to see all the police and military guys clear a path to the throwing area. I really felt special and I pity anyone that gets in the way of the guys that were assigned to the throwers. They properly would have gotten hurt.
Tuesday 8/5: Then we play bones, and I'm yellin' domino
Like any day off, I tried to fill it with some cool stuff, like watching more movies and playing ping-pong, where I lose three consecutive games to some other track athletes. I really think that someday I will get good at this game, but it will probably take a few more national teams.
I then go see my chiropractor, who stretches me out and gives me an adjustment so I will be ready to throw well. Then I go back upstairs to play dominos with discus thrower Aretha Thurmond, who is a very good player. I, however, am just a rookie, and she quickly puts me in my place. After whooping me for three games, she shows me some strategy. I will be trying to learn more online, and the next time we play I hope I can keep up with her and make her think a little more.
I then stretch again in my room and get ready for bed by calling my wife to wish her a great morning and to tell her I love her and to make sure her volleyball girls do not drive her too crazy.
Wednesday 8/6: Ahead of schedule
Today is a throwing day. If the crowd is as receptive as they were on Monday, it will be great. My coach, Don Babbitt, gives me something to look forward to. He has great things to say about his family and his quick vacation to L.A to visit his parents before he came to China. He also talks about his minivan he just got and how great it will be to ride around with his two girls.
After I call my wife to wish her goodnight, I am told that I have been named the captain of the track team. There is no bigger honor than to have my peers want me as their captain. I told everyone that I am servant of the people and I will do the will of the people that have voted me there.
Time for practice again. We drive through empty streets and make it in record time. My fans are already on their cell phones telling everyone to meet at the shot ring -- the American has arrived.
People start circling the ring and the coaches take out their video recorders to make sure they do not miss a throw. I have a great practice and Don and I feel like I am right on track or even a little ahead of where I need to be for the gold medal. After I finish throwing, most of the people leave, but the true fans stick around to watch me bench press. The rest of the day is filled with eating and helping out the trainer's son with a Rubik's Cube.
Thursday 8/7: Tarantino flicks take us closer to Games
I wake up, have a quick breakfast and go down to the training room for a massage. It is a little tougher with the new guy working on me -- I hope he is not going too deep. After the massage I run upstairs to talk to my wife and hear about her day before she goes to bed. I go down to the game room and get in a game of ping-pong and even three holes of virtual golf.
After lunch, the group that will attend the opening ceremony departs, and I watch some movies to kill time while I wait for dinner to roll around. We watched both volumes of "Kill Bill". They are very good movies and I suggest that if you are going to watch one, you need to watch them both. I went to my room for a little while to play a lawnmower game -- it is pretty addictive. I think that sometime during this trip I will be able to break the top twenty-five.
Friday 8/8: Not bad, for openers
I guess it could be the excitement of knowing that today is a throwing day, but I'm up early. I grab some breakfast and meet Don, my throws coach, and we talk about what we need to get done at practice.
I talk to my wife for about an hour, and it's clear that today was tough with her getting ready to leave to watch me throw in the Olympics.
At practice, the usual crowd is waiting for me at the shot put ring. I have a pretty good practice with some great throws, and when I was done it left me with a feeling that I have more to give next time I throw. For my lifts, I did squats. The weight felt really easy for some reason. I must be ready for big things.
We get back to the hotel and the opening ceremony has started. At dinner, I lead a toast to the U.S. team. There is no greater honor than to have Lopez Lomong carry the American flag. We are all immigrants from somewhere, and it is nice to have someone represent us that loves being an American. Sometimes we take for granted how great we have it in the U.S., and Lopez reminds us all of that.
The opening ceremony is absolutely amazing, and if I did not have to practice or compete so soon, I would have been there myself. I watch team USA walk out and everyone around me stands up and cheers. A piece of each of us is there walking around the track with the rest of the U.S. team.
Now off to bed. It's an exciting night, but I still have to keep up my schedule.
Saturday 8/9: Working hard -- or, hardly working
Like any day after I have thrown, it's a day off, but that doesn't mean I did not do work. Today's adventure is finding out where the ice cream is and how I can get some.
It only took me about 15 minutes of talking to other athletes and following the signs and I had two chocolate-covered ice cream bars. Once one person sees you with something that good, everyone wants one, and I think this is how hotels sell out in just one day. I guess our hotel did not know how much of a sweet tooth the track team has and how important it is to have a steady supply. And when I went back for the third time, all they had was the cones. This is very disappointing because the cone is a red-headed stepchild compared to the bar.
After the ice cream, I had lunch with Don and then we went to his room to talk about yesterday's throws and what I need to work on for Monday's practice.
I grab some dinner and then I call my wife one last time before she leaves for Beijing. I will not be able to talk to her until Monday. It will be longest we have gone without talking on the whole trip. I will have to find something to fill the time tomorrow. Maybe I will play a few more video games or something. Decisions, decisions.
Now I am getting ready to leave to go back to the village, and the competition starts the monument I step foot there.
Photo via Getty Images.