Saturday, July 28, 2007

Medal Race Tomorrow:

This is what it looks like here when there is very little breeze.
Sailing is a media event here at the Pan Am Games...if you're from Brazil.
Team USA aka basketball groopies.

Sorry for no blog post yesterday. We had three races in the best breeze of the regatta so far. It blew 12-14 all day out of the SW which isn't a direction we'd ever seen in the long-term forecastFor our Lightning team, it was a very good day. We were able to beat team Chile two out of three races and we really should have beaten them the third race too. They beat us buy a foot at the end of a downwind finish. We Also beat Team Brazil today too. But the best news is that both Brazil and USA put boats between themselves and Chile and really made this a competitive regatta. Now, it's genuinely possible for any of the three boats to win the gold medal. Going in to the medal race the scores are as follows:
Chile 12 pts.
Brazil 13 pts.
USA 15 pts.
Only boats that rand in the top 5 in each class at the conclusion of sailing on Friday, sail in the medal race. Each boat's medal race score is counted twice in their final score. The medal race cannot be discarded. The score in the medal race is used as the sole series tie breaker. More on this later.

Fast forward to today: We woke up to the 4th day in a row of low, gray clouds and very little wind out at the village. Since Wednesday, the lay day, the daily start time has been bumped up by an hour to noon. So the organizers have added a 7:30am bus for competitors. For the second day in a row David and I were the only sailors on the bus. It works out beautifully. We get to the venue and the crane drivers are already there. We take the cover off the boat and they pick it up for us. We wash the bottom off and then they put it back down. Then we rig the boat, get a coffee and wait for the crowd on the 3 8:30 buses. Jody's going to the gym every morning, so she comes on the 8:30. Then the boat park is bedlam with everyone rigging and washing and deciding what to wear and getting coach briefings and giving press briefings and in the case of many of the sailors walking around in bikini…briefs. Today, we waited all day for wind. At 3:20 the race committee sent the whole fleet out to try and get in one more race. The boats on the bubble rooted hard for enough breeze to fill in that cold overcome a strong outgoing tide. The first fleets needed to be sailing by 4 in order to make sure all the boats would finish in daylight. At 4:00 you could not reliably make progress sail downwind against the current. There was no hope of making the individual class time limits. So racing for the day was abandoned and that was the end of the Pan American Games for all but the media race boats.

Good news is that the US has a boat in the medal race in every fleet.

For our US Lightning team, the situation is as follows:
Win the race, put any boat between us and Chile and we win Gold.
Win the race, Chile is second we win Silver.
Finish behind Brazil with no boat between us and Chile, we win bronze.
I don't have the scores in font of me so I don't know if we still win Gold if we finish 3rd with Brazil 4th and Chile 5th. That's possible. Team Canada and Team Ecuador are the other two boats in the race.

We just hope there's wind tomorrow. We did a nice job getting closer to Chile yesterday. We just need a chance to beat them again. If there's no wind again tomorrow. The scores stay as they are and the medals are awarded in the order the boats are right now. We'd win the bronze medals.

Tonight's "Neatest Thing That Happened Today" Dedicated to Camryn and Sabrina:

I think I mentioned that everywhere, at all the venues, the USA athletes get booed. We were told that was going to happen even back in .DC at processing so we kind of expected it. In sailing obviously that isn't relevant, but in the other sports it's very intimidating. We went to Men's Basketball the last two evenings. Last night the US blew a 14 point lead and lost to Panama by about 10 points. Yep, the mighty USA lost to Panama. There were about 3000 people in the arena and about 2993 of them were lustily cheering on the Panamanians—who are a pretty good team, made up of several US college players and a group much more used to playing together than our guys are. Our team was literally put together in trials 2 weeks ago. We have many very good top level college players such as Drew Neitzel of Michigan State and Roy Hibbard of Georgetown. Roy Hibbard is very nice. Andrew is a Georgetown graduate. He brought at Hoyas banner down here to get a photo with Hibbard for the Alumni newsletter. Jody got a great photo of them together. I don't think this blog has yet been assigned the online publication rights to that photograph. Backroom wheeling and dealing is proceeding on that issue. Stay tuned.

Anyway, as athletes, we sat in the 3rd row of seats behind the scorer's table on the team bench side. We just walk into the arena through the players entrance walk onto the floor and up into the seats. We do this at every venue and after two weeks of being here, we're completely used to this luxury. Very few athletes take advantage of this opportunity. In fact, we've never seen other athletes cheering on teams from other sports. Heck, we even went to watch the synchronized swimmers practice last night (this is an amazingly difficult sport and really cool to watch in person). Last night we were literally the only US fans in the building. The team had also lost the night before to Uruguay by 8. You can imagine the way they felt. The US is the birthplace of the sport. We've dominated for generations. We have dream teams. Yes, we've got much better worldwide competition, but that's supposed to come from Brazil and Argentina not Panama and Uruguay. Part of the athlete deal is that all athletes travel back and forth to the venue on the same buses. So we were out waiting for the bus when the US guys came out of the arena. We asked the coaches if we could have a ride on their bus and they said sure. It was a funeral in there. Two losses meant no medal for them. Several of the guys thanked us for coming out to support them. These are guys used to playing in front of 19,000 in Madison Square Garden or 53,000 at the RCA Dome. They said they'd never been in a more hostile environment. We got home late and that 's why there was no blog posting yesterday.

Well, tonight, we decided we needed to go back and cheer them on again. They played Argentina with nothing to play for but the desire not to go home skunked.
Now Argentina didn't sent their best team to these games either. Next month there's an Olympic qualifying tournament in Las Vegas where their NBA players and top team will play against ours. But, Argentina is the current World Champion, the favorites here and they were undefeated. Tonight, on a Friday, there were about 7,500 people in the arena. Even the top level was 70% full. It was loud in there again. The US team out rebounded, out hustled and out defended Argentina. You could make a very good case that Argentina was resting players for games in the medal round in the second half of this game. But when one of their little knat point guards missed a second chance three at the buzzer and the US won, every player ran onto the floor and hugged each other 3 sailors and two coaches who had been ripping the refs and cheering on their country had no voices left. Woulda thought we'd all just won the gold medal game…together.

Tonight, the coaches thanked us for coming. The players asked us about sailing. We're sailors going back to work next week, or off to do more fundraising to fund Olympic campaigns. They're Basketball players going back to campus next month, looking at Senior seasons and onto multi-million dollar professional careers. They get Dominos Pizza on their post game bus and they devour amazing amounts. But tonight they handed us a box too. There we were on the team bus: Coaches, doctors, players and us, driving back home after a basketball game. 25 American guys eating some classic high carb-high salt-high grease-fresh-out-of-the-square-box American food—just like on the team bus back in high school. Except everyone on this bus had on red white and blue. And high school was 25 years ago. USA! USA!


Jeanne said...


Thank you so much for taking the time each day to share your Pan Am experiences!!

Good luck to you and all of Team USA in the medal race!


Michael Healy said...


Great job. Congrats on your Silver Medal.

Yesterday's blog was best yet. Team USA basketball was very lucky to have you guys at the game. You captured the spirit & point perfectly. I thought I was reading a Rick Reilly column.