Realization: You’re not the same as you were 10 years ago

It’s been a few days since I sent the last post, but this one will have to be a quick one as I’m off to figure out the transportation schedule in London before the meet Wednesday.

On a side thought, during my warmup today I couldn’t help but think about the last 10 years of competition and the life cycle of an athlete.  After watching some of these athletes warm up, it dawned on me that as you age, an interesting epiphany presents itself. This gets a little twisty, so follow tight:

It’s the final realization that even though you feel the exact same as you did 10 years ago (combined with the misconception that you even look the same as 10 years ago), you are suddenly shown via the youngsters surrounding you, that you are in fact not the same as your were 10 years ago.

One might think that this is a “no duh” type of revelation, but it does seem to be stealthy in how it is revealed to you. I think at the end of all this I’ll be able to write that must-read book entitled, “What To Expect When You’re Expecting,” but this version would be geared for the aging athlete.

The good news is that none of this has changed my mindset going into the competition. The hunger and the drive to be great still fuel the engine — it just needs a few more cranks before spewing its black cloud of smog and coming to life.  Make no mistake about it, this engine can still rev up and shake the ground, and I’m looking forward to doing just that.

It’s the eve of the preliminary round of the men’s pole vault competition, and the U.S. team is ready to go to work. Village life has been good and as expected, the venues are expansive. Fortunately, for the old man on this trip, the dining hall, medical area and transport venues are all very close to our tower, making life easy.

The village houses a variety of options for occupying one’s time, including fitness centers, arcades, game rooms, internet cafes, movie rooms, shops, and even doctor and dentist offices. 

It really is a small city, in which you get the opportunity to see so many different athletes from the smallest of gymnasts and divers, to the biggest of basketball players and weight lifters.  It should be village protocol to have to wear a sign that says what sport you do, because the curiosity is a killer.

I have not had the opportunity to see other sports during my time here due to my late arrival, but we have been glued to our cable feed that provides all of the sports on different channels.  It has been inspiring to watch so many athletes do amazing things in their areas of expertise.  It is truly something to be admired.

Well, it’s time to sign off, and I trust that all of you are getting your Olympic fixes.  I hope that the entire U.S. pole vault team will be able to navigate the tricky weather conditions that seem to have plagued the women’s event and we all qualify to the final round.

Our starting field will begin with 32 vaulters, and that will be narrowed to 12.  Once we have arrived at the top 12 finishers, the competition will stop and those 12 will return on Aug. 10 to shoot it out for the medals.

The name of the game is to be in the top 12 on Wednesday, and I hope that next time I tune in it will be with good news. Until then, be well.

Gearing up for the Games

Well, the Olympic cart has rolled by my fruit stand and plucked this week-old, bruised-up banana for one more trip to the checkout counter.  Yes, folks it’s that time again.

With the Olympic games finally upon us, we find ourselves in familiar blogging territory, where your favorite column on recipes of the week or reviews of today’s top 10 tech gadgets have been replaced with the grammatically challenged musings of a pole vaulter heading to his third and final Olympic Games.

The London Games are off to the races and have wasted no time bringing us the occasional chills that come with the notion of being the best in the world.  I certainly felt those chills during the opening ceremonies, even though they were viewed from a comfortable couch in Jonesboro, Arkansas.

After walking in the ceremonies in 2004 and 2008, it was just not in the cards this time around.  A stubborn Achilles tendon is the cause of my tardiness to the 2012 Games, as the last month has been dedicated to receiving as much treatment and therapy as possible.

The plan has been to reduce the inflammation in a three-week time frame, hopefully leaving us two weeks to work on the technical aspects of the pole vault prior to flying out Thursday.

The departure date is about as late as I can leave and still accommodate for some time-zone acclimation. Obviously this is not ideal, but the injury has not given me the opportunity to practice pole vaulting as much as I would have liked or needed, so here we are trying to cram for the final, so to speak.

I was training in Arkansas, opting for one last jump session with my coach rather than trying to jump at the Team USA practice facility in London.  I do feel like I am one quality session away from being ready to go; let’s just hope that this last one is THE one that puts all of the pieces together.

Like an anxious kid on Christmas morning, I am excited to see what this Olympic experience has in store for me.  Finishing seventh in 2004 was informative.  Finishing fourth in Beijing was …. well, we won’t say what that was, but I think I’m going to start a global campaign to abolish the fourth-place finish.  They should just skip it and go straight to fifth, but then fifth would just get the flack of being “the new fourth,” so that doesn’t work. 

I’ll have an eight-hour flight to London to work out the details on that, so stay tuned to future blogs for that alone. Banged up and closer to 40 years old than 39 these days, I can promise the amazingly great people of South Dakota that nothing less of 100 percent will be given on Aug. 8 during the preliminary round of the pole vault.

Incidentally, on Aug. 8 a field of 40 vaulters will be narrowed to 12-16 athletes that will then come back on Aug. 10 to compete for the medals, so making it through the prelims is goal number one.

By the next installment of this Olympic blog, I’ll be writing from London with some exciting updates, unless the “hook stage right” comes before then. In the meantime I newly dub all of you faithful pole vault fanatics and hope that you thoroughly enjoy watching Team USA go for the gold. Until next time…

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