Rachael and Tom learning how to curl. With Figure Skating Team Leader Lorrie Parker at practice.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

BACK TO WORK

I spent an hour in the morning in the food tent visiting with many of my coaching friends from all over the world sharing congratulations about being here and talking about the opening ceremonies. After that, Rachael and I got back to work. She had her first practice session on unofficial ice. She was relaxed and focused after being short on sleep due to attending the entire opening ceremonies (This year for the first time athletes were allowed to leave the stadium after they marched in, however, Rachael chose to stay). When we arrived at the rink, seeing so many familiar faces (officials, athletes and coaches) made it easier to zone in and just do our job. That is one of the biggest differences between a world championship and the Olympics. At an Olympics you see and interact with so many other people besides the one's from your sport.

After practice we went straight to a very intense, longer than normal, press conference in downtown Vancouver. While we drove to the location of the press conference, Rachael and I talked a lot about yesterday because arriving at the Olympic village and participating in the opening ceremonies for the first time are very powerful experiences.

Security at the Olympic Games is very tight. VANOC has employed 15,000 personnel for this purpose (5,000 Canadian mounties, 5,000 soldiers from various countries and 5,000 independent security guards). Frank told me that by the end of the two weeks everyone gets sick of it, but it is a necessity. The US State Department had two security officers at the unofficial practice rink today. They were friendly and supportive and obviously watchful. It was kind of weird knowing our van was under surveillance as we were transported to and from the rink. Mitch told me these precautions have been in effect since the tragedy of the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich, Germany.

Incidentally, security works like this: our van pulls up to a check point so that police officers can look under the van (using mirrors attached to a long pole) for explosive devices while we are carrying on somewhat of a conversation through the process. They verify who is in the van by talking to the driver and looking inside at us. We tell them which country we are from and what sport we are participating in. Then we proceed to the drop off point that is further down the road.

As coaches, we are educated that security and media at an Olympic Games can be a distraction to the athlete. Already, I can tell a difference, but once Rachael and I get inside the rink everything seems to be business as usual. After all, we are here for one reason: Rachael has goals to achieve.

I ate a late dinner with Jeremy Abbott, Charlie White, Mitch Moyer, Frank Carroll and Yuka Sato. One reporter at the press conference asked me about what it's like knowing that Jeremy is here with Yuka. I answered truthfully that I have more positive feelings for Jeremy than anything else. If I had to root for an American man to win the Olympics it would be Jeremy first, Evan second and Patrick Chan third. The reasons are obvious. As his former coach, I want him to achieve the goals we were working for even if that means he had to move on from working with me. As a good friend of Frank, who has mentored me in my career, I would love to see him coach Evan to an Olympic title and finally get the Olympic champion his career deserves. And finally, since Patrick has been training at our rink for the past 10 weeks I have seen firsthand how committed he is to our sport. He is a role model for the podium. So for me, it is kind of like picking New Orleans over Indianapolis in the Super Bowl and wishing that the Denver Broncos would have had a slightly better season so they could have been contenders for the title. I was rooting for all three teams for different reasons.

Question of the Day: How many locations besides Vancouver are home to the events of the Olympic Games?

Answer to the question of the day: The ratio of press to athletes is 2 to 1. That means there are two reporters for every athlete. At the Games, there are approximately 5,500 athletes and 10,000 media personnel

4 comments:

  1. Mr. Zakrajsek, I enjoy your journal every day. Thank you very much.
    I am a big big fan of Rachael, and I translate her interviews with media into Japanese from time to time. I read the article about today's interview at Denver Post and found some of questions to be very heart-breaking. I was relieved, though, to find that Rachael stayed unfazed and calm, and I really appreciated your response to them. Please keep cheering her up for us and do not forget that a lot of Japanese fans are behind you and Rachael.
    Japanese fans are behind you and Rachael.

    Tamami

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  2. Great reading your blog...
    We are all so proud of the team of coaches and athletes.
    Keep up the good work.
    Coach Marty, Extreme Ice, Charlotte, N.C.

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  3. Tom, are the press conferences going to be a daily requirment?

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