April 2004 archives

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28 April 2004

Qualifying for an Olympic Team is a dream that many people in the world see every time they close their eyes. When, after years of hard work and sacrifice, the Olympic Trials finally come, it can be a very tense situation. In many circumstances best friends compete against one another for just one spot on a Team.

This time of year we are hearing stories about athletes that have made the Olympic team, but there are also those that just miss the opportunity. Dreams are being made, and they are also being let go. Unfortunately, only a few of this countries' most talented athletes are able to take part in the Olympic Games.

In my own experience, I have seen amazing shows of sportsmanship from athletes that just miss the Team. I think it is the epitome of excellence when a runner-up congratulates the winner of a competition. That is what sport can teach us - sport it is not just physical achievement, but we learn emotional strength and maturity. The two athletes that narrowly missed our Olympic Team in 1996 were examples for all of us. Their exceptional character and sportsmanship will long be remembered.

27 April 2004

The Olympic Games in Athens begin just 108 days from today. The Olympic flame is in Panathinaiko Stadium through June 3rd, the stadium that was used in the first modern Olympic Game in 1896.

The aquatics events (synchronized swimming, swimming, diving, and water polo) will be held in one venue for the first time in Olympic Games history. The Athens Olympic Sports Complex - OAKA Olympic Aquatic Centre will host the events.

22 April 2004

The synchronized swimming United States Nationals begins next week in Palo Alto, CA. Athletes from all over the country qualify to compete in this prestigious event.

I remember many US Nationals competitions from my days of swimming. The week prior to the meet is spent training extremely hard. The meet itself is an endurance event. Each day is packed with events, culminating with the Finals on Saturday. There is no time for recovery or rest.

For example, if an athlete competes in the solo, duet and team events (which most top athletes do), they must compete in each of these three events each day of the meet. It is a shame that by the time the Finals come around, athletes are exhausted from the whole process. And to top it off, the National Team Trials are mixed in with the event. So athletes are not only training to become the National Champion, they are training for the National Team. It is a whirlwind.

You can view the results as they happen between April 29 and May 1.

21 April 2004

Cirque du Soleil's "O" is a professional performance held in the Ballagio Hotel in Las Vegas. The hotel design was actually created to accommodate "O" in a beautiful theatre with a pool. This particular show is a combination of diving, acrobatics, synchronized swimming, diving and more. The Cirque website gives this definition of the show:

"Inspired by the concept of infinity and by the pure form of the letter "O", the title of this production is also a phonetic representation of the French word for water, the element embodied by this show. With an international cast performing in, on and above water, Cirque du Soleil's "O" tells the tale of theatre through the ages and frees us to lose ourselves in a world without limits."

There are very few professional opportunities for synchronized swimmers in the world, but this is one very unique opportunity to carry the sport to a new level. There are several Olympians in the show, including three of my teammates from the 1996 Olympic team (Becky, Jill and Suzannah).

19 April 2004

It is final! The Olympic Qualification competition is over and there are now 8 teams and 24 duets qualified for the Athens Olympics this summer.

The 24 duets qualified for the 2004 Olympic Games are: Australia, Belarus, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, China, Czech Republic, Egypt, Spain, France, Great Britain, Greece, Israel, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, Korea, Mexico, Netherlands, Russia, Switzerland, Slovakia, Ukraine, USA.

The eight teams qualified for the 2004 Olympic Games are: Canada, China, Spain, Greece, Italy, Japan, Russia, USA.

You can read more about the competition on the FINA website.

7 April 2004

Navigating through the many sport organizations associated with the Olympic Movement can be a bit confusing. Here is a short summary of the organizations involved:

International Olympic Committee (IOC)
Organising Committees of the Olympic Games (OCOGs, e.g. Athens for 2004)
National Olympic Committees (NOCs, e.g. the United States Olympic Committee)
International Federations (IFs, e.g. FINA)
National Governing Bodies (NGBs, e.g. United Sates Synchronized Swimming)

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) creates rules and regulations for the Olympic Movement. The IOC awards each Olympic Games to a particular host city. Each Olympic host city creates an organization (OCOG) that is responsible for organizing that Olympic Games. For example, the Athens Organizing Committee (ATHOC) is a separate organization responsible for organizing the 2004 Summer Olympic Games.

International Federations (IFs) are responsible for one or more sports from an international perspective. They set rules for the sport, and have many other duties.

Each country that is a member of the International Olympic Committee has one organization responsible for putting forth Olympic athletes. These National Organizing Committees (NOCs), such as the United States Olympic Committee (USOC), also have other duties based upon their charters.

One level below the NOCs is the National Governing Bodies (NGBs), which are responsible for training and preparing athletes in each sport for elite competition in a particular country. In the United States, there are 45 NGBs who are members of the USOC, and must follow the rules established by the USOC. The USOC was created from an Act of Congress called the Ted Steven Amateur Sports Act (see previous entry).

And finally, you have the athletes. They are arguably the most important piece of the process, because without athletes, the Olympic Games would cease to exist as we know them.

You can read more about this topic by visiting the IOC website.

6 April 2004

In an Olympic year, athletes from all over the country in all of the Olympic sports are in different phases of training and competition. I'd like to explain the process of qualifying for the Olympic team.

Per the Ted Stevens Amateur Sports Act, the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) is responsible for putting forth the United States Olympic Team.

Each Olympic sport conducts its own Olympic qualification process, a process that is subject to approval by the USOC. Each sport uses a different process that is specific to the needs of that sport. For example, in synchronized swimming it is very important for the Olympic team to train together for many months, whereas a track and field sprinter need not train with the Olympic team for that time period. So the synchronized swimming procedures began over a year ago, whereas the track and field process is held at the Olympic Trials this coming July, just one month prior to the Olympic Games.

Once a sport's process is complete, the sport submits the names of the athletes that have qualified for the Olympic team to the USOC. The USOC must approve of the athletes on the submitted list, verifying that the Trials process was completed as per the USOC approved procedures. Once the USOC accepts the athletes, the athletes are officially on the Olympic team. This approval generally happens about 45 days prior to the Olympic Games.

5 April 2004

Scoring is a necessary component of synchronized swimming, and judges do their best to rate competitors by giving them scores. However, scores should not be looked upon as a rating of an athlete's worth, and athletes should try not to let their self-esteem be impacted by scores.

At the Junior National Championships last weekend, there were over 300 athletes competing. During compulsory figures (see previous entry), every athlete had to compete the same figures in front of panels of judges. These judges watched figures for over 6 hours, one at a time. It is extremely difficult to accomplish this task, and judges should be given credit for their diligence. Comparing the athlete that competed first with the athlete that competed 6 hours later is nearly impossible.

My point is that athletes should be focused on their own performance and their coaches' feedback regarding their performance. If their coach notices improvements, they should find satisfaction in that fact. Judges scores are not perfect, and athletes should remember that it is not a reflection on them as people, nor their self-worth. Scores and rankings are guidelines to let you know how you have done, but they are not perfect. If you have worked hard, and have competed your best, that is the achievement of a goal.

synchronized swimming insights from an olympic gold medalist