What does it look like shuttling 6000 athletes plus 6000 coaches, massage therapists, mechanics, etc., to Guadalajara? Crazy. That’s what.
I was shuttled from a plane in Houston to join the most recent arrivals for team processing. All the athletes arrive to Mexico at different times depending on when their competition is, however all must go through Houston to be “processed” by the USOC. I was the “lone cyclist” for a couple of hours; and could watch the other teams arriving. Some are easy to indentify, and others are more obscure. When two striking 6’4” tall blonde women entered, I could easily put together the height, sun lightened hair, freckled noses, and Mizuno sponsorship to recognize them as USA Beach Volleyball. A rowdy group consisting of fun heckling, raw strength and thick headbands was obviously USA softball, but the quieter pairs of the archery squad and their hard shell cases that looked like violins were opposite of the cheery, sparkly synchronized swimming crew carrying what appeared to be hula hoops. What a wide variety of athletes, backgrounds, bodies, and personality, all coming together with the same focus, the same drive, and the same mission—to medal at the Pan American Games 2011. Wow. I am one of them.
Upon getting to the hotel in Houston, we were then escorted to our clothing fitting session which was a complete new Nike wardrobe. Khakis, warm-ups, tracksuits, running shoes, flip flops, sports bras, luggage, capris, shirts, and everything else you could want in Nike and more. Oakley made a special addition of sunglasses for us as well! It was a warm welcome to the Pan American Games as a USA Cycling athlete indeed! With the newly acquired duffle bag full of team issued apparel, we then went for photos, USADA, and medical before dinner. There was an early departure for Guadalajara as the teams were shuttled to the airport in charter buses to then do a painless process of group check-in, group security, and then onto a plane full of only USA athletes. There were signs in the airport, the hotel, and the plane congratulating us and wishing us well in our endeavors. Wow.
I am just trying to take this all in, and learn a few things along the way.
What have I learned so far?
The USOC knows that athletes are always hungry, and they do their very best to ensure we are always well fed with very little stress.
Cyclists by far have the most luggage. I came with 2 bike boxes. 1 wheel case. 1 check-in. 1 carry-on. 2 helmets. 1 backpack. The volleyball girls? Well, they didn’t even have to bring their own volleyball. Swimsuit and a visor and they are done. They giggled at my luggage as they explained to me all they needed could be brought in a 1 quart Ziploc bag. Well, played, ladies.
I was so happy to see my “team”. I have come to know USA Cycling as my family, and when they arrived, I was “home” amidst the chaos of the Pan Am Games.