by JOHN GEDDERT on JULY 25, 2012
I get the sensation that I have been living in a parallel universe. Things are happening in my normal life, the gym back home is still functioning, family and friends are conducting business as usual yet I have lost a sense of contact.These prolonged events create a false sense of reality. 4-5 weeks of nothing but gymnastics can do that to you and although this is not a complaint, it does tug on your mind. Everything revolves around the next training session, routine, or competition but life is still in full swing outside of the limits of London. Interesting feeling.
My vote for day one of training would be NOT TO. I would lose this battle before it even started so rather than fire a blank, I keep the safety locked on my opinion pistol. To me I have traveled enough to know that the athlete’s bodies need adequate time to adjust. Past experience could point to a long list of mishaps on day one that put the athlete and team in catch up mode from the start. I believe Martha is also aware of this issue and thus she encourages minimal expectations and a gradual increase to full routine preparation. I would still rather my athlete just rest.
Each day has 2 training sessions scheduled for all teams participating in London. One would be a shorter session (5 – 20 minute rotations, Warm Up, V-UB-B-Fl), and one would be longer (5-30 minute rotations). We were schedule to train with Australia (under the direction of Peggy Liddick, Shannon Millers coach), Brazil and Germany. The first 3 days it was just USA and Australia and since we work rather well together we arranged the schedule to our liking. Initially this did not sit well with the gym directors who insisted that we follow the schedule to the letter. They eventually got the message that as long as the coaches on the floor agree, that we could conduct training as we saw fit.
As the week progressed, the weather improved. After needing the ever popular umbrella on Thursday, Friday and Saturday beautiful days welcomed us on Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday. The increase in temperature created a major issue at the training hall in that the air conditioning units simply could not handle the load. Sauna training ensued while the organizers assured everyone that the problem was being addressed. No change after 3 days but the girls handled it like champs.
The normal pattern for training has been 2 days of double workouts followed by a single session training day. Rehearsing things like competition order, what coaches will be on the podium for the 30 second touch period, which coaches will tag team in and when, who will ready the bars, who sets or pulls the boards and who moves mats is all important. Jenny is required to be on the podium at all times since she is the only female (WAG requires one female coach present in the field of play). Mihai would handle the 30 second duties Vault and Beam, Chow on bars and I had floor.
USA takes the matter of fact approach to training. They understand the obligation to represent country in the best light possible and they conduct themselves accordingly. Training is business and business for the most part is very good. They attack their requirements in a machine like fashion and this blue collar mentality is very apparent. They, simply stated, are the hardest working team anywhere. This is indisputable. At the Olympic Trials, Martha inquired as to my opinion on who the team should be. I am not sure if she was searching for validation of her own pre-meet favorites or simply seeing if I understood the complexity of the pending decisions. My comments to her were that I would have a real hard time “messing” with the chemistry of the world team. Obviously Kyla needed to be added but maintaining the nucleus of that World Championship Team was, in my mind, crucial. They have gelled as a team and all work hard. They see the entire picture and none of the coaches or athletes try to “one up” the others. It is a true team and team chemistry is essential to success.
The social media craze has produced some very interesting slants on the selection process and results. Some have criticized the national office as being non caring souls for not including the 3 alternates in the London experience. (Elizabeth Price, Anna Li and Sarah Finegan are training 1 hour away in Birmingham, England). Why couldn’t they be with the team in London? How heartless! First of all let me assure you that if indeed there were a hint of anyone in the organization lacking compassion for any of the national team athletes, Kathy Kelly would make sure that train never left the station. The alternates can not stay in the Olympic Village by rules of the Olympic Committee. This has nothing to do with USAG and in fact they have spent more money on the alternates England training experience than the actual team itself. Believe me USAG cares about its athletes … all of them!
Another critic spouted venomous insults centering around not using one of our more experienced athletes in one of the alternate positions so that she could mentor and guide the younger athletes. Well again, since the alternates are not allowed to train or be housed with the actual team this was a mute point. On top of that, and no disrespect to this particular athlete as she is one of my favorite leaders of all time, this team is not inexperienced and has leadership budding everywhere.
I’ve been trading pins at every available opportunity. I plan on exhausting my supply so as to create an impressive collection to remember these games. One such trade was with Victoria Komova who was riding back from training on the same bus as the USA team. It struck me as odd that she was traveling alone. This is something that would never happen with any of the USA athletes. Anyway I asked her to trade and she obliged with her pixie smile. She has grown a bit since Worlds and has highlighted her hair. We look forward to another great competition and I am quite sure she will be predictably in the mix.
With 2 days remaining until our official podium training session, the village is reaching capacity. Waiting lines now exist everywhere and traffic will soon be an issue. Last night the LOC conducted a dress rehearsal for the opening ceremonies. Fireworks blasted here and there, which I am sure was just a minuscule prelude to the actual events sky lighters. When the rehearsal was finished the train and bus station was packed to the point of being frightening. Now mind you this was just with the participants in the show itself, add in the spectators and the transportation situation will be quite interesting. The congestion, organized chaos and the amount of time that the athletes are forced to be on their feet is the reason that USAG forbids the athletes and coaches from participating in the opening ceremonies. Gymnastics kicks off the very next day and although we are in sub-division 3 the recovery time would still not be enough. Some of the girls have said they want to participate in the closing ceremonies to which I say …. ABSOLUTELY.