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Heather Bown Blog for Aug. 9

Aug. 10, 2008, 9:31 a.m. (ET)

Aug. 9, 2008

Well the games have officially begun. And I am sure most of you watched the show on TV.

Now here is a little something most people don’t know about participating in the opening ceremonies. We as athletes don’t get to see squat. We are all brought together in a holding arena - this time it was the gymnastics venue just across from the stadium, or the Birds Nest as the locals have been calling it.

And we sit and we wait…and wait…I think there were something like 209 countries participating in the parade of athletes and the U.S. delegation was I believe 140 out of those 209. So as you can imagine it was a bit of a wait for us.

However, in no way am I asking for sympathy because in that staging time we had the opportunity to meet the President of the United States as well as the First Lady and his Father, who is our honorary Chef de Mission here at the games. So it was a fun filled night, but boy was it hot. I mean hotter than any gym I have played in EVER!!! We had guys coming in our building before we had even left and they had sweated through their shirts. So of course then the joke was made by a few of my friends about the reason for bringing their video cameras was for the wet tee-shirt contests that would be held on the field. We all started laughing, and little did we know it was true (not the contest, but the wet shirts).

By the time we marched from the holding arena where we were staged to the field I’d say about 90 percent of our delegation had sweat through their shirts. But even in the miserable heat we came together as a team. It’s the most amazing feeling walking in to an Olympic stadium with almost 600 other Americans.

And just before we go into the lights with our flag leading us, the entire delegation started chanting USA…USA…USA. It was the most goose bump, tear filling, emotional moment. It's when you really get what it is we represent. It's not the small stuff anymore. It’s the entire nation coming together to show our talents and out abilities. It's an amazing feeling and moment to witness.

And it never gets old. Once we walked the track and were in the infield of the stadium, one of the men’s team members asked me how many times I had been to the games and I responded with this is my third and he was like does it ever get old. And you know what? It doesn’t. It's strange to sit back and think that Athens was four years ago already. It feels like last week we were marching through the tunnel in Greece. So crazy. But the Opening Ceremonies really do bring the whole thing together and give you the sense of what the Olympic movement is all about.

Needless to say however, the morning after everyone’s legs and back were a little bit tight, from all the standing and walking, but we had an morning workout to prepare for our match against Japan which helped loosen us up.

Game days in the Olympics are pretty simple. We train, we eat, we sleep, we play.

But today was a little bit different for USA Volleyball. I am sure by now everyone knows of the unfortunate events that occurred to the USA VOLLEYBALL family. We were awakened from our pre-game napping to be alerted of the horrible acts against one of our own.

Being that many of the team have been teammates and been touched by the victims it was a very long and very hard day for us. Our hearts go out to the families back home and the people here in china who’s lives have been shattered.

I’m not gonna lie, our team was an emotional wreck. Half of us called and woke our families in the middle of the night to tell them we were okay and what small details that were shared with us. It was so shocking and just plain heart wrenching. Still this morning with the rain falling I can’t believe its real. Its strange how extreme circumstances like these really make you appreciate your families and loved ones. So I’d like to thank all of the people that have supported me in the career and stuck by me even when they wanted to slap me upside the head. (and believe me I deserved it sometimes) But I could not, and we as a team could not be where we are without you.

We played with puffy eyes and heavy hearts last night in our opening match against Japan. But we came out with a mission. To represent what it is to be here and what it means to have the opportunity to make a statement, that as a team we will fight no matter what the obstacle is in our way.

I am extremely proud of our team for its efforts on the court last night. It was a honor to be out there with them. You could just feel the connection between us all. It was awesome to be there and have an opener like that. Our passing was settled down and we were able to run our middle attack (which Danielle and I love), our block was effective and our serving, although sporadic to down right bad in the 2nd set, really helped us against the Japanese attack.

One thing about the Japanese… I love watching them play. They are so awesome at defense, and when they pass well their combos are so fast…but when I am playing against them…god it is annoying. Ha

In my opinion we did a hell of a job against them to take them out of their rhythm. And the extra lift that we had from the outside events really helped us hit the ground running. There were more tears right after the match because we were all just so emotionally drained and wanted so bad to play for Wiz and her family that the girls came together with tears in our eyes to thank the crowd for supporting us. And I wanted to thank the NBC commentators for painting such a real and beautiful picture of just what kind of person Wiz is. My parents told me that it was touching for them to hear. So thank you.

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