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Joan Powell Olympic Blog for Aug. 14

Aug. 14, 2008, 11:44 p.m. (ET)

Aug. 14, 2008

The “or as other duties assigned” kicked in prior to the Venezuelan match. I was outside the Beijing Institute of Technology Gymnasium with tickets for Ogonna’s family and friends along with Jennifer Joines, Kim Glass’ and Jenny’s daughter’s tickets. I found Lydia, Jenny’s beautiful daughter, right away as she was there way early. I was able to get JJ’s tickets to her parents, boyfriend and brother shortly after seeing Lydia. I had Ogonna write her parents’ phone number on her envelope of tickets which turned out to be helpful. I was accompanied by a nice English speaking Chinese worker. He was able to assist the families’ taxi drivers to the venue.

As time grew nearer to my “real” duties, I asked JJ’s mom to help me distribute the remainder of the tickets. She was so kind to lend a hand to a stressed Team Leader. It was really hot outside and not a good day to wear a red blouse; I was pitted out!!

Before the Venezuelan match, Robyn asked that I take one of her jerseys to her teammate and friend, Norisha (Ni) Campbell. I found Ni with Therese Crawford in the stands. I threw the jersey up to Ni from the floor level just before the two teams entered the Capital Indoor Stadium. Ni was so excited to wear her friend’s #11 jersey and of course, Robyn has a special place in her heart for Ni as she was a teammate of Robyn’s in Switzerland this spring when Robyn lost her mother in an untimely death in a foreign country.

As I turned in the athletes’ credentials and medical form to the jury, I was introduced to the Vice President of the FIVB in charge of medical by my FIVB World Grand Prix friend from Egypt. As I was walking away, the referee asked who our sponsor was. I told him Mizuno and he said with an accent, “Good.” Then he warned me about the length of socks having to be identical. I was pretty sure that everyone wore the knee high style, but told him that I would check. I am continually amazed at the restrictions and attention to detail. Prior to our Cuba match, the first referee from Turkey, with the first name of Unit.

In last night’s match, the first referee took too much time to explain to the Venezuelan team that they needed to tuck in their shirts. So, he didn’t notice their shirts in warm up, or warn them as his partner was checking the line ups before the match? And hello, this is being televised live! I am positioned on the end line with Diane in the statistician’s area directly behind the server. As the opponent’s first server approached me and turned around to serve. Just wondering why there is such emphasis on the length of shirt when the six and eight inch numbers surely are visible enough at this level. I was wondering why there is not a restriction on the way some teams choose to wear their shorts.

A slow start in the Venezuela match even though the opponent's early ball handling skills were a little shaky and seemed to be a plus for us. The first set had Danielle Scott-Arruda and Heather Bown in the middle, Logan Tom and Kim Glass on the outside, Tayyiba Haneef-Park as the opposite and Robyn Aw Mow-Santos at the helm, with Nicole Davis as the libby. Ogonna Nnamani and Lindsey Berg saw some time as the double switch was called late in the set.

In set two, we seemed to struggle. At 14-18, Diane French was busy with Data Volley, but leaned over and said, “Time for a sub; we need to add some fire.” Just then we heard the buzzer for substitution. Sure enough, Jennifer Joines got the nod and entered enthusiastically for Danielle in the middle. This was her first Olympic experience! Believe me, she made quite the entrance as she hit and blocked without an error, providing points on the USA scoreboard.

Bergie and OG came in late into set two, but none of the substitutions seemed to get us out of our funk as we gave the Venezuelans their first (set) victory in the Olympic Games. But in the third set, Nicole Davis had a string of great passes and digs, many of the rest of the starters seemed to raise their level of play as well. Stacy Sykora shared in the success as she back courted Kim Glass. JJ continued her successful streak with some blocking and attacking – very unassuming, very composed and very genuine. I could not help but remember when she traveled to the World Grand Prix in July. She was invited for only the first leg; then flew back home as the staff wanted to see other players. How tough that must have been to continue to train, away from “the team” wondering if she would ever have her dream fulfilled. Then her dream came true when she got the call to say that she was one of the chosen 12. She met the WGP team at the airport late at night upon their arrival to revel in the excitement. What a teammate, what a friend!

Set three found the same starters on the court with JJ in for Danielle. JJ continued to show her presence as she added numerous points from her hitting and blocking. By the first technical time out, JJ had accumulated eight points.

The USA team did what they needed to do in the fourth set. As Bill Neville says, “She turned up the rheostat,” which helped fire our team up. The team and staff were less than satisfied with the team’s performance, but they were reminded that tonight was in the “W” column without an asterisk!

The men were training, while we were playing, both returned to the Village to get a quick shower and both teams caught the bus for the USA House to meet their family and friends. In March, the USOC treated the Team Leaders to dinner at the Jasmine Restaurant and were told that it would serve as the USA House. I remember being astonished by the guys retrieving the wine bottles from an enclosed glassed area, almost like an exposed elevator. Two were needed as one belayed the other to get the bottle ordered by a guest. I was saddened to see it closed off with a huge decorative Beijing Olympic cubicle. I did see the glass floor under some of the exterior tables where live fish swim around the restaurant.

It was so good for the athletes to get away from the Village life, see family and friends and join in the great food. Doug Beal spoke briefly about the senseless loss of Mr. Bachman and the status of Mrs. Bachman. Doug alluded to the “family” of volleyball and its strength that existed before, during and after the incident. He introduced Jim Scherr, CEO of the USOC, who also added his sentiments regarding our family. Mr. Scherr then introduced Al Monaco, who spoke briefly and asked all to enjoy the evening together.

I had invited our secret service agents and they all showed. What a great group of young people – so willing to help our contingency. What a great job that would be in my second life – special ops at the Olympics!!

Sue Woodstra and Diane French caught wind that there was a merchandise store right next door to the USA House. Karen Gee, her 16-year-old niece Amanda, and I were on their heels as we slipped out to see what treasures we could bring home. The Ralph Lauren items were way too expensive, but we all came away happy with our purchases. How great it was to share the reception with Karen Gee.

The men and women had to wait as many surrounded Jenny at our bus for pictures and autographs. Jenny being Jenny always accommodates her fans. Then we found out that we had to wait for our bus driver, who called his wife to bring the camera because Lang Ping was on his bus. Our men got a glimpse of what it is like to travel with Jenny. They were pretty amazed. On the way back, we were caught in traffic, Jenny spoke to the bus driver as we were in a stalemate. Jenny asked if I had a felt pen, I told her, “Of course, I have to when traveling with you.” The bus driver put the bus in park, stood up and had Jenny sign the back of his shirt!

We got into the Village around 8 p.m. feeling loved and very American. It was such a healthy diversion to the Games and to the emotional drain felt by both teams and the association. I told Al Monaco and Doug Beal how much I appreciated the way they handled the Bachman situation – there is no drill for what they had to do.

The staff watched the Cuba/China volleyball war on TV. Diane and Gen had gotten a taxi back to the gym to continue their scouting duties. I made it to bed early as I was really fatigued.

The bicycle deal has turned out to be a fiasco; Stacy’s bike fell apart on an outing and Danielle lost her peddle. Today I had them bring the bikes to practice – in the pouring rain; they put them under the bus in the storage compartment. When we approached the main gate at BNU, I called Wes (“the bike man”) to lend a hand with the unloading so the team could go on to practice. He did, but I received a call from Diane at the gym who said that there were two more bikes on the other side of the bus. I caught the next shuttle to the gym and retrieved the bikes and Diane and I brought them to lobby of the dorm. Wes had left, already in a taxi on his way to the bike shop – neither of us knew about the other two bikes.

By the end of a great practice, the bikes were ready for pick up. Everyone was happy with their repairs, except Danielle lost her peddle again – back to the bike shop tomorrow!! Okay I am about done with this project let me tell you. Great idea, but way too much time spent. I heard from Wes tonight that Rob Browning called him to place an order. Good luck Rob!

Still cold from the rainy walk, shoes and socks still wet and my shirt damp, it was home to the Village and after a hot shower, life was good. I decided to try to get to the men’s 10 p.m. match against Bulgaria. I hailed a taxi and was on my way to the Capital Gymnasium. We were given a map - a laminated card that attaches to our credentials. I just pointed to #13 and was on my way.

The match got underway a bit late due to the five-set match; China over Japan in front of a packed house. It was so good to be able to watch our men play. Even though they lost the first set, they were able to win the match. I rode the bus home with the team; no one was chosen for the doping test, so we were able to leave the arena shortly after 1 a.m.

It’s China tomorrow – should be a barn burner.

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