Joan Powell Olympic Journal for Aug. 20

Aug. 21, 2008, 7:07 a.m. (ET)

Aug. 20, 2008

After Jenny, or as the team calls her JLP, received her honorary professorship at Beijing Normal University from the institution’s President yesterday, we asked if we had to refer to her as professor or doctor or her majesty!!

I left a note for Linda, who is in charge of USOC housing, that it was a great day as my wardrobe closet hinge was fixed thanks to her and in my mail box were the three t shirts I had given to the swimming team leader (through her) for none other than Michael Phelps to sign! Jenny had heard that Michael was on the first floor in the medical facility. Jenny, Diane (whose husband is a swim coach) and I took our t shirts downstairs. Michael (like I know him!) was in the tub – oh, it took everything for me not to take a picture of him with his arms outstretched relaxing on the metal tub. Need I say what his shoulders looked like? The doctor suggested that this was not a good time to bother him. I called the team leader from swimming and Lindsay suggested we leave the shirts in her mailbox, but warned us that she cannot promise anything – but if she could, it would have to take place after all his races – she meant after all his medals!!

What a day, the three shirts were signed and Jenny, Di and I were happy as clams! I had just purchased a t-shirt with a picture of the gorgeous and unique swim venue for a friend of mine. My husband and I met Janet at the Marian House soup kitchen in Colorado Springs. We were so sad when she moved back to Pennsylvania, for she brought joy to us and many others every Tuesday. I had met her daughter Nicole, who is a swimmer and has trained with Michael Phelps. So the special t-shirt goes to Nicole. Of course, I am now kicking myself for not getting one for me, but I know it will make their day.

Okay, so the real story is last night’s contest against the shell-shocked Italy and as my one line email from Doctor Lori Boyajian-O’Neill (team doctor for the WGP) put it: “BERRRRRRRGGGGGG!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Oh my goodness. Diane French and I were fortunate to have front row seats just behind Lindsey Berg as she started off the fourth set for the USA team who was down 1-2 to the Italians in the quarterfinals. After the lineups were checked, she was given the ball to begin the set. As Diane said later,” Lindsey had fierce determination.” I have never seen such a look of control and grit. She was able to deliver some serious heat to her jump serve that caused havoc for the Italian team. The USA team was only allowed to transition twice, once with an overpass kill by Danielle. Of the eight straight points, Lindsey served three aces and the remainder of the points was provided by Italian errors.

Lindsey, as the setter, also brought in more of a middle attack dishing an array of quicks and slides. The change caused disorder to the comfortable high outside game that both teams seemed content with in the earlier sets.

It was such a thrill to watch our team play ahead and play with such confidence which assisted our mental state as we took the court for the final set. Robyn won the toss and elected to serve. Bergie again started us off serving five straight. The lead was devastating to Italy; they were stunned to say the least. This was not the same team that we faced in the first three sets. A 15-6 victory against Italy was big, but even bigger was the fact that we were in the “Final Four.”

The late night 5-set matches has become our mantra. As captain, Robyn addressed the press conference media and complimented her teammate Lindsey Berg and spoke of our team effort. Jenny was her typical humble self, complimenting the Italians for all the times they have beaten the USA and gave kudos to her own team for fighting very hard and not giving up. When she mentioned the phone call that she received following the draw from the team leader, my heart jumped a beat. She simply said that she was a little concerned at our draw, but immediately began to study Italy’s rotations.

Back to the Village after showering and waiting for one of our players who was elected for random drug testing by WADA. Our special agents from the State Department, who were waiting with us, just simply shook their heads as they are sort of used to the late night come-from-behind thrillers. The two female agents informed me that they were cut from volleyball in junior high and now they love being around the game and us. They are so helpful with Jenny’s security and a pleasure to be around.

Even though it was 1 a.m., most dined at the 24-hour cafeteria – and most went to McDonald’s to celebrate! The women and staff were elated and tired as they quietly entered our still dorm with Cuba on everyone’s mind. Because of the draw, there are three teams from our pool, Cuba, China and us with Brazil the solo team from Pool B. Also interesting to note that even though the European league is very powerful, they will be absent from this Olympics’ semis.

Back at the dorm I checked my emails in the coaches’ lounge and made a phone call home; I got a quick report from my husband. He, Ashley, our daughter, and his father’s day present, Beijing, our new golden doodle, are all doing fine. I called my mother, whose doctor allowed her to postpone her cancer surgery until my return, was watching our delayed match in Tucson. I told her that we just finished the match and that I would not tell her the result. She quickly told me that she was okay and said goodbye and hung up! What a fan, what a trooper.

I did not even get to tell my Mom that I completed the autographs for her doctor with the famous beach duo. Prior to Olympic competition we were in the gym training and Misty May came in and sat for awhile watching her indoor friends. I told her about my mom’s doctor being a big fan of hers and Kerry’s. She wrote a note to Dr. Power telling her to “Dream the Gold.” I had seen Kerry at Opening Ceremonies and she commented on the rosary beads in my hand; I told my mom that I would carry them during the ceremony. So Kerry understood the significance when I told her about my mom.

I saw Kerry in the stands last night and just happened to have Misty’s prescription for health with me. After the second set, Kerry was gracious enough to write a personal note to Dr. Power as well. Oh my gosh, if that won’t cure my mom, I don’t know what will!!

It was nice to sleep in a little, but crawling in at 3 a.m. still didn’t give me the rest needed. Who cares; it’s the Olympics and we are in contention for a medal!!

I had to cancel our FIVB practice site as we were going to BNU today. I also had to call Kelly, the training scheduler and then make a trip to the Sports Information to schedule our departure for the Cuba match and pick up the Bulletin from yesterday’s matches for the coaches. Along with the statistical information, the Control Committee announced the uniform color for our next match – USA in white and Cuba in red.

I brought the information back to the coaches. Jenny was concerned that the last time we played Cuba we were in white and Cuba was in red and we lost. She asked me to go back to Sports Information to request a change of jersey color to blue. Back on the bike, I had to make a formal written request so it could be faxed to the committee.

The team was up in time for a 10:30 a.m. video meeting, some lunch and practice at BNU – “no rest for the wicked!” The housekeeping staff gave me a big hefty bag and I was quite the site on my bike with my backpack and this huge yellow plastic bag in one hand. On the BNU bus, I was dropped off at the dorm so I could leave our uniforms for the laundry service. I met the USOC ticket gal who had the athlete’s semifinal tickets for me and would meet me at the bus stop – and that she did. I quickly made a list and handed out the complimentary two tickets to each of our players and had them sign for them. Upon our return I will be allotted whatever number the gal will be able to secure for us – for sale to our team.

I stopped by the post office on the way to the BNU bus. Everyday the USOC has postcards available with photos of USA athletes/teams from the various sports. A couple days ago they featured volleyball. They had taken a wonderful shot of an on court celebration after one of Heather Bown’s blocks. I took a few and had some of the gals sign them and sent to them their respective college coaches/teams. The three Hawaiians signed two cards – one for Dave Shoji, coach of the Wahines and one for Charlie Wade, former assistant for Hawaii and now the UOP head coach. I sent one to Stanford from Logan and Ogonna and one to Brian Gimillaro and Debbie Green from Long Beach State from Danielle and Ty. And finally I sent one to Arizona’s Dave Rubio from Kim Glass. All of these players were pictured in the photo/postcard.

As we were getting on the bus, Bob Gambardella, head of transportation, informed us that we had just missed Tony Blair. Dang and I could have pinned him.

The women’s BB team was practicing in the gym prior to us with some media attention. The soccer women just happened by as the BB women were finishing up and the volleyball women were preparing to start their practice. It was as frenzy – some great photos of the basketball gals attempting to spike volleyballs, our women taking shots at the hoops, the sharing of pins and banter and finally an entire three-sport group photo. It could not have been orchestrated any better than that.

Carol Callan, former Denver area high school BB coach, now women’s BB Olympic team leader, nudged me to say that whenever we were ready, she would certainly gather her troops. I checked with Jenny and she said, “No this is good – let them go a bit.” And good it was - to be around other USA hopefuls in medal contention. The camaraderie was felt throughout the gymnasium. It was light and certainly led to a productive practice for our women.

After practice, it was ticket time again! The USOC gal called to say that she could get us 42 tickets – I quickly talked to the players as they were cooling down. I called her back to ask the price – she told me 200 RMB, only for her to call me back to say that she could get some at 300 and some at 200 RMB. Back to the team – yikes, what a fiasco. Then once again she had changed the count just as Doug Beal called to say that he needed one for someone.

Longer story that needs be, bottom line - everyone got what they needed. Some had to pay a higher price than others, but when it comes to family and friends at the Olympics – no worries.

Got off the BNU bus and ran into Val Sterk Kemper, former member of Michigan State’s squad and the women’s national team along with her husband, triathlete Hunter. I had seen where he had finished seventh in his contest. It was so good to see them at the Village. Val has always been a favorite of mine. Hunter and Val are in need of a couple tickets for tomorrow’s 12:30 match. They have tickets for the gold beach match with Misty and Kerry.

I picked up my laundry and went to the bookstore to purchase the Opening Ceremonies DVD – can’t wait to watch it when I get home and relive the dream. Grabbed some dinner and started getting phone calls from the players affirming there whereabouts. Most had gone to see family at the USA House and were reporting in; they were back in the Village. Sweet! I can get a cab and go watch the men play Serbia in their quarterfinals.

The men obviously wanted to copy the women with their 10pm five set match. My stomach cannot take much more of this!! One of Priddy’s serves was clocked at 116 kilometers per hour. The men’s game is so much fun to watch. I saw some serious taunting through the net and some balls that were hit and kicked into the stands – either unnoticed by the referees or chosen to ignore.

They won the match 15-13!!

For us it’s Cuba tomorrow, we are in blue and all is good with the world!