U.S. Women's National Team Journal with Joan Powell
July 1, 2008 * Taipei, Chinese Taipei * FIVB World Grand Prix
The team and staff were up at 3:15 a.m. to catch the bus to the airport. We arrived in plenty of time to depart Wroclaw, Poland, for Chinese Taipei. We said our goodbyes to Angie McGinnis and Coach Li who will go back to Colorado Springs, Gen who will return to Japan and hopefully meet up with us in a week for the World Grand Prix Final Round and Doctor Lori who will return home to Kansas City to her husband, 6 year-old twins and her practice.
The Thailand team was already at the airport as they were flying to Bangkok as they will be playing the next leg in their homeland. The Dominicans were on our flight all the way to Hong Kong where they play their next leg. Kate was gifted by captain Lindsey Berg with a USA jersey, with her name on the back; she was touched. Kate will return to her home and then she will travel to Vienna to work the European championships which is a part of her sport management studies in college. She was an excellent interpreter/guide. She certainly knows our team as this is her third stint with team USA at a Poland Grand Prix.
Security gets old, but Kim Glass provided us with some humor. Emery, our trainer, had been asking Kim for the past couple days to check her bag and belongings for the tape scissors. Kim’s bag went through the screening, but security had spotted an unauthorized item. Kim told her that it had to be her toothpaste. Kim reached in the bag and pulled out – Emery’s scissors and held them up for everyone to see. Emery was behind Kim in line mimicking the “I don’t have them” line and the scissors were confiscated. Our 6:20 flight to Warsaw was uneventful; the layover however was quite lengthy – almost four hours. A couple hours over to Amsterdam and we had to hustle to our next gate for Hong Kong.
It is interesting to watch the experienced team members scurry to gates to talk to agents in an effort to assure a seat with leg room. Naturally they prefer aisles or exit rows; they have been fortunate as some have secured the bulk head rows. A very nice (tall/empathetic) KLM flight attendant moved Tayyiba to first class on our Amsterdam leg and then came back for Kim Glass and Foluke.
Flying into Hong Kong was quite a site. I was amazed at the number of high-rise buildings on such limited space and the green hills all surrounded by the ocean. The team is very self-sufficient; many have frequented these airports before, either on international trips with the national team or with their particular club teams.
We arrived at our gate only to experience a delay. Most scampered off to duty free stores, Starbucks, some to brush their teeth or a combination of a couple stops. Jenny was recognized by some passengers, she posed for a dad with his two little ones.
It was just announced that we have yet another delay to Taipei. So I am sitting next to Kim Willoughby who has agreed to share some of her story with me. Kim is from Louisiana, but was a dual sport athlete at the University of Hawaii. Her first experience with USA volleyball was in the summer of 1996 as an eighth grader. I had a previous conversation with Kim this trip regarding her basketball prowess. She divulged that she is the only female that played professionally in two sports winning both championships in the same year. She went on to say that she has not played basketball professionally for two years as she opted to play volleyball in Italy.
When asked about Olympic basketball, she said that she would love to try out for the team, but right now her sights are on volleyball in Beijing. She said,” If the volleyball roster was announced and I was not on it and had the opportunity to try out for basketball I would do it in a heart beat.”
Kim’s mother is instrumental in convincing her to return to USA volleyball, since her hiatus in 2004. After suffering a couple of strokes due to a severe car accident in 1999, Kim’s mom’s dream has been to have Kim be a part of the Olympic dream. (Just read NBC’s interview with Tayyiba – she also had a cute “Mom story” about a sport bra that her Mom brought Tayyiba from the Atlanta Games as a token of luck for her dream for her daughter.)
It is always nice to get to know the team members on a personal basis. They are after all just women, yes who happen to be representing the United States by playing volleyball at the highest level, but still love to shop, talk about family, guys and music and love to banter with each other.
Tayyiba, who just returned to our campsite of luggage from the famous Gucci store models her new purchase - a “must have” Gucci purple bag with matching wallet!! Tayyiba is so chic. She’s come a long way from her sport bra days!!!
We finally boarded for our less than two hour flight to Chinese Taipei – nice KLM flight – great seats and not so crowded. We arrived and stood in customs for awhile, some longer than others. There are some on this team that know how to pick the line, and those that don’t!
By the time Diane, Cynthia Barboza and I made it to luggage; all of it had been placed on carts ready for the bus. “All,” I say, that is all that had made it. We are missing seven bags. I would be one of the unfortunate. I do carry-on, just for these situations, so I have everything I need for the next couple days. So we made the necessary claims and off we went.
We were greeted by our interpreters/guides, Li Ping and Wei Hsin. The bus ride took us on the eight lane highway with dense trees flanking both sides. Then we entered the city proper – lots of store front and a ton of signage – people hustling and bustling, a great number of scooters on the streets or parked everywhere in an orderly fashion.
We are staying at the Imperial Hotel and it is beautiful. The rooms are really nice. I got settled in as did our delegation. Of course, some of us took less time as we had less luggage! I wonder when it will arrive????
The best thing about this hotel – I have Internet!!! I am so excited – am sure Bill Kauffman is, not to mention my family. Hi Mom!!
Squeezed in a run, pretty humid outside. Showered and met the team on the 12th floor for a fabulous dinner. The pineapple was outstanding as was the selection of entrees. Jenny, Diane and Sue were planning training, etc as they were handed the schedule for this week on the bus from the airport. I was able to snag a case of water from the organizers in the workroom. I told you earlier, it is all about water and towels and of course laundry! And Sue mentioned that it will be one heck of a week of wiping floors due to the humidity. I found that the bath mats are much better than the hotel towels. I will have to make nice with the housecleaning staff. More pins Carla!! Kidding!
After dinner, I bought some postcards and ran into Robyn Ah Mow-Santos and Coach Tom Logan who had just arrived in Taiwan. Okay, I must admit, I then had a surreptitious meeting with Jenny and Diane next door to have our travel aches and pains taken care of by a local massage establishment. Just as we were finishing up a rather deep, but good foot massage, the referees came in – I took a picture of them as they settled into their chairs with masseuses at their feet and told them it was for Tom Blue; they all laughed.
Back to work tomorrow – Round 3 begins with training after breakfast!! Gott a get some sleep for the ball shagging and floor wiping!!
Team Leader, U.S. Women's National Team at World Grand Prix