UPDATED BEACH WORLD JOURNAL Updates from the Grappling and Beach eventsAll four athletes from the U.S. Beach World Team are providing journal entries for TheMat.com. We will update them as they are received via email.
Carlos Dolmo, Bronx, N.Y. (Blast Double NY), Over 85 kg
Sunday, September 21
This morning I woke up refreshed ready to compete. Give it your all, have fun and leave it on the sand is my attitude and I've found lots of success with it. Jeff Funicello taught me a technique designed to help me get centered and ready to compete. The key was to use the technique before the match and get into the zone. Before my first match I used the technique and I felt ready instantly.
I won my first bout 2-0. My second match was against the 2006 Beach Champion. This match was a rematch of the 2006 Quarterfinal in which Ali Reza Kaya won on a questionable call. We met in the center of the sand and began to battle for position. He found an angle and pushed me for a point. The second point was scored the same way and he won the bout. He went on the win the gold and I had to settle for no medal.
Even though I didn't reach my goal, I was happy with the way I performed. In sports, as in life, its important that we learn from our mistakes. I feel that I will learn from this experience and get better. If anything, I added new friends and had an awesome vacation. I enjoyed spending time with Mike Proulx, Neil Cook, Coach Jason Townsend, Jeff and Jennifer Funicello.
Congrats to all my teammates and a great congrads to Jeff Funicello for winning his second World Medal. At the end of the Championships, Jeff and I made a pact that we won't walk away from Beach wrestling until we win a World Gold medal... I guess I'll be seeing you at the next Beach World Championships.
Satruday, September 20
Not much to report today as I relaxed for the big day tomorrow. Being that the Grappling event was today, I went to lend my support. Unfortunately, US team members Jeff Funicello and Mike Proulx had to compete against each other for the Bronze medal. It was an awesome fight but in the end Jeff won the bout and claimed the medal.
During the vist to the arena, several spectators just stared at me. One of the spectators called me Joe Frazier, go figure. First, I was Mike Tyson and now I'm Joe Frazier. At least I'm still a boxer.
Many other people said hello to me including the 2006 Beach World Champion Ali Reza Kaya of Turkey and 2007 World Champion Fatih Beh of Turkey. These guys are both class acts and despite our language barriers we are able to communicate and have great respect for each other. I look forward to competing with them tomorrow.
After the competition the group enjoyed a light dinner with our new friends from Bulgaria. Well that's all for today. I look forward to a great day tomorrow.
Friday, September 19
Last night I got some quality sleep. I haven't slept like that in such a long time. I slept a solid 9 hours. Upon awakening, the room was quiet. Mike and Neil apparently woke up earlier and had left for breakfast. I met with them in the restaurant and enjoyed some great cooking.
After breakfast we went to the local museum and then to tour the city of Tirana. I learned that Mother Theresa was born in Albania. During our visit to the museum, I met a High School teacher from Belarus. He told me his daughter lives in the Bronx and attends Monroe College also in the Bronx... what a small world.
After sightseeing, I traveled with the Grappling team for weighins to the local arena. While there, many kids called me Mike Tyson and wanted to feel my arms. Of course I played along. The team walked back to the hotel then had dinner. I look forward to tomorrow's competition. Good night.
Thursday, September 18
After getting some much needed sleep, I got up feeling really hungry. Neil Cook, Mike Proulx, and I went for breakfast and met with Jason Townsend. We had an awesome view of city of Tirana. After breakfast, we met up for practice. The Albanian Federation arranged travel for us with a bus. We stood in front of the hotel waiting for out ride when a man approached us and told us he was suppose to pick is up. We hesitated at first because his English wasn't good but eventually took the risk.
We got to the areana and met the Canadian Pankarition team. Their coach is a Grand Master of Pankartion and was on the show "Human Weapon." We practiced for an hour and then we walked back. Being that I am a big black man, people tend to look at me with amazement. I stick out like a sore thumb. Most people call out to me and say I look like Mike Tyson and ask for autographs.
In the evening, we had a team dinner and we finally caught up with Jeff and Jennifer Funicello. They went sight seeing early morning and it was great to hear of the places they visited. Mike, Neil, and I plan to visit the sauna this evening and then crash. OK until tomorrow.
Neil Cook, Rochester, N.Y. (Team Titan), Under 85 kg
Sunday, September 21
Hello from Albania. I ended up losing first round in the Grappling tournament. I was winning but got arm barred in the last 15 seconds! (I screwed up!) It was my second grappling tournament and I think it is lack of experience on the ground. Also, I am not as young as I once was ... Ha Ha
I was excited for Beach tournament. I ended up drawing a guy from Turkey first round. I ended up losing 2 to 1. I feel I gave him a pretty good match. He ended up winning the tournament. Losing in the first round puts you out of the tournament. I felt and still do feel like I let many people down but I also feel I could definitely wrestle with anyone in the tournament (but did not have the chance). But that's the way it goes. My fault for losing!
With out a doubt, Carlos, Mike, Jeff and Jason are some of the best people I have ever met in my entire life. They are total team players and have made this trip worth everything. Congrats to Jeff for winnning the bronze too!
The sportsmanship of the other countries was unreal. I cannot tell you how many pictures I have people from all over the world. It is too bad all problems could not be solved on the beach. Win or lose, shake hands and take some pics and laugh about it later with the guy you just wrestled. I will never forget this experience or the people I have met.
And yes, Carlos does snore, I will probably video it tonight and send it to youtube.
Thanks to everyone.
Friday September 19
We just weighed in for the Grappling tournament. The competition is supposed to start at 9 a.m. I am pretty darn nervous for this! I think there will be about eight people in my weight. I am going 80 kg for the Grappling.
We spent most of the day at a museum, and walking around Tirana. The culture is pretty incredible. About three or four times a day, you can hear the Muslim chants right from our hotel. If you go closer you can see hundreds of people praying. It was quite a sight to see. Thus far, people have been very nice and friendly to us.
Well, of to dinner and to get some rest. Hopefully I will have some good news about Grappling tomorrow! Again, this experience has been outstanding. On Sunday, we compete in the beach wrestling tournament. To everyone in Rochester, Brighton and Webster, N.Y. thanks for your support!!
Thursday, September 18
I arrived at Albania on Wednesday the 17th. I was picked up at the airport by Jason Townsend and a driver from the Albanian wrestling alliance. Let me be the first to tell you there are no stop signs, lights, or any type of lines on the road. There is lots of horn beeping and hand gestures. I would not be able to drive here ( I am a bad driver anyway!)
The hotel we are staying in is very nice. I am sharing a room with Carlos Dolmo, and Mike Proulx, both really good guys. All our meals are inclusive at the hotel and the food has been not only really good but also very healthy too.
We worked out a bit this morning , Jason was giving Mike and I some pointers for the grappling tournament on Saturday. Then we drilled a bit and broke a good sweat. We then walked back from the ygmnasium and got to see a lot of Albania. There are lots of small shops and there were scales on every street corner of every clothing shop. I just found out from Jason that clothing is sold by weight (and I thought I could check my weight on every street corner) We got back to the hotel and took a great sauna.
Tomorrow is weigh-ins for the grappling tournament. I plan on walking around the city, going to the museum, and going to try to get some gifts for people back home. That's all for now. I am beat!
Jeff Funicello, Mesa, Ariz. (American Pankration), Under 85 kg
Friday, September 19
We got up early and ate breakfast with the team on the terrace of the hotel. After breakfast the team went across the street to Albanian National Museum of History and got a chance to see some pretty cool stuff. We then walked around Skanderbeg Square for awhile.
After lunch we had Grappling weigh-ins, Mike, Neil and I made weight with no problems. We came back to the hotel after weigh-ins and ate dinner. Ironically, we sat with two Serbian athletes, as it turns out I have one of the guys in the first round tomorrow. Another tablemate was a Frenchman who is an anthropologist and wrestling historian. After dinner, Jennifer and I went for a walk around the square to work off some of the meal and to feed the stray dogs dinner scraps. Off to bed early.
Wednesday September 17
I arrived late last night and woke up and had a great breakfast with my wife Jennifer and Jason Townsend. We sat on the terrace overlooking Tirana. I went on a half-day tour with my wife to the nearby historic town of Kruja, which was once a stronghold of Albania's national hero, Skanderbeg. The town has an amazing fortress and castle and I was able to buy some very old coins from ancient Greece, Macedonia and Illyria. Our tour guide was a history buff and we learned a lot about Albanian history during our tour. It is a fascinating history. We returned to the hotel in time for dinner and afterward we went to bed, I was still exhausted from all the traveling.
Thursday, September 18
Jennifer and I got up early, had breakfast and headed out for an all-day tour of Durres and Berati with the same guide as the day before. The rest of team arrived on Wednesday and they opted to sleep in and get adjusted to the jet lag. Our guide was a special forces police officer (like a SWAT) and is now the personal bodyguard of the highest ranked police chief in Albania.
Durres is a city on the Adriatic and is where we will compete in Beach Wrestling on Sunday. Underneath Durres are ancient ruins that just now being excavated. We saw them uncovering an amphitheatre from an ancient Illyrian civilization. After the Illyrian society came the Romans and they surrounded the city with a giant wall. Amazingly, this wall is still standing and villagers have built there homes attached to it.
From Durres, we headed to a mountain town named Berati. This was my favorite thus far. There were no cars in Berati and people still lived within the walls of the ancient fortress castle atop the mountain. It was a very surreal experience. The village was from the Middle Ages and the last major renovations took place in the 17th century. The Albania government has named this town a National heritage site and any modernization is forbidden, giving us a chance to get a glimpse of life from 500 years ago. We had a traditional Albanian lunch of lamb, bean soup and fresh veggies and fruit with the castle walls. All the men sit around and play chess and backgammon. All along the countryside sit WWII era pillboxes used for machine guns and artillery during the Communist era of Enver Hoxha. Farmers now use the pillboxes as barns for their livestock.
We arrived back at the hotel in time for dinner and sat down for the first time with the rest of team members. Jennifer and I fed leftover table scraps to stray dogs near the hotel. Unfortunately in Tirana there are many malnourished dogs and cats wandering the streets. Jennifer and I are animal lovers and in Mesa we rescue dogs and cats so we continued our work in Albania. It is time to rest and my bed is calling me.
Mike Proulx, Bath, Maine (unattached), Under 85 kg
Wednesday, September 17
Arriving in Albania was amazing. The topography, the mountains are beautiful. When Carlos and I arrived at the airport, we were greeted by a cute girl about my age who immediately offered to carry my bag. I could use a greeting like that when I get home =)
The food here is really good. All the produce and meat is really good quality, very fresh. The hotel we're staying at, the Tirana International Hotel, is really classy too. I do have to say, the treatment we're getting here is wonderful. I have definitely found the motivation to try and compete like this more and more.
Tuesday, September 16
From JFK we flew to Budapest Hungary and arrived at about 7:30 am. There's a 6 hour time difference, so the flight itself lasted about 8 hours. On the flight over I finished Fight Club, listened to some more music, and slept some more.
They fed us a lot on the flight. It tasted pretty good but it didn't sit well. All that pre-packaged stuff provides calories but isn't ideal. It felt like putting regular gas into a car that uses Plus. I mean, I don't eat rich food, but it's usually wholesome.
I also got to know this guy who sat next to me on the flight, Sam. He is a pre-med student in Romania and is studying to be a dentist. He was staying in the U.S. for 3 months on a workers visa. He told me he worked at a Burger King in Cleveland. "And you know what?" he said to me, "the food there sucks!" haha
He also told me some crazy story about a homeless guy who was brazen enough to come right into his house, shower up, and eat from the fridge one Saturday morning. And the kicker was when he found him on the balcony, he didn't flinch or say anything other than "good morning."
By the way, this took place in Romania, not Cleveland, so if you're reading this from Cleveland, no need to worry. Of course. locking your doors at night is always a good idea.
During the layover in Hungary I also met a local from Albania, Ditmir was his name. He shared some stories with me, some history, and helped me with my pronunciation on basic Albanian phrases.
He told me he plays soccer at some university in Missouri, so he must be pretty good. He looks kind of skinny for a college athlete though. He kind of reminds me of Borat. There's the accent and he like to talk about the ladies.
Monday, September 15
Left home at about 5:30 a.m., left the bus station at 7:30 a.m,, arrived in NYC at 3:10 p.m., arrived at JFK at 4:30 p.m., then boarded and left the USA at 5:30 p.m.
To pass the time on the bus ride I tried reading, and put a pretty good dent in Fight Club. I've seen the movie about a million times but there were some funny things that got left out of the movie. Besides that, I just listened to my iPod and slept a lot.
In the past week I've heard "good luck" and "give 'em hell" more times than ever before in my life. I've also spent a lot of time explaining what Beach wrestling is. A few weeks ago, I just started telling people I'm going on vacation. It's an honor to be on Team USA. In fact, it's the biggest honor I've ever received in my life, but I felt like I was bragging when I told people.
"What are you doing today?"
"I'm going to work to fill out some TPS reports for the hundredth time. You?"
"I'm going to the World Wrestling Games in Albania because I'm on Team USA and I'm awesome." Not my style, but I digress.
I recognized Carlos Dolmo in line for my flight and was relieved that someone else from the team was on the same one. We talked some after checking in. He and my coach, Joe Pistone, actually go way back. Small world.