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"The Rookie and The Vet" - Entry 5

June 25, 2014, 5:30 p.m. (ET)
The veteran is preparing his mind and body for one of the toughest challenges of his handball career.

His teammate is gearing up to compete in his first ever international tournament donning the Red, White, and Blue.

One has an idea of what to expect. The other is ready for anything.

They both have their sights on the elusive Pan American Championships gold medal. And you get to read their story as they blog their way through the experience.

Captain Jordan Fithian and first-year member of Team USA, Ebiye Udo-Udoma, present: “The Rookie and The Vet” – Blogs from the Pan American Championships.

Entry #3: The Vet
June 25, 2014

Too bad it’s winter down here in Montevideo. Our hotel is right on the beach and I could be working on my tan. On second thought, maybe it’s a good thing it’s chilly so we can focus on the task at hand. We arrived in Montevideo Sunday afternoon after another long-ish travel day. Our layover was overnight in Porto Alegre, a World Cup event-hosting town in South Brazil. The flight to Montevideo and the ride to our hotel were rather uneventful.

Practice Sunday night was much needed. Due to scheduling we hadn’t been on the court together since playing Brazil in the second friendly on Friday night. Refreshed and refocused, we used the 45 minutes on the court to continue preparing for the long week ahead. On arrival back at the hotel, we found out that, not surprisingly, a team had dropped out of the tournament, and therefore, PATHF decided to reschedule the games in a different format. Venezuela, who was in our group, failed to show, dropping our number of teams in the pool to four, now matching the other pool. The pools did not change, just the game times and opponents.

The new schedule allowed us another preparation/rest day on Monday with play in our pool kicking off on Tuesday with us facing Brazil. Venezuela dropping out and us facing Brazil first was probably the best thing that could have happened. This gave us the chance to play a team we somewhat knew and allow us to get used to the venue (it’s really cold) and scout the other two teams we will need to beat in order to move onto the semifinals on Saturday. Although we improved over last week’s performances, Brazil was still the better team and we lost 28-17. Most importantly, nobody was injured and our defense was markedly improved compared to the two games we played last week. We are heading in the right direction.

Uruguay and Guatemala played each other in the second game on Tuesday. Uruguay was obviously the better team and proved it, dismantling the Guatemalan’s 36-19 and setting up a pretty decisive match Wednesday night. If we beat Uruguay and handle business Thursday night against Guatemala, we will advance to the semifinals and give ourselves a chance to play for a spot in the World Championships. This is the goal and the reason the federation spent the money to allow us to compete in this tournament. Anything less than an all effort tonight would be a major disappointment. There is no excuse to not dominate the next two games and put ourselves in a position we haven’t been in for 10+ years. The next two days will be exciting.

Hotel Cottage is a very nice establishment in Carrasco, a rich suburb on the Eastern side f Montevideo. The rooms are well furnished, the waterfall showerheads are high enough that I don’t have to duck and the sinks are big enough to do laundry in. The food hasn’t been the same every meal and is ridiculously tasty. The real fireplace downstairs is necessary and gives off a homely feeling. The staff is friendly and helpful and put up the invasion of 120 stinky, smelly, foreign dudes spreading themselves out around the hotel.

As mentioned above we are right on the beach, although it’s cold and rainy most of the time so there’s nothing going on, but it’s a nice view to wake up to in the morning. The gym, that’s an hour bus ride away, has no heat, giving the feeling that you’re playing outside on a cold fall day. Guys on the bench are huddled in jackets to try and stay warm. They put two portable heaters in the stands yesterday to try and generate some heat for the spectators. It’s almost comical. We only hope it stays relatively warm, a cold front hitting the rest of the week would make for an interesting wrinkle to the tournament. The cold doesn’t bother fat kids like myself but some who are used to warmer climates and gyms are not happy about playing when you can see your breath.

Wednesday night we play against the hosts in prime time. It's do or die for the US. Put up or shut up time. We win, we stand a good chance of advancing to the semis and playing for a spot in Qatar. We lose, and all we have to play for is pride the rest of the week. The gym should be packed and the atmosphere should be electric. I need a nap to prepare so I’m out. Thanks for all the support from back home, it means a lot to me and the rest of the guys.

USA!
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