USA Racquetball News 2015 Pan Am Games

2015 Pan Am Games

July 16, 2015, 6:49 p.m. (ET)


l-r: Jake Bredenbeck, Kim Russell-Waselenchuk, Jansen Allen, Rhonda Rajsich, Jose Rojas, Michelle Key and Rocky Carson.

Toronto 2015 XVII Pan Am Games
July 19-26, 2015 • Toronto, Canada


The 2015 U.S. Pan American Racquetball Team will be part of fifty-six (56) of the world’s best racquetball athletes that will first compete in individual events for medals to be earned in men’s and women’s singles and doubles. The final three days will feature countries competing head-to-head, with finals taking place on July 26.

We will also be providing daily blogs here on our website. Read the first installment of the blog from Cheryl Kirk, Team Leader below. Follow along as Team USA competes in the 2015 Pan American Games with these helpful links.

• Link to TEAM USA Challenge information to support the Team
http://www.teamusa.org/USA-Racquetball/Programs/Team-USA/TEAM-USA-CHALLENGE
 
• Link to Toronto 2015 Facebook page
https://www.facebook.com/toronto2015
 
• Link to Draws
http://results.toronto2015.org/IRS/en/racquetball/schedule-and-results.htm
 
• Link to racquetball page on Pan Am Games website
http://www.toronto2015.org/racquetball


Team USA Coaches and Staff
Head Coach
Dave Ellis
 
Assistant Coach
R.O. Carson

Team Trainer
Brent Huff
 
Team Leader
Cheryl Kirk


Pan American Games

Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Blog #11

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Coach Dave wraps it up:
 

“Today’s results can be summed up with one family-acceptable word, “Shucks.” We were in the finals of both the men’s and women’s team competition, and we came out on the short end in both categories. In both divisions, our singles players lost, so our doubles teams never got the chance to get on the court today. Our team competition ended up with two silver medals. Each and every player in our delegation is admired for the dedication they bring to our sport. It sounds really glamorous being here, but actually it is the result of countless hours of training both on and off the court. My gratitude goes out to each of you.



 
“We end with Team USA earning two gold, two silver, and two bronze: six medals to add to our country’s medal count. Everyone in the delegation received at least one medal, and each player should be exceptionally proud of that achievement. Qualifying for the Pan Am delegation is not easy, and it is really cool to be a part of what is racquetball’s “Olympics.”
 
“As Coach, I’m truly indebted to our staff. Cheryl Kirk is our Team Leader and she brings years of organizational experience that makes everyone’s trip run so nice and smoothly. Brent Huff is there for the players throughout the day, giving countless treatments and massages. R.O. Carson is there for all of the matches, simply wracking his brain to find any little thing that would give our players even the smallest advantage. Thanks so much to you three dedicated people. The players and I are sincerely grateful for your work.
 

“I’ll also mention the encouragement of President Larry Haemmerle, Vice President Jason Thoerner, Executive Director Steve Czarnecki, and the entire National Team Committee. Signing off, I am proud of my role of National Team Coach and the experience of working with our country’s top players.”



 
Men’s Team – USA vs. Mexico
 
Jake Bredenbeck lost to Daniel de La Rosa, 12-15, 12-15
Rocky Carson lost to Alvaro Beltran, 12-15, 7-15 (injury)
Jansen Allen/José Rojas vs. Alvaro Beltran/Javier Moreno – did not play
 
Women’s Team – USA vs. Mexico
 
Michelle Key lost to Samantha Salas, 3-15, 9-15
Rhonda Rajsich lost to Paola Longoria, 6-15, 12-15
Rhonda Rajsich/Kim Russell-Waselenchuk vs. Paola Longoria/Samantha Salas – did not play

Racquetball Medal Recap
 
US Team players are bringing medals home to the USA!

Individual:
Rocky Carson -- Gold
José Rojas and Jansen Allen -- Gold
Rhonda Rajsich -- Bronze (2)
Kim Russell-Waselenchuk -- Bronze

Team:
Men's: Rocky Carson, Jake Bredenbeck, José Rojas, and Jansen Allen -- Silver
Women's: Rhonda Rajsich, Kim Russell-Waselenchuk, and Michelle Key -- Silver
 
USA Medal Count – Total (Gold)
As of 1:00 am EDT, 27 July
 
USA 265 (103)
Canada 217 (78)
Brazil 141 (41)
Cuba 97 (36)
Mexico 95 (22)
 
Thank You’s
 
The US Team Delegation wishes to deliver our gratitude to those who made this event so truly memorable:
 

Volunteers, 23,000 strong! Each of us has said more than once that the volunteers were just fabulous – friendly, respectful, and they took their jobs very seriously. We couldn’t be more appreciative of the job they did to make these Games successful.



 
The USOC staff, including Linda Addington, Nancy Gonsalves, Lynn Wentland, A.J. Turkovich, Tony Olivieri, Sheri Escher, Tammie Forster, Rebecca Crawford, and many others. I feel like they should all be wearing a button that says, “Yes! Now, what’s the question?” Really, they embody this concept. Every question, every request was met with good humor and immediate action. They’ve been here in Toronto a solid month but they seemed as fresh as if they had just arrived.
 
Dave Walden and Paige Stewart, for their support at the venue.
 
Crystal Peiris, Devon Robertson, and Sarah Araujo of Toronto 2015
 
Rafael Fernandez, President of the Pan American Racquetball Confederation, for his efforts on behalf of the racquetball delegations
 
The IRF/PARC tournament staff (Osvaldo Maggi, Francisco Kurzbard, Walter Capandegui, Pablo Berriel, and Mauro Grandio)
 
The 20 referees who traveled from six countries* to serve the players and spectators (*Mexico, Argentina, Colombia, Canada, Costa Rica, and USA)
 
Jack McBride, Jan Hanson, Racquetball Canada, and Racquetball Ontario for their work to promote the visibility of racquetball and to ensure a smoothly running venue throughout the event.
 
Jonathan and Carolyn Clay of Rollout Racquetball for being Official Apparel Sponsor for USA Racquetball and the US Team
 
Cheerleaders (family and friends) who were with us through the highs and the lows. So great to have you here!
 
Those at home who supported Team USA by being with us in spirit. 

And, of course, Coach Dave Ellis, who puts his heart into coaching the team. His record of five winning IRF World Championships and other key events as well has made impact on the past, present, and future of racquetball.

Last but not least, Leo Vasquez who stopped whatever else he might have been doing as soon as a blog and photos were ready for posting!
 
Closing Ceremonies
 
Rogers Centre (home to the Toronto Blue Jays) is a multi-purpose stadium in downtown Toronto, Ontario, Canada situated just southwest of the CN Tower near the northern shore of Lake Ontario. Sunday night it was the site of the Pan American Games Closing Ceremony. An estimated 37,000 people were on hand to view the show that included Kanye West, Pitbull, and Serena Ryder.
 
Athletes and delegates had loaded into buses inside the Village to travel to the Closing Ceremonies. Once we arrived, we went into a staging area where we waited about an hour until it was time to mobilize the hundreds of athletes for the processional into the stadium. Differing from the Opening Ceremonies, this time the athletes did not proceed in by country in alphabetical order, and flag bearers (one from each country) symbolically went onto the stage to represent their countries.
 
The two-hour show featured a light show, fireworks, videos, dancers, and the Hamilton Children’s Choir. A highlight of the ceremony was the passing of the PASO (Pan American Sports Organization) flag from the mayor of Toronto to the mayor of Lima, Peru, the site of the 2019 Pan American Games. Note: Racquetball has already been named as a full medal sport to be competed there in Lima.
 

Back to the Village by 11:00 pm, it was a last visit to Main Dining, then on to packing, and departure for seven of us at 2:00 am. Five hours before the flight!  Glad the USOC is picking up United Airlines bag charges including overweight. Brent and I are the lucky ones – a flight at 7:00 am EDT and we’re back at O’Hare at 7:49 am CDT. The rest have connections, but everyone except RO and Jansen will be sleeping in their own beds Monday night. (RO and his family are driving home, and Jansen is spending an extra day in Toronto with his family.)



 
To conclude...
 
Thanks for tuning in to the blogs, and thanks to Dave Ellis for his nightly contributions that mean so much in bringing this experience to the racquetball world.

The US Team sends heartfelt gratitude for all of your support via Facebook, Twitter, email, text messages, and telepathy.
 
Great Job, Team USA! You represented your country’s racquetball family very well indeed.
 
Signing off from the Toronto Airport, homeward bound!
 
-- Cheryl Kirk


Pan American Games
Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Blog #10

Saturday, July 25, 2015

…and the celebration continues! What an exciting day for Team USA here in Toronto!

Coach Dave Ellis reports:

“Nearly perfect today with four wins in the morning and four out of five in the afternoon/evening.  Kim and Rhonda took care of the Colombian team in the morning, thus earning the right to play Canada’s Jen Saunders and Frederique Lambert in the semifinals. The strategy was to play to Kim, hitting lots of shots in her direction as well as double serving her. Kim hung in there and responded consistently with good shots. Rhonda played solidly throughout. The second game was close with the USA winning 15-14. Jen Saunders kept the Canadians alive with lots of soft pinches for winners.

 
“Men’s Doubles saw José and Jansen defeat Venezuela in the morning. In the evening on the Main Court, our guys got their revenge over Canada, hitting solid shots throughout. It was no contest as José and Jansen dominated, 15-4, 15-9. 
 
“Jake had a bye in the morning. In the evening, he ran into the always-tough Mike Green. Jake is a tremendous talent with loads of racquetball tools. Jake plays Daniel de la Rosa of Mexico tomorrow, leading off our Men’s Team in the Team Competition final.
 
“Michelle Key, in spite of an illness early in the competition, has been improving steadily throughout. Today, Michelle dominated one of Canada’s best players ever, 15-2 and 15-6. Michelle has so much potential. Her game will continue to mature, and she will continue to make believers out of all the racquetball community.
 
“On the singles side, Rhonda got a forfeit this morning from Colombia and then, thanks to Michelle's win, she didn’t have to play against Canada.Tomorrow, our women move into the final with Mexico, and Rhonda will be playing against Paola Longoria. Michelle is scheduled to play Samantha Salas, and then Rhonda and Kim will be up against the same two Mexican women. 
 

“At this point, all of Team USA is smiling as we move into both the men's and women's finals tomorrow morning. Let’s go TEAM USA. Let’s get it done!”

 
Saturday’s Results
 
Quarterfinal Round -- Men
US vs. Venezuela
Rocky def. Cesar Castillo, 15-9, 15-4
José/Jansen def. Cesar Castro/Cesar Castillo, 15-4, 15-8
Jake – did not play
  
Semifinal Round – Men
US vs. Canada
José/Jansen def. Tim Landeryou/Vincent Gagnon, 15-4, 15-9
Jake lost to Mike Green 6-15, 12-15
Rocky def. Coby Iwaasa, 15-6, 15-14
 
Quarterfinal Round -- Women
US vs. Colombia
Rhonda def. Carolina Gomez (won by forfeit)
Rhonda/Kim def. Cristina Amaya/Carolina Gomez, 15-4, 15-8
Michelle – did not play
 
Semifinal Round – Women
US vs. Canada
Rhonda/Kim def. Jen Saunders/Frederique Lambert, 15-12, 15-14
Michelle def. Jen Saunders, 15-2, 15-6 **
Rhonda – did not play
 
While Dave was busy at Court 1 coaching Jake, Michelle's parents Darold and Karen Key were watching on Skype with Brent holding the phone. In addition to RO’s coaching advice, Darold had some suggestions to make as well. “Basically, my dad was telling me what serves to use and to focus on my shots.”
 
Team USA has loads of support from near and far!
 
Featured Player of the Day – Rhonda Rajsich
 
Rhonda Rajsich of Phoenix, AZ (born and raised), has played racquetball for most of her life, having hit the courts under her father and godfather’s influence at the tender age of 2. Her occupation? She says with a smile, “Pro racquetball player, lover of life.” When she’s not playing the LPRT, she conducts racquetball and basketball lessons and clinics.
 
When asked about her most memorable moment in racquetball, Rhonda, who ended the LPRT season in the #3 position, replied, “Winning the IRF Worlds in Ireland in 2008. I wasn’t supposed to be there and ended up winning the World Championship. That was my first title, with the second in 2010 in Korea.”
 
Rhonda thanks her sponsors (Rollout Racquetball, Racquetball Warehouse, Restrung Magazine, 3WallBall). She wants to recognize her father Dennis Rajsich and mother Deneen Thurow for their lifelong support, and she also thanks Coach Jim Winterton, Trainers Jarrett East and Jim Walter, Jason Bronson, Kristi Turner (massage therapist), Dr. Michael Leff (chiropractor), Brent Huff (US Team trainer), and Toni Delos Santos (mental coach).
 
Some of Rhonda's other interests/hobbies outside racquetball include Apple (being a geek), basketball, training, music/movies/shows, and eating.
 
How does it feel to play for the USA? “It is truly an honor to wear USA on our backs and to compete for our country. So few athletes get the chance, and it is an unforgettable experience to share a single vision and goal with a team in what is usually an ‘individual’ sport. It’s pretty special when you hear the cheers and support from teammates who are usually your opponents for the other 99% of the season. We all bleed Red, White, and Blue together at these special events and give our all to represent the USA.”
 
Featured Staff Member of the Day – Cheryl Kirk
 
US Team Leader Cheryl Kirk grew up in Decatur, IL, and resides in Naperville, IL, with her husband of 18 years, Kit Lawson, dog Hayley and cat KC.
 
Cheryl began playing and competing in racquetball 38 years ago but didn’t really get heavily into the administrative side of things until she retired in 2007 after a 27-year career with McDonald’s Corporation (Operations/Training/Olympics activation). 
 
Cheryl served as President of USA Racquetball from 2008-2012. She is Vice President of the Illinois State Racquetball Association and serves on the Executive Boards of the International Racquetball Federation (IRF) and the Pan American Racquetball Confederation (PARC).
 
What does a Team Leader do? “Well, besides the routine stuff like making sure the team’s arrangements are made and that they receive timely information, at the Pan American Games I serve as the communication link between the USOC and the US National Racquetball Team. I give the USOC our anticipated travel schedule each day, and when the USOC needs to get information to the athletes, say, for example, closing ceremony details fortomorrow evening (what to wear, what time to be ready, transportation, etc.), they write to the team leaders of each sport.
 
“Being US Team Leader is a pleasure and an honor. I enjoy ensuring things go well, removing extraneous logistical worries or concerns from the athletes’ minds so they can go onto the court and do their best. I couldn’t be prouder of our US Team members and staff for their skill and their heart both on and off the court.”

Question of the Day
 
What special souvenirs are you taking home from Toronto? 
 
Dave: Five pounds extra from the dining hall. Also, being from California, the memory of a 10-minute shower without feeling like a criminal.
Jansen: Gold medal, all the USA Nike gear, and memories
Rocky: Memories
Michelle: A new experience and unforgettable memories, new love and respect for all of my amazing teammates and the staff, goodies for my family, and a medal!
Jake: Memories, pins, extra weight.
Brent: USA gear, my normal signed shirt with everyone’s names on it, and the privilege of working with everyone; also, something for my dad
Jose: A Pan Am Gold medal
RO Carson: Memories and friendship
Cheryl: Everything. I'm a memorabilia junkie. And hopefully I'll bring home an improved game by osmosis as a result of hanging out with world-class racquetball players for 11 days!

Overheard…
 
Cheryl Kirk: Luke, those cookies look so good!
Luke St. Onge: Here, have one.
Cheryl: No, no, I haven't had a cookie in almost three years.
Luke: Oh, go ahead, you're getting to the age where it doesn't matter anymore anyway.
 
ck: What does THAT mean?? (I think I’m depressed.)
 
Medal Count – Total (Gold)
As of 1:00 am EDT, 26 July
 
USA 261 (102)
Canada 214 (77)
Brazil 140 (41)
Cuba 96 (36)
Colombia 72 (27)
Mexico 91 (20)
 
Sunday’s Schedule – The Finals!
 
Men’s Team – USA vs. Mexico
 
9:05 am – Jake Bredenbeck vs. Daniel de La Rosa
11:05 am – Rocky Carson vs. Alvaro Beltran
1:05 pm – Jansen Allen/José Rojas vs. Alvaro Beltran/Javier Moreno
 
Women’s Team – USA vs. Mexico
 
9:05 am – Michelle Key vs. Samantha Salas
10:05 am – Rhonda Rajsich vs. Paola Longoria
12:05 pm – Rhonda Rajsich/Kim Russell-Waselenchuk vs. Paola Longoria/Samantha Salas
 
Note: Remember, these matchups are best two out of three, so if a country wins the first two matches, the third will not be played.
 
Sunday Evening
 
Okay, blog fans, it gets pretty hectic from here! Tomorrow afternoon, all of Team USA will be present on the stand for the medals ceremony directly after the last match. Medals will be awarded, anthems played, and photos taken.
 
Then, the US Team will go straight back to the Village to do some packing and to get ready to march with all of Team USA still here at the Games in the Closing Ceremony tomorrow night. We’ll meet at 6:15 pm at the USOC office, be transported to the stadium for the 8:00 start, take lots of selfies, enjoy the heck out of the experience, return to the Village, finish packing, and then seven of us will leave the Village five hours before our 7:00 am flights. Yes, I said five hours – 2:00 am! The USOC anticipates that with the Village basically clearing out on Monday, the Toronto Airport will be a zoo.
 
That said, there will be a Blog #11 to conclude the experience, but it will likely not reach you until sometime in the extreme wee hours (or later) of Mondaymorning. In the meantime, check social media or check the draws for results at:
 
https://www.dropbox.com/sh/z7103daucgcxh9h/AAAuRjlZAMkfkZ3rKSB5zacDa?dl=0
 
GO TEAM USA!!
 
- Cheryl Kirk


Pan American Games

Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Blog #9

Friday, July 24, 2015

A fabulous day for Team USA! Celebrate with us…read on!

Coach Dave enthuses:
 
“Team USA is totally proud of today’s results. In the Men’s Singles final, Rocky Carson beat longtime friend Alvaro Beltran in two tough games. Rocky’s drive serves have become more consistent and his Z service patterns have been called the “Rocky Serve.” Guess what, his drives have become ferocious, and that game style carried him to a hard-earned gold medal victory.
 
“José Rojas and Jansen Allen have improved steadily throughout the individual competition, and in their final they dominated the Bolivian team. Both our guys were clicking throughout the match. The raucous Bolivian fans were pretty much sitting on their hands during the gold medal competition. José played on another level, demonstrating his quickness and his ability to put shots away. Jansen’s Z serves were on the money, and many weak returns resulted in points for our guys.

“On the medals stand also were Rhonda Rajsich and Kim Russell-Waselenchuk. Rhonda and Kim earned bronze in their doubles, and Rhonda received a bronze medal in singles.
 
“Every member of Team USA gave 100% throughout the long individual competition, and the staff could not be more proud of each and every one of them and their efforts. It’s now time for the team competition, and we’re out for more gold starting tomorrow!”
 
Friday’s results
 
Rocky Carson vs. Alvaro Beltran (MEX), 15-11, 15-10
José Rojas/Jansen Allen vs. Carlos Keller/Conrrado Moscoso (BOL), 15-8, 15-5
 

Medals Ceremony


 

Directly after the last finals match this afternoon, medals stands were brought onto the main court, flags and medals were readied, and the medals ceremony commenced. Each of the four divisions was celebrated individually with processions onto the court. First it was women’s singles (Paola Longoria, gold medalist), then men’s singles (Rocky Carson, gold medalist), followed by women’s doubles (Paola Longoria/Samantha Salas, gold medalists) and men’s doubles (José Rojas/Jansen Allen, gold medalists). The national anthems of the winners were played, and there was considerable media presence – paparazzi everywhere! After the formalities were finished and the crowd thinned out, Team USA stuck around for our own photo shoot on the main court with a charming photographer by the name of Paige Stewart who was secured for us by Dave Walden. Thanks to you both!
 
Featured Player of the Day – Rocky Carson!
 
Rocky Carson has been a California guy all his life. He was born in Newport Beach and currently resides in Ladera Ranch. Rocky and Jenn have been married for 14 years, and they are parents to daughter Jasmine, 11, and son Christian, 9.
 
So how did you get started playing racquetball? “My parents, RO and Lauren Carson, owned health/racquetball clubs when I was a kid. I was on the racquetball court at 18 months with a ball and racquet. My parents used the court as childcare. They knew I loved it because I cried every time I had to get off the court. When I was six years old, we moved to Santa Maria, CA. Santa Maria is a small town and there was no junior program, so I had to play with the adults.  I believe having to play adults gave me an advantage when I did start playing juniors. My first juniors tournament was in Dallas, and I was 10 years old. From then on, we were hooked!  All of our family vacations revolved around Junior Nationals.  At age 19 in 1998, I had qualified as an alternate on Team USA. That year, three days before the World Games started in Bolivia, I got a call from USA Racquetball saying that I needed to grab my passport and get to Bolivia as one of our players had gotten hurt. That was my first experience being part of Team USA, and I’ve been a part of it ever since.”
 
Other hobbies/interests? “Surfing (sometimes with my son and daughter), hanging out with my family, coaching my son’s sports teams, being Jasmine’s biggest fan in her dance competitions. Both kids play racquetball, too. I also do some training and teaching out of Renaissance ClubSports in Aliso Viejo.”
 
Whom would you like to recognize for their support? “Racquetball has been a big blessing in my life. I'm grateful to my wife Jenn for giving me the support to pursue my dreams, as well as Jasmine and Christian, my sister Dawn, and of course my parents who have always understood my passion for racquetball. Thanks to my sponsors Head/Penn, RacquetWorld, Rollout Racquetball, CourtGrabbers, and Renaissance ClubSports. Lastly, but most importantly, I'd like to thank God for blessing me with this wonderful opportunity and the gifts he has given me.
 
“I have always considered it to not only be an honor but also a blessing to play for the US Team. America is the best. It is also nice to be a part of a team in which we are all trying to win the gold, individually and collectively.”

Scenes from Main Dining



 
As we’re winding down this competition (just two days to go), I felt a little more attention should be given to the Main Dining experience. This was an important benefit of the Athletes’ Village – being able to walk in there 24/7 and choose from many, many selections from meat to salads to tofu to Asian and Italian specialties to fruit to…well, there’s not nearly enough room in this blog to list it all. Let me just say it’s tough not to overeat. Some of us would probably just skip right to the desserts (lemon meringue pie was a team favorite). The accompanying photos show some of the flavor (pun intended) and ambiance of Main Dining.
 
Shout-Outs
 
On this eve of the team competition, Team USA sends warm greetings to close friends and family who couldn’t make the trip. We know they are with us in spirit all the way!
 
Michelle: Mom (Karen Key), Dad (Darold Key), my sister Danielle and her husband Jake, Susie, Anita, and all my racquetball friends and family
Jansen: Kaye Allen, Jordan Allen, Patrick Sanchez, Debra Winnett, Mike Gray, Joe Hall
Dave: Pat, John, Jen, Julius, Jordan, Elaine, Frank, Ginger, Carlyn
Brent: My wife Tami
José: Rojas family -- Miguel, Miguel Jr., Markie, Franky, Adelina; my girlfriend Johanna Villa; Jose Melgoza, Jose Serrano, Betty Martinez, Hilda Martinez, Jesse Serna, D-Mac, and of course, the Ellis Family!
Cheryl: My wonderful husband Kit Lawson
Rocky: My wife Jenn, and Jasmine and Christian. Love you so much!
Kim: My mom and dad, Sharon and Rick Stoll, and my sister Kelley; my husband Kane and daughters Kennedy and Kendall; my amazing staff (Amber, Janice, Kelly, Laura, Nina, Melinda, Renea, and Stella); Coach Winterton; and our amazing nanny, Brittany.
Rhonda: My family, Coach Winterton, Toni Bevelock, and my real friends (you know who you are!)
Jake: Hi, Anthony (Herrera)
 
Team USA Likes WhatsApp
 
The team values this smart phone app for communication when traveling internationally. There is no cost to install and it incurs no data charges, working off of WiFi. It’s a great way for the team to stay in touch and share information and stories. For example, WhatsApp is how I gathered the answers to the Team Question of the Day feature.
 
This evening from Jansen (the birthday guy): “I had a guy ask me what it would take for me to give him my USA warm-up jacket and pants. I was like, there is no way!”
 
Jake responded: “Ha ha, kill me and you can have it.”
 
Overheard...
 
“José, you’re already a chick magnet…imagine what it’s going to be like when you walk through Main Dining wearing a gold medal around your neck!”
 
Medal Count – Total (Gold)
As of 10:38 pm EDT, 25 July
 
Note: I’m especially proud to present this medal count update because the US Racquetball Team’s success today contributed to the advancing US numbers!
 
USA 240 (93)
Canada 195 (72)
Brazil 124 (35)
Cuba 87 (31)
Colombia 69 (26)
Mexico 86 (19)
 

Victory Celebration



 

Speaking once again of medals, CIBC (Pan Am Games bank sponsor) hosts a Victory Celebration every evening at 7:00 pm for medal winners. Kim, José, and Rocky attended this evening and had a wonderful time being celebrated by several thousand fans as well as Pachi, the Pan Am Games mascot. Said Kim, "We were treated like royalty!"

 
Saturday’s Schedule
 
Okay, let me see if I can explain this next phase as succinctly as possible. We are now going into the Team Competition. Rather than the players competing individually for medals, countries compete as a unit. Here’s how it works:
 
With this team competition format, women’s teams compete and men’s teams compete, separately, against other countries in single elimination draws. At the end, there will be medals for the successful Women’s Teams and medals for the successful Men’s Teams. Seeding was determined using the results of the prior pool play and main draws that just concluded.
 
Singles 1 plays against Singles 1, Singles 2 against Singles 2, and Doubles against Doubles. They play as a unit, and by that I mean that if a country wins the first two matches, the third one won't be played because that country would have already won against the other country, two matches to one. As rounds progress, they mix up the order of who plays first/second/third.
 
So the schedule looks like this in the morning for Team USA:
 
Quarterfinal Round -- Men
US vs. Venezuela
9:50 am Rocky
11:35 am José/Jansen
12:35 pm Jake
 
With a win against Venezuela…
 
Semifinal Round -- Men
5:05 pm José/Jansen
6:05 pm Jake
8:05 pm Rocky

 
Quarterfinal Round -- Women
US vs. Colombia
9:05 Rhonda
10:35 Rhonda/Kim
12:35 Michelle
 
With a win against Colombia…
 
Semifinal Round -- Women
5:05 Rhonda/Kim
6:05 Michelle
8:05 Rhonda
 
You can view the draws at:
 
https://www.dropbox.com/sh/z7103daucgcxh9h/AAAuRjlZAMkfkZ3rKSB5zacDa?dl=0
 
GO TEAM USA!!
 

-- Cheryl Kirk


Pan American Games

Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Blog #8

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Starting out with Coach Dave’s perspective:

 

“After a four-for-four winning morning in the quarterfinals (see below), Team USA had four semifinal matches in the late afternoon/evening, and our results were mixed. Rhonda played Paola Longoria and was up and down throughout the match, losing 15-13 and 15-9. Rocky Carson got off to a slow start against Daniel De La Rosa but then proceeded to play like God himself for the rest of the match. Rhonda and Kim also got off to a slow start and lost the first game. The gals hung tough and won the second 15-13. Towards the end of the second game, through no fault of her own, Rhonda’s follow through hit Maria Jose Vargas in the nose. After using 10 minutes of injury time out, Maria came back with a bit of a vengeance. This seemed to carry through to the tiebreaker and our ladies lost 11-6.



 
“The most excitement of the day came with Jansen Allen/José Rojas against Javier Moreno/Alvaro Beltran. The first game was back and forth with our guys moving ahead at the end, 15-13. In the second game, Mexico went out to a big lead, but our guys started chipping away. Mexico got point 14 and had 4 serves to get number 15. Our guys held and finally got into the service box down 12-14. Jansen hit two drive Z serves perfectly to Alvaro that made it 14-14. A hand out took it to Rojas with a drive Z to Javi’s backhand. An ensuing rally of at least 20 shots took place with many exciting gets and dives. José killed the final shot in the right front corner to move himself and Jansen (on his 26th birthday!) into the finals tomorrow.
 
“Tomorrow will be fun with friends Rocky and Alvaro vying for the Gold medal. José and Jansen will take on Bolivia’s Keller and Moscoso in the doubles final.”
 
Quarterfinals
 
Rhonda Rajsich def. Frederique Lambert (Canada), 15-9, 9-15, 11-7
Rocky Carson def. Luis Perez (Dominican Republic), 15-8, 15-1
Rhonda Rajsich/Kim Russell-Waselenchuk def. Angela Grisar/Carla Muñoz (Chile), 6-15, 15-10, 11-8
José Rojas/Jansen Allen def. Cesar Castillo/Cesar Castro (Venezuela), 15-5, 15-8
 
Semifinals
 
Rhonda Rajsich lost to Paola Longoria (MEX), 13-15, 9-15
Rocky Carson def. Daniel de la Rosa (MEX), 15-14, 15-8
Rhonda Rajsich/Kim Russell-Waselenchuk lost to Veronique Guillemette/Maria Jose Vargas (ARG), 7-15, 15-13, 6-11
José Rojas/Jansen Allen def. Alvaro Beltran/Javier Moreno (MEX), 15-13, 15-14
 
Featured Player of the Day -- José Rojas
 
José has played racquetball since the age of 5!  "My father joined the local club, he got me into it, and it's history from there. Jody Nance was my first teacher/coach along with my father."
 
José, who hails from Stockton, CA, competes here in Men's Doubles for the US Team with partner Jansen Allen. He finished the season as 5th on the IRT Tour.
 
A graduate of the University of the Pacific, José holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Marketing and Finance. He is currently competing full-time on the IRT Tour and identifies his occupation as Professional Athlete Entrepreneur.
 
José is the son of Miguel and Adelina Rojas of Stockton. They, along with brothers Miguel (32), Marco (22) and nephew Francisco (14) are thrilled with José’s achievement of qualifying yet again for the US Team.
 
When asked to describe his best moment in racquetball, he responded, “It used to be when I made it to any semis, but now I describe my best moment as the  pro stop in Kansas City in 2013 when I beat Kane in the semis and then Rocky in
the finals to capture my second IRT pro stop win."
 
Whom would you like to recognize for their support? “God, first and foremost. My family, who give me their unconditional support. And the important people in my current and past who have helped me get to where I am at today: Jody Nance, Dave Ellis, Jess Serna, Darren McNally, John Ellis. Thank you guys.”
 
Other interests/hobbies? "I like to listen to and produce instrumental music. I enjoy hiking and connecting with mother nature."
 
How do you feel about competing here at the Pan American Games? "This has been an awesome experience so far, a real honor to represent the USA in these prestigious games!"
 
Featured Staff Member of the Day – Dave Ellis
 
US Team Head Coach Dave Ellis has been married to Pat for nearly 45 years. Stockton, CA, is home to the Ellises. Dave and Pat are the proud parents of son John (married to Jennifer) and grandparents of Julius, 13, and Jordan (aka Chica), 7.
Dave holds a Bachelor of Liberal Arts from the University of the Pacific and a Masters in Philosophy from the University of California, Berkeley.  He is particularly proud of his California State bilingual teaching credential. Dave taught Mathematics in both English and Spanish for 38 years, from fundamentals to advanced placement calculus.  He retired in 2006 and now devotes his full time and efforts to racquetball.
Dave has coached at the professional level since 1992. He has led the US Team to five World Championships.
 
“I consider it an honor to be representing the USA as National Team Coach.  It’s a privilege to be working with our country’s athletes. I want to thank our staff members RO Carson, Cheryl Kirk, and Brent Huff as well as all the players for their efforts and dedication to our Team.”
 
Michelle Meets the USOC Medical Staff
 
Suffering from a stomach virus in the early part of this week, Michelle was the recipient of excellent medical attention and TLC from the USOC medical staff, headed up by Dr. Bill Moreau, Managing Director of Sports Medicine at the USOC. Today, feeling much better, Michelle took a return trip to the ninth floor of our residential building where the clinic is located to present the doctors with some small gifts. Dr. Moreau was delighted to see Michelle looking so much better. He did allow for the fact, though, that the blood studies she underwent reflected “abnormally high levels of orneriness.”
 
More Americans Arrive…
 
Rick Russell’s wife Larisa arrived and is doing a great job of cheering on Team USA!
 

USA Racquetball’s Executive Director Steve Czarnecki landed in Toronto this morning, and, after getting his credential, joined us for the afternoon/evening semifinals matches. He’ll be here until Sunday.



 
…and Some Canadians Came to Visit, Too!
 
Bob O'Doherty, Toronto 2015 Senior Vice-President of Sport and Venues for the Organizing Committee of the Games, sat front row this morning beside the Main Court to watch the match between Rhonda Rajsich and Canadian Frederique Lambert. He was accompanied by Racquetball Canada President Jack McBride and Past IRF President Keith Calkins, among others.
 
Sarah Araujo and her mother Janet came by to learn a bit about the sport. Sarah’s position with Toronto 2015 is Deputy Manager, Accreditation Client Services. She helped me many times over to navigate the waters of gaining credentials for numerous IRF individuals including referees, desk staff, and VIPs. I can’t thank Sarah enough for all she did for us, and she has become a good friend as well.
 
Question of the Day
 
If you could only keep five possessions, what would they be?
 
Rocky – phone, Bible, good pair of shoes, surfboard, long johns
Jansen – house, phone, car, my cat, checkbook
José – car, phone, place to live, racquet, ball
Rhonda – anything from the Apple store (can this all count as one?), my grandfather’s cross that he wore, my truck
Michelle – nice bed, house
Kim – wedding ring, photo albums, house, car, a pair of running shoes
RO – car, car, car, house, motorcycle
Dave – house, car, phone, laptop, pavilion
Brent – my jeep, surround sound, phone, shoes, Dodgers stuff I got during my internship
Jake – phone, car, gold medal
Cheryl – car, phone, wedding ring, computer, eyeglasses, credit card (Yes, I know that’s six things. It’s my blog.)
 
Guest Respondents Chime In:
 
Tim Baghurst – Bible, book collection, sports memorabilia, photo albums, hard drive
Steve Czarnecki – computer, photo albums, house, phone, outdoor gear
 
Medal Count – Total (Gold)
As of 1:25 am EDT, 24 July
 
USA 224 (83)
Canada 187 (69)
Brazil 121 (34)
Cuba 76 (26)
Colombia 67 (26)
Mexico 79 (16)
 
Friday’s schedule
 
10:35 am – Rocky Carson vs. Alvaro Beltran (MEX)
12:35 pm – Jose Rojas/Jansen Allen vs. Carlos Keller/Conrrado Moscoso (BOL)
 
A medals ceremony will take place after Session 1 matches are complete, then the Team Competition begins. We aren’t yet sure where seeding (based on results of the individual rounds Sunday-Friday) will put us relative to playing tomorrow night.
 
Scheduled matches (for someone) are:
 
5:05 Men’s Team R16 Match 2
5:05 Men’s Team R16 Match 3
5:05 Women’s Team R16 Match 1
5:50 Women’s Team R16 Match 2
 
GO TEAM USA!!
 
-- Cheryl Kirk
 

P.S. Happy Birthday, Jansen, in the wee hours of July 24th, from your racquetball family!





Pan American Games

Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Blog #7

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Coach Dave describes the day…

 
Team USA’s overall results today were mixed. Rocky played well, continuing to improve daily. Jake, playing on the glass court for the first time, ran into Canada’s Coby Iwaasa. Coby served our guy off the court the first game, running it into the second game as well. Settling down, Jake finally begin to hit his great passing shots but it was too little/too late, losing to Coby in two. Unfortunately, Rhonda and Michelle met up in the round of 16. With a number of exciting rallies and lots of good shots, Rhonda proved to be the more consistent and won in two. Michelle has been under the weather, finally starting to feel normal again. Tomorrow Rhonda and Rocky continue in singles, and the doubles teams (Jansen/José and Rhonda/Kim) take to the courts for their first rounds in their main divisions. The entire team will be involved in the team competition Friday evening, Saturday and Sunday. Team USA wants more than anything to add to our country’s overall medal count!

Wednesday’s Results
 
Rocky Carson def. Ramon De Leon (DOM), 15-2, 15-4
 
Jake Bredenbeck lost to Coby Iwaasa (CAN), 4-15, 9-15
 
Rhonda Rajsich (USA) def. Michelle Key (USA), 15-8, 15-7
 
Featured Player of the Day – Kim Russell-Waselenchuk
 
Kim was born in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, and raised in Louisville, Kentucky. She lives in Austin, Texas with her husband, Kane Waselenchuk, their daughters Kennedy, 6, and Kendall, 5, plus two dogs and two cats.
 
Kim graduated from the University of Kentucky. She is a certified registered nurse anesthetist and owner of a surgical company.
 
Her dad, Rick Russell, and her mom, Sharon Stoll, taught her to play at the Downtown YMCA in Louisville when she was 11 years old. Rick, along with Kim’s brother Bryce, is here to support her at these Games.
 
Kim has diverse hobbies and interests:  “Animal rescue, running, golf, hockey, fine dining/wines. My favorite thing is time with my family.”
 
When asked whom she would like to recognize for their support, Kim replied, “First and foremost, my husband, Kane, undoubtedly the best player to ever play racquetball. But aside from that, he is my hero both on and off the court. He is always supportive in helping me and coaching me but the best thing is, he can always find a way to make me laugh. Thanks to Jim Winterton, the greatest coach that racquetball has ever seen. And I also want to thank my girls for being brutally honest with me, reminding me that Dad is a better player than I am! Kennedy and Kendall sent notes and pictures that I keep next to my bed.
 
Kim commented on being here in Toronto, “I am honored to compete at the Pan American Games, and I am proud to wear the red, white and blue. May the USA flag wave and the anthem be played as the success of our athletes continues throughout the week!”
 
Featured Staff Member of the Day – RO Carson
 
RO Carson, Assistant Coach of the US Team, was born in Oklahoma and raised in California. He is a retired health and racquetball club owner. His family includes wife Lauren, daughter Dawn, and son Rocky.
 
RO was a multiple-time state champion in outdoor racquetball. Around the age of 26, he became hooked on the indoor game. “Racquetball is still my main hobby. Once I hit 60, I pretty much stayed with doubles, and I play in my age division every year at National Doubles.
 
“My wife is Rocky’s and my biggest fan.  We are a very close family, and both Dawn and Lauren have always been there for both Rocky and me.”
 
RO has served as Assistant Coach for the US Team and US Junior Team at numerous events, including the IRF World Championships - Burlington, Ontario, Canada, 2014; IRF World Junior Championships - Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, 2012; IRF World Championships - Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, 2012; IRF World Junior Championships - Los Angeles, California, USA, 2010; IRF World Junior Championships - Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, 2009.
 
The US Team considers itself very fortunate to have RO’s talent and experience on their side at these Pan American Games!
 
Team USA Cheerleaders – Family Support at the Games


RO, Dawn, Lauren, and Rocky Carson and Bryce and Rick Russell with Kim Russell-Waselenchuk

As mentioned in the feature on Kim (above) her dad Rick and brother Bryce are here to support her at the Pan Ams. Also here are Rocky’s parents RO and Lauren Carson and his sister Dawn. The Carsons drove here from California! Jansen Allen’s family is here from Texas; Debra and Steve Schneider (mom and stepdad), girlfriend Paige Allen, and dad Jim Allen are enjoying the sites and some great racquetball. The Bredenbeck family – dad Bill, mom Karen, and brother Sam – arrived yesterday after a 14+ hour drive from Minnesota.
 

It’s so great to have family members here to support Team USA – thanks to all for making the trip!



Steve and Debra Schneider, Jansen, Paige, and Jim Allen and Bill, Sam, Jake, and Karen Bredenbeck

 
More Americans to Recognize…
 
After last night’s mentions of Americans here in Toronto, there are a few more to add to the list…
 
Adina Manole (E-Force Customer Service) is here to support their sponsored players.
 
Keith Calkins, President Emeritus of the International Racquetball Federation and Past President of USA Racquetball, arrived yesterday just in time to celebrate his birthday today with his racquetball family.
 

From left to right in the accompanying photo: Linda Addington, Lynn Wentland, and Sheri Escher. We thank the USOC staff for taking such good care of Team USA (all sports and racquetball in particular). Any request by email or in person is handled professionally, efficiently, and with a smile. There’s light at the end of the tunnel for them…they get to go home to Colorado Springs next week while there’s still some summer left! Thanks to all from the USOC for a job well done!


 Follow Dave Signs
Referencing Blog #4 (Canadian Support), this directional sign thing seems to have taken a nasty turn (pun intended). While the “This Way Dave >>>>” signs were so very funny, the ones that greeted me today when I walked into the Exhibition Centre hit a little closer to home:
 
“Good Morning, Cheryl. Follow Dave <<<<” 
 
I have no clue where anyone got the idea I don’t know how to get from the bus drop-off to the racquetball venue. I took a wrong turn once, okay? Well, twice. But that’s all. I’m looking for the person who ratted me out to Canadian sign maker Maggie Hunter. You can run, but you can’t hide.





Medal Count – Total (Gold)

As of 11:51 pm EDT, 22 July
 
USA 201 (76)
Canada 173 (64)
Brazil 114 (32)
Cuba 75 (25)
Colombia 61 (25)
Mexico 74 (15)
 
Team USA Question of the Day
 
If you had to be trapped in a television show for a month, what would you choose?
 
Michelle – Fixer Upper (home improvement show)
Cheryl – CSI (Blacklist is too scary)
Jake – Fast and Loud (car show)
Rhonda – Arrow and Flash (superhero sagas)
Kim – Criminal Minds (not as the victim)
Jansen – The Office or Big Bang Therapy
Brent – How I Met Your Mother
RO -- Castle
Rocky -- Baywatch
Dave -- 2½ Men
José -- 2½ Men
 
Thursday’s Schedule
 
Quarterfinals!
 
9:05 am – Rhonda Rajsich vs. Frederique Lambert (Canada)
10:05 am – Rocky Carson vs. Luis Perez (Dominican Republic)
11:05 am – Rhonda Rajsich/Kim Russell-Waselenchuk vs. Angela Grisar/Carla Muñoz (Chile)

12:05 pm – José Rojas/Jansen Allen vs. Cesar Castillo/Cesar Castro (Venezuela)


Note: Any win on the schedule above puts us into the semifinal rounds later today: Women’s Singles 5:05 pm, Men’s Singles 6:05 pm, Women’s Doubles 7:05 pm, Men’s Doubles 8:05 pm. Follow match-by-match results at:
 

It’s getting more exciting by the minute!
 
GO TEAM USA!!
 
-- Cheryl Kirk


Pan American Games

Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Blog #6

Tuesday, July 21, 2015


The day was over earlier than the prior two, due to a bye and a forfeit in women’s and men’s doubles, respectively. Let’s hear from Coach Dave:

 
“Great day today, four matches, four wins, and a forfeit. Rhonda continues to roll, playing well in both singles and doubles. Her match with Chile’s Carla Muñoz went smoothly with a two-game win. Jake also continues to dominate, beating a tough Luis Perez from the Dominican Republic. Jake played as well as I’ve ever seen him. Michelle won a tight first game 15-14 and then proceeded to dominate the second, winning 15-2. Rocky faced Ecuador’s Jose Daniel Alvarez who has greatly improved. Left-hander Alvarez looked like a mini Kane for awhile with great serves and taking advantage of any set-up. Alvarez was foot faulting, however, and Rhonda gets credit for calling it to our attention. The ref was advised, and four foot faults were called. Rocky stepped his game up a notch, won the first game 15-11, and then dominated the second. José Rojas and Jansen Allen received a forfeit from Ecuador. An international favorite, Fernando Rios, has a tear in a labrum, or rotator cuff, or somewhere that is keeping him from playing. Rhonda, Jake, and Rocky all finished first in their pools so they will all get higher seeding in the medal rounds, which start tomorrow. Ok, this is it, three days of single elimination coming. GO TEAM!”
 
Tuesday’s Results – A Good Day!
 
Rhonda Rajsich vs. Carla Muñoz (CHI), 15-6, 15-9
Jake Bredenbeck vs. Luis Perez (DOM), 15-7, 15-2
Michelle Key vs. Ana Gabriela Martinez (GUA), 15-14, 15-2
Rocky Carson vs. Jose Daniel Alvarez (ECU), 15-11, 15-2
 
The US Women’s Baseball Team sent a delegation of four over to cheer for racquetball this morning. Thanks to Sarah, Jade, Veronica, and Marti for their support!
 
Featured Player of the Day – Jake Bredenbeck
 
Jake grew up in Marine on St. Croix, MN, and currently resides in Chandler, AZ. He is ranked #12 in the USA Racquetball rankings. Jake is the reigning National Singles Champion. He holds an MBA from Colorado State University-Pueblo, and he names dual occupations – electrician and racquetball player.
 
His #1 fans are his mom, Karen, his dad, Bill, and his brother Sam. It’s a racquetball family – Sam won 18 Singles and Doubles Gold at USAR Junior Nationals in Stockton, CA, last month.
   
When asked how he got started in racquetball, Jake replied, “My parents both played racquetball and got me into it at a young age, always bringing me to the club when they went. They ran a racquetball club for many years. I was 4½ when I started playing.”
 
Other interests/hobbies? “I love playing almost any sport. Being on a lake. Hanging out with friends and family. Working out.
 
“I’d like to thank my parents for their continued support in all that I do. They are the reason I play racquetball and still get to play. Also, thanks to my brother Sam for always being there for me no matter what. Coach Ellis for leading the team. Thanks to Rafael Filippini and Joel Arredondo of Gearbox for sponsoring me and supporting me; to Anthony Herrera for his support and help; to Pablo Fajre for helping the players on the WRT and all he does. And much gratitude to Mike Lippit for his support, also.”
 
Jake sums it up: “It is a great honor to represent my country in the Pan Ams. I am very happy and blessed to be here in Toronto, playing the sport I love for Team USA!!!”
 
Featured Staff Member of the Day - Brent Huff
 
Brent Huff of St. Charles, IL, is our US Team Athletic Trainer. He holds a Masters degree in Sports Medicine from the US Sports Academy and possesses 14 years’ experience as a Certified Athletic Trainer with NATA (National Athletic Trainers Association). Brent also holds certification as a certified strength and conditioning specialist and recently earned his tactical strength and conditioning facilitator certification with the NSCA (National Strength and Conditioning Association). He sat for and passed his holistic lifestyle coaching certification last year with the CHEK Institute (Corrective Holistic Exercise Kinesiology).
 
In his capacity as Team Athletic Trainer, Brent provides everything from prevention to assessment to emergency care. Rehab services for athletes and on-site coverage for athletic events are part of his repertoire as well. His experience encompasses everything from “little kids to the LA Dodgers.”
 
A Wilson- and Rollout Racquetball-sponsored player who took up the sport 30+ years ago, Brent was bronze medalist in Men’s 35+ at the 2015 USAR Nationals.
 
"It’s a privilege and an honor to make the trip with the US Team again, an opportunity to work with the best racquetball athletes in the world and help out in a sport that’s my passion and my hobby as well. I would also like to say a very special thank you to my wonderful wife Tamarah for her support of me, my profession, and my love of racquetball."
 
Blogger's note: The value Brent brings to the US Team is immeasurable. His knowledge and expertise along with the fact that he is a racquetball player himself makes him Team USA's "secret weapon." The players like and trust Brent to provide the best care. While it's great that this event offers medical services, Brent knows the individual issues of each US Team player, and this advantage cannot be overrated. Quoting Coach Ellis: “Where would Team USA be without trainer Brent Huff? Thanks, Brent, for your dedication to the team.”
 
More Americans in Toronto
 
A team of international referees and staff (24 in total) are here to support racquetball and the athletes. Hailing from the U.S. are Gustavo Farell (Texas), Bronc Hughes (California), Gary Mazaroff (New Mexico), and JoAnna Reyes (Texas). Thanks to everyone (U.S. and international) who traveled here to provide a first-class experience to athletes and spectators alike.
 
Ecuador and Mexico are fortunate for the support of Sudsy Monchik and Fran Davis, respectively. It’s great to see them here working for the sport and enjoying the Pan Am Games.
 
Tim Baghurst of Oklahoma, usually a part of the racquetball family at international events, is here working instead with the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) Outreach Team, providing doping education and awareness to athletes, coaches, and other support personnel.
 
Non-Stop Glamour at the Pan Ams
 
New team motto…”The team that does laundry together wins together.” After dinner, Jansen, Kim, and Rhonda headed to the second floor of the USA residence building for some bonding over laundry soap. Laundry trivia: the ratio of athletes to washers/dryers in the Village is 40:1.
 

While some team members took care of housekeeping tasks, others headed out to catch some Beach Volleyball action. Quintuple selfie – nice!



 
Medal Count – Total (Gold)
As of 10:29 pm EDT, 21 July
 
USA 183 (69)
Canada 159 (59)
Brazil 109 (32)
Colombia 59 (25)
Cuba 73 (24)
Mexico 68 (14)
 
Team USA Question of the Day
 
What famous person do people tell you that you most resemble?
 
RO – Jesse Ventura or Patrick Stewart
Cheryl – Ellen DeGeneres
Jake – Thor
Rhonda – Angie Harmon
Michelle – no one has ever told me anyone
Kim – Meg Ryan
Jansen – Eli Manning
Brent – just myself (Kim chimed in: Terminator)
Rocky – Jason Statham
Dave – Mike Myers
José – Wolverine
 
Wednesday’s Schedule
 
It’s a light day for Team USA coming up tomorrow. A leisurely start to the day for the main event commencing late afternoon! No doubles action until Thursday…
 
4:05 pm – Rocky Carson plays the winner of the 10:35 am Christian Wer (GUA) vs. Ramon De Leon (DOM) match
 
4:50 pm  -- Jake Bredenbeck plays the winner of the 10:35 am Coby Iwaasa (CAN) vs. Fernando Rios (ECU) match
 
5:35 pm -- Rhonda Rajsich (USA) vs. Michelle Key (USA)
 
GO TEAM USA!!
 
-- Cheryl Kirk


Pan American Games

Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Blog #5

Monday, July 20, 2015


First, a few words from Dave…then lots of words from me.

 

“Today was both rewarding and frustrating for Team USA. Jake led us off by winning the first game against Cesar Castillo of Venezuela. He lost the second but spanked Castillo 11-0 in the breaker. Rocky got on the court ready to play, scored 2 points, and then his opponent withdrew, making an easy win for the Captain. Michelle had a tough match against Bolivia, losing the first, winning the second, and then dropping the breaker, 11-8. Captain Rhonda was solid playing against Carola Loma of Bolivia and won easily in two games. Rhonda and Kim played Guatemala, and they were really clicking. Yesterday was a thriller; today was a routine win for the ladies who seem to be improving every time they get on the court. Very frustrating was José and Jansen’s match against Canada. The Canadians beat us with their service strategy. Jam serves, wraparounds, and crack aces were very effective on the glass court. The vision is tough. The Canadians closed out both games with five straight points that resulted from their excellent serves.

“We’re at it again tomorrow with four singles matches (but no doubles). Tuesday is the last day of the preliminaries with the main draw beginning on Wednesday.”



 
Monday’s Results
 
Jake Bredenbeck def. Cesar Castillo (VEN), 15-7, 13-15, 11-0
Rocky Carson def. Cesar Castro (VEN), 2-1, won by forfeit
Michelle Key lost to Adriana Riveros (BOL), 15-13, 11-15, 8-11
Rhonda Rajsich def. Carola Loma (BOL), 15-7, 15-7
Rhonda Rajsich/Kim Russell-Waselenchuk vs. Gaby Martinez/Maria Renee Rodriguez (GUA), 15-9, 15-4
Jansen Allen/José Rojas lost to Vincent Gagnon/Tim Landeryou (CAN), 14-15, 8-15
 

Featured Player of the Day – Michelle Key


The city of Gilbert, Arizona, is home to Michelle Key. She is ranked #7 on the Ladies Professional Racquetball Tour (LPRT), and she graduated from ASU in 2011 with a Bachelor’s degree in Interdisciplinary Studies, concentration in Exercise and Wellness, Family Studies, and Child Development. Michelle is a professional racquetball player, and she is also an ambassador for the sport through involvement in Key Racquetball (family business, growing the sport – church camps, training camps, tournament hosting, instruction, and programming) and Arizona Outdoor Racquetball (promotion of the outdoor game).

The Key family consists of Darold (father and coach), Karen (mother and coach), Danielle Maddux (sister, best friend, and doubles partner), Jake Maddux (brother-in-law), and Daniel de la Rosa (boyfriend, doubles partner, and IRT #4).
Michelle described her start in racquetball: “My parents met playing racquetball, so I grew up in the sport. They were very involved in racquetball, so Danielle and I would always be around the gym. As soon as we were able to hold a racquet, we started playing and it has been a part of my life ever since. At the age of 16 is when I started playing more seriously and made my first Junior National Team. After juniors, I played off and on until recently when I was encouraged to play on the LPRT. Now I play full time, and I really enjoy the friendships and experiences racquetball has given me.
Other interests/hobbies? ”I love to bake and to get my nails done. I really enjoy playing all sports and being outside exploring new things. Right now I’m attempting to play golf and spend as much time as I can with my friends and family.”
Whom would you like to recognize? “First I would like to thank my family for all of their love and support. Mom, Dad, Danielle, Jake, and Daniel, I love you! I would also like to send special thanks to my sponsors: Ektelon, Key Racquetball, Susie, King Label, 3WallBall, and Arizona Outdoor Racquetball. Last but not least, I want to thank all my friends, fans, and everyone who loves racquetball. Thank you all so much, because without you I would not be here representing the USA!
“I am really excited about competing in the Pan American Games for the first time. It is a blessing to be a part of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
“Racquetball is a passion of mine, and I love to be an ambassador for the sport. Growing racquetball and getting more people involved is what I do; I’m always available to answer questions and give pointers!”
Credentials at The Games

It's interesting how a laminated card on a lanyard can carry so much clout at a sporting event like the Olympics or the Pan American Games. They don't just fall off of trees. I thought you might be interested in what they look like and the process necessary to get one. 
 
There are many different categories of people to whom credentials are issued. Athletes, of course, top the list, followed by country coaches and staff, referees, volunteers, international staff, VIPs, National Olympic Committee staff, et al. Six months out, each sport submits a "long list" of potential attendees. Closer to the Games, maybe three months out, the list is whittled down based on which athletes have qualified to attend and how many staff members are allowed to be brought. Those who are selected to go to the Games fill out a variety of forms and undergo background checks. Once approved, the process doesn't stop there...more forms to fill out, photos are submitted, profiles sent...and about seven weeks out, pre-validation cards are sent to each individual via the sport's team leader. At these Games, except for the US and Canada, that card along with a valid passport serves as the participant's visa to enter the host country (Canada). 
 
Once the US Team arrived at the Toronto Airport on July 16, the first stop after passport control was to present the pre-validation card at the USOC desk in order to obtain the full credential. The credential is worn around the neck for the balance of the Games all the way through airport departure. Failure to have one's credential on one's person means no admittance to the Village, or the venue, or (horrors) Main Dining. No amount of begging, pleading, or whining ("I forgot my credential in my room") will make any difference whatsoever. Go back and get it or starve.
 
Looking at my credential, my photo appears at top left. A plain background was required, no teeth showing, etc. Below my photo is a line of symbols. Ao is additional official (not a coach or trainer); TA allows access to transportation; the knife and fork mean I can pig out in Main Dining 24/7; H means I have emergency medical insurance. My name is next, followed by title and country (in the three official languages of the Games). The bar code is scanned upon entry to the racquetball venue and the Village. Then you come to the three access symbols below: Racquetball Venue, Main Media Center, and the Village. At the very bottom, those numbers give access to various areas in the venue and Village (press, broadcast, athlete, and Pan Am Family). The R means I can go into the Village Residential Zone (which is great, because my stuff is there).
And now for another perennial blog favorite…
Team USA Question of the Day
 
What is your favorite thing to spend money on?
 
Michelle – I like to save money, but if I have to answer, food.
Cheryl – Workout clothes; charities and animal causes
Jake – Cars, shoes, and electronics
Brent – Electronics, and if I had the money, Air Jordans
Rhonda – Apple products
Kim – My family: Kane, Kennedy, Kendall, and pets Shakur, Titus, Pearl Jam, and Dorothy. And anything for shelter animals.
RO – Cars and my wife (but not in that order)
Rocky – My wife and kids
Dave – My family: Pat, John, Jen, Julius, and Jordan
José – Anything that will allow me to spend time with my family and loved ones.
Jansen – My girlfriend Paige, my cat Louie**, and electronics. Like Rhonda, I’m addicted to Apple products.
 
** News Flash – Late Breaking Development

By an unofficial vote of the team, we have a new Team Mascot – Louie the Cat! Look at the photo…the “awwww” factor was more than enough to secure his election win.
 
Medal Counts
 
As of this writing, medal counts are: USA169 (65 gold), Canada 148 (55 gold), and Brazil 102 (30 gold). Colombia and Cuba round out the top five. (Source: Toronto2015.org, 11:40 pm, 7/20/15)
 
Why No Live Streaming?
 
There have been questions on Facebook asking whether there will be any live streaming from here at the Games. Unfortunately, and through no fault of anyone in the racquetball world, the answer is no. CBC is the Official Broadcaster of the Pan Am Games in Canada, and ESPN and ESPN Deportes have arranged for rights to televise sports that countries’ National Olympic Committees have chosen to highlight. The best advice we can offer for loyal racquetball fans is to follow Facebook and the Daily Blogs on USA Racquetball.com as well as to check results frequently at:
https://www.dropbox.com/sh/q8e2puercovaxig/AAAH-Z4E1-TdMwQi0aKf-WO3a?dl=0.
You might also be interested in downloading the Toronto 2015 app. Thanks to Rhonda, here's some helpful info:
"In case anyone wants it, this is the link to the official Toronto 2015 app on the AppStore (Android version should be available through its own store, too)."
TORONTO 2015 Official Pan Am/Parapan Am Games App by Toronto Organizing Committee for the 2015 Pan American and Parapan American Games (“TO2015™”) https://appsto.re/us/LVhu7.i
Tuesday’s Schedule
 
Singles
 
9:05 -- Rhonda Rajsich (#6 seed) vs. #16 Carla Munoz (CHI)
10:05 -- Jake Bredenbeck (#3 seed) vs. #13 Luis Perez (DOM)
11:05 -- Michelle Key (#8 seed) vs. #18 Ana Gabriela Martinez (GUA)
1:05 -- Rocky Carson (#1 seed) vs. #11 Jose Daniel Alvarez (ECU)
 
Doubles
 
Jansen and José – win by forfeit vs. Fernando Rios/Jose Daniel Alvarez (ECU) – no Tuesday match
 
Rhonda and Kim -- bye -- no Tuesday match
 
Okay, we’re winding down on the preliminary rounds…by this time tomorrow we’ll know how the main draws stack out. Thanks for tuning in, and there’s much more to come!
 

GO TEAM USA!!


-- Cheryl Kirk



Pan American Games

Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Blog #4

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Coach Dave Weighs In…
 
“What a day today! Rhonda played super against Argentina. Jake played Colombia tough, winning the first game close and then losing the second game close. It was all Jake in the tiebreaker, though, after making a return of serve adjustment. Rocky Carson was firing on all cylinders allowing Costa Rica only 8 points in two games. Michelle had a tough one with #3 seed Samantha Salas of Mexico, losing 15-3 the first game and 15-14 in the second. Michelle is a tremendous athlete with lots of potential.
 
“The doubles, wow, Rhonda and Kim eked out the first game and then were killed in the second. In the tiebreaker, Argentina jumped ahead 5-0. Rocky Carson made a suggestion that resulted in an adjustment that was just what was needed, and the USA won, 11-7. Jansen and José played the interesting doubles team from Costa Rica, Felipe and Teo. Teo is quite a competitor, argumentative and demonstrative. He received about 15 technical warnings, yet no points were deducted from the score. After losing the first game, our guys struggled by and managed to win 15-12. The tiebreaker was all USA with José Rojas just killing everything. Partner Jansen finally said something like, 'José, you take everything. You’re on fire.'
 
“The delegation is united as teammates were there en masse giving support to players during their matches. Tomorrow, we have another six matches, with times from 9:05-12:05, and then from 6:30 to 7:30. We’ll be happy with 6 wins.”
 
Sunday’s results
 
Rhonda Rajsich def. Veronique Guillemette (Argentina), 15-7, 15-9
Jake Bredenbeck def.. Set Cubillos (Colombia), 15-9, 13-15, 11-2
Michelle Key lost to Samantha Salas (Mexico), 3-15, 14-15
Rocky Carson def. Felipe Camacho (Costa Rica), 15-4, 15-4
Rhonda Rajsich/Kim Russell-Waselenchuk def. Maria Jose Vargas/Veronique Guillemette (Argentina), 15-12, 6-15, 11-7
Jansen Allen/José Rojas def. Teobaldo Fumero Adams/Felipe Camacho (Costa Rica), 13-15, 15-12, 11-3


And now for a recurring popular blog feature, here’s…
 
Featured Player of the Day – Jansen Allen
 
Jansen, born and raised in Corsicana, Texas, is ranked #7 on the International Racquetball Tour (IRT). He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Management and Economics and a Master’s Degree in Business Administration. His current occupation is Professional Racquetball Player.

When asked how he got started in racquetball, Jansen replied, ‘I was four years old when I started playing. My mom, dad, and brother Jordan got me started.”
 
Jansen appreciates the support of his family members who are here in Toronto to cheer him on: Jim Allen (father), Debra Schneider (mother), Steve Schneider (stepfather), and his girlfriend Paige Allen.
 
For their contributions to his success, he would like to thank Patrick Sanchez and Dr. Mike Gray with Extreme Wave Sports Rehab.
 
Besides racquetball, Jansen’s other interests include fishing, hunting, working out, bike riding, and being outdoors.
 
On his Pan Am Games participation, “I am excited and honored to represent Team USA. I am looking forward to bringing home the gold and supporting my team! GO USA!”
 
Canadian Support
 
Coach Dave possesses many skills and talents, but finding his way through the back of the Exhibition Centre to get to Hall C could probably not be construed as one of them. Racquetball Ontario's Maggie Hunter, an operational leader at the venue and someone who is always willing to help the directionally challenged, posted a number of signs along the long and winding trail to keep Dave on the straight and narrow path. Bread crumbs wouldn’t have worked nearly as well.
 
The Little Big Things
 
Rhonda and I were talking this afternoon, and we decided that there is very little we actually need when we go on international trips, but what we do need is pretty important to us. Many times we make water and food runs in taxis, and we struggle to find adequate WiFi to stay in touch on email and Facebook. Therefore, here in Toronto, everyone really appreciates the ready availability of water in coolers everywhere; Main Dining with its wide array of meal options; and the strong WiFi signal in the Village and at the venue as well. Life is good!
 
International Interactions

Meeting athletes from other sports is part of the Pan Am Games experience. Today on the bus, Rocky and Brent met the Cuban rhythmic gymnastics team. Despite the suspicious photo bomb on the left (he's everywhere), this is a classic. Each of the ladies received a racquetball pin, courtesy of Rocky.
 
Monday’s schedule
 
9:05 am -- Jake (#3 seed) vs. #18 Cesar Castillo (VEN)
10:05 am -- Rocky (#1 seed) vs. #20 Cesar Castro (VEN)
11:05 am -- Michelle Key (#8 seed) vs. #13 Adriana Riveros (BOL)
12:05 pm -- Rhonda (#6 seed) vs. #15 Carola Loma (BOL)
6:05 pm -- Rhonda/Kim (#5 seed) vs. #8 Gaby Martinez/Maria Renee Rodriguez (GUA)
7:05 pm -- Allen/Rojas (#5 seed) vs. #8 Vincent Gagnon/Tim Landeryou (CAN)
 
GO TEAM USA!!
 
-- Cheryl Kirk

Pan American Games

Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Blog #3

Saturday, July 18, 2015

After breakfast in the Main Dining Hall, the team donned their warm-ups and posed for photos before heading for practice. It was easy to find someone to take the full group shot for us. Toronto 2015 volunteers are everywhere, all the time, ready to help. 


Of the 16 countries that competed in the PARC Racquetball Championships in March/April in Dominican Republic, twelve logged results that earned them the right to compete in these Games: Argentina, Bolivia, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Guatemala, Mexico, United States, and Venezuela. In total, 54 racquetball athletes are participating in Men’s and Women’s Singles and Doubles.
 
Coach Dave Ellis reports:
 
“Team USA’s onsite preparation concluded today with another two-hour practice at the Exhibition Centre. For the most part the players abbreviated the session, saving themselves for the real competition that begins tomorrow. Actually, the tournament is three parts, the opening pool play rounds that lead to the second part, the medal elimination rounds. Then this will be followed by the team competition that has a format that has been used in prior years, most recently the last Pan Am Games (2011) and the IRF Worlds in 2012. (See the descriptions below.)
“All players have matches tomorrow. Competition has become tougher and tougher over the years. In the doubles, José and Jansen play the tough Costa Rican pair that took the silver medal in Santo Domingo. Rhonda and Kim will play against Argentina with Maria Jose Vargas and Veronique Guillemette providing serious competition. You might say that the doubles teams play the “finals” in their first rounds tomorrow. Six matches and we’re looking for six wins!” 
Competition Formats Here in Toronto
Racquetball in the Pan Am Games is actually three events in one – two phases of individual competition followed by the team competition. For those who like technical descriptions…here you go…
=> Individual Competition
First, Men’s and Women’s Singles and Doubles will compete in pool play groups according to the number of participating countries and their performance at PARC.
After the first qualification phase is complete, there will be a second phase in a single elimination draw with players seeded according to their performance in the pool plays. Matches are best of three games, two games to 15 points and a tiebreaker to 11 points if necessary, according to International Racquetball Federation (IRF) rules.
Medals will be awarded on the show court on July 24.
=> Team Competition
Teams may be composed of two, three or four players, depending upon the number of spots the team secured through the qualification event in March.
For this phase of competition, seeding will be determined by the combined results of each country’s players in both the pool play groups and the single elimination draw.
The team competition will be single elimination for both genders.
Team play will be as follows: Singles 1 vs. Singles 1, Singles 2 vs. Singles 2, Doubles vs. Doubles. The order of these matches will be changed by the technical director as the rounds progress.
If either country reaches 2–0 against its opposing country, the third match will not be played.
The winner will be the team that wins two of three matches. The loser will be eliminated and the winner will continue on.
Medals will be awarded on the show court on July 26.
More on the Pan Am Games:
 
Pan American Games Facts
 
Sports 36
Disciplines 52
Medal events 364
Athletes 6,135
Competition venues 29
Competition days 20
Athletes’ Village opening July 5, 2015
Opening Ceremony July 10, 2015
Closing Ceremony July 26, 2015
 
Medal Counts by Country
 
National Olympic Committees (NOCs) consider medal counts extremely important as a measurement of their countries’ success at major sporting events such as this one. To the individual sports themselves, earning medals demonstrates the value they bring their NOCs and is a major criterion for how much financial support they and their athletes receive.
 
As of this writing, the US has 134 total medals, followed by Canada with 121, then Brazil (86), Cuba (62), and Mexico (55). Canada trails the U.S. by just one gold medal (48 vs. 49). (Source: www.toronto2015.org
 
The Athletes’ Village
 

It really is a village! As described in the Toronto 2015 Team Guide for the delegations:

 
The Athletes’ Village consists of three distinct zones: the Operations Zone, the Village Plaza, and the Residential Zone. The Village Plaza contains the retail facilities and ceremonial facilities available to residents and guests, while the Residential Zone is a restricted area for residents and guests with an “R” on their credentials.
The Operations Zone includes the workforce entry, logistics warehouse, facilities services area, support services operations centre, waste transfer area, and NOC container freight storage.
The Village Plaza offers retail services for the convenience of Village residents and guests. Services are provided on a user-pay basis and feature banking, dry cleaning, hair salon, general store, photo kiosk, and ticket office.
The services in the Residential Zone are perhaps the most impressive aspects of the Athletes’ Village. In service to the athletes and delegates, there is an Internet Cafe, lounge and meeting facilities, free-of-charge beverages via many conveniently placed coolers, concierge service, self-service laundry (free soap!), Main Dining Hall (no charge), a multi-faith centre, a polyclinic, transportation to competition venues, relaxation lounges and game rooms, a 24-hour fitness centre, and an 18-acre park.
There’s always something fun and unusual happening. Today I walked out of our residential building and headed to the corner where I came upon a group of people who had brought their therapy dogs to visit with passersby. Of course, channeling Gudinas, Acosta, Baumbaugh, Ruiz, Ackermann, Russell-Waselenchuk, and so many other animal devotees we know, I plopped down on the sidewalk to visit…for a good long while. I met Pablo, Furball, Roomy, and Bear. (Pablo was a great kisser.) So happy that they come to the Village every afternoon, so more doggie affection is in the cards!
Sunday’s Schedule
We received the draws at the coaches’ meeting at 12 noon. All blog times are expressed in EDT (Eastern time):
9:05 am – Rhonda Rajsich (#6 seed) vs. #5 Veronique Guillemette (Argentina)
10:05 am – Jake Bredenbeck (#3 seed) vs. #8 Set Cubillos (Colombia)
11:05 am – Michelle Key (#8 seed) vs. #3 Samantha Salas (Mexico)
12:05 pm -- Rocky Carson (#1 seed) vs. #10 Felipe Camacho (Costa Rica)
5:05 pm – Rhonda Rajsich/Kim Russell-Waselenchuk (#5 seed) vs. #2 Maria Jose Vargas/Veronique Guillemette (Argentina)
6:05 pm – Jansen Allen/José Rojas (#5 seed) vs. #2 Teobaldo Fumero Adams/Felipe Camacho (Costa Rica)
Here we go! To follow the team’s progress online between blogs, go to:
GO TEAM USA!!
P.S. Thanks to Larry Haemmerle, Steve Czarnecki, and Jason Thoerner for their encouraging messages to the team. And on this eve of the Pan Am competition, we warmly thank Jonathan and Carolyn Clay of Rollout Racquetball for being the Official Apparel Sponsor of USA Racquetball. The team is going to look fantastic tomorrow!


Pan American Games
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Blog #2

Friday, July 17, 2015

First order of the day was the 10:00 am USOC briefing and team meeting. The USOC gave us information on transportation, security, medical and ombudsman services, and Village 101 (what’s here, where services are located, etc.). In our Team USA meeting, subjects covered ranged from rules differences (IRF vs. USAR), to safety and security, to apparel, to selection of team captains. Rocky and Rhonda were appointed by their peers, and they finished off the meeting with words of wisdom based on their vast experience at international events.

 

As mentioned yesterday, the team had their first practice session this afternoon.


Exhibition Centre…
… is Canada’s largest facility for conventions, exhibitions and events. The 192-acre waterfront campus in downtown Toronto is one of the world’s most environmentally responsible exhibition and convention facilities. Magnificent in size, flexibility, and with stunning architectural design, the Centre offers 1,072,000 square feet of contiguous exhibit and event space. (Source: www.toronto2015.org)
In Hall C of the Exhibition Centre, the brand new racquetball courts saw their first action – ever! There’s one all-glass show court as well as three match courts with panel walls and glass backs. All four are portable, i.e., they were constructed temporarily in the Exhibition Centre and will be taken down and moved immediately after the Games. Bleachers stretch across the back of the match courts and along the sides and back of the show court.
Other facilities provided by Toronto 2015 at the racquetball venue include changing rooms, an athletes’ lounge, catering services, a zone for media interviews, a sport information desk, medical facilities, a doping control station, and, of course, the tournament control desk.
Commenting on the team’s practice today, here’s Coach Dave Ellis:
“Team USA had their opening practice today here in Toronto at the racquetball venue. We had two courts reserved for each of three (3) 40-minute sessions. Our seven players took turns in feeling out how the courts played by working on specific shots, playing both singles and doubles. We had the main show court for 40 minutes, and that short amount of time was split between the men and the women. José and Jansen (our doubles team) played Jake and Rocky in a spirited match. Players shared thoughts and observations about the courts, which is always important for mutual team support.Tomorrow we’ll take a team photo, followed by two additional hours of practice. All players eagerly anticipate the draws that will be revealed around 12 noon (ET) tomorrow.”
Before we leave the subject of the courts, meet Brian Valin, the man who oversaw the construction of the courts. Brian was born in Montreal but now hails from Toronto. He shared some behind-the-scenes details about the courts:
They were made in Germany (all except the panels on the match courts), and once they hit the mainland of Canada they were transported in four tractor-trailers. It took fourteen men two weeks, 7 days a week, 16 hours a day, to complete the construction.
Brian shared a fun fact about the show court. Before the floor was laid down, an IRF coin and a Canadian loonie (one dollar coin) were placed underneath. Once the court floor comes back up, both pieces will be put on a plaque commemorating racquetball’s participation in Toronto 2015.

These courts are Toronto 2015’s legacy to Racquetball Canada. After the venue closes on July 26, Brian and his crew will have four short days to dismantle and pack up the courts for their trip to Regina, Saskatchewan, where they will be set up again, this time in a more permanent location to serve as a racquetball training facility.
Brian is the official North American supplier for Court Wall Products (a German company). And here’s a twist that I found really neat: Brian was a pro racquetball player in the ‘80’s, rising at one time to #8 on the tour and competing against names like Hogan, Yellen, and Peck!
 
Congratulations to Brian on these great courts that will be put to excellent use come Sunday.
 

To get a feel for where our heads are at, here’s a recurring blog feature aptly named…
 
What Do We Like?
Dave: I like the Main Dining Hall and the many food options.
Rocky: Watching the other sports.
RO: The Canadian hospitality.
Kim: The Nike USA attire, and the transportation is easy and frequent!
Jake: Other athletes. Nike. Food.
José: Being around world-class athletes, other than racquetball.
Cheryl: The volunteers are extremely friendly and helpful, and the USOC staff is professional and efficient. (Also, they offer gluten-free bread and quinoa salad in Main Dining!)
Michelle: It’s an incredible experience like none other. The way we are being treated, the clothes, Team USA, all the countries and other competitors. It’s awesome!
Patriotic Down to Our Fingers, Feet, and Toes

Since I do a lot of work on my laptop, I was pretty proud of my American flag keyboard protector I found online a few days before leaving for Toronto. Rhonda did me one better by showing up with a new pair of Nike shoes (what a concept) that are incredibly cool and I simply must own. Never to be outdone, Kim revealed today a patriotic pedicure she brought to the party. Team USA lives Red, White, and Blue!

Saturday Approaches…

Tonight, team members attended women’s basketball, squash, or wrestling – a great way to kick back a bit and still remain in the spirit of competition.Tomorrow morning we’ll take a team photo, then we’ll head over to the Exhibition Centre again for another practice session. Simultaneously, the Coaches Meeting will take place there, and we’ll soon know what the first few days of competition will look like.

Tune in tomorrow for that news and more about the US Team’s experiences here in Toronto.
GO TEAM USA!!
P.S. Wishing Marla Cusano (Team Illinois) a very Happy Birthday!



Pan American Games
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Blog #1
Thursday, July 16, 2015

Greetings from Toronto! The U.S. Racquetball Team has arrived and taken up residence in the Pan Am Athletes’ Village. For those coming in from California, the day started extremely early (5:00 am PT). The lucky ones started at Chicago O’Hare (1:45 pm CT flight, just over an hour to Toronto).

 
All but three flew to Toronto Pearson Airport out of O’Hare while the three from Arizona stopped over in Houston. That meant slightly different arrival times for the two groups, but after clearing customs, getting credentials, and claiming bags, we all met up at the Toronto Hilton near the airport for US Team Processing. Basically, this meant we all got our pictures taken and then were given really cool stuff – Nike bags, shoes, and apparel plus Oakley sunglasses. We felt special!
 
The USOC did a masterful job of organizing this initial phase. Once we received the duffel full o’ goodies (shirts, shorts, warm-up, hoodie, hats), we were given the opportunity to try everything on and change out sizes. That took awhile, but there were snacks available for those who finished early.
 
Once on the shuttle bound for the Village, it didn’t take that long to get downtown, even in traffic. ”Smooth” continued…but wait. The shuttle driver had to bypass the entrance to the Village Welcome Center because it was blocked off. We didn’t find out why until the driver stopped to talk with volunteers on duty. Then a nice policeman explained that there was a demonstration in progress -- professional demonstrators picketing against police, or housing, or the Games, or…something.
 
USOC to the rescue once again! Police on motorcycles were called to escort our shuttle into the Village with lights flashing. We felt special. Again! 
 
After moving into our dorm-style rooms, everyone took off to check out Main Dining, a huge tent with TONS of available food options. More on the Village and its offerings in the coming days…
 
Well, introductions are overdue. With appropriate fanfare, meet the U.S. Team Delegation:
 
Men’s Team
Rocky Carson (CA) – Singles #1
Jake Bredenbeck (MN/AZ) – Singles #2
José Rojas (CA) – Doubles
Jansen Allen (TX) – Doubles
 
Women’s Team
Rhonda Rajsich (AZ) – Singles #1 and Doubles
Michelle Key (AZ) – Singles #2
Kim Russell-Waselenchuk (TX) – Doubles
 
Staff
Dave Ellis (CA) – Head Coach
RO Carson (CA) – Assistant Coach
Brent Huff (IL) – Athletic Trainer
Cheryl Kirk (IL)  -- Team Leader
 
Friday’s Schedule
Competition doesn’t begin until Sunday, but this team will nonetheless be occupied over the next two days. After breakfast, a10:00 am meeting will bring the delegation together to go over a number of important topics. Also at that time the USOC will give a briefing on the Village and the Games.
 
Following lunch, the team will depart on a 15-minute shuttle ride for their first glimpse of the racquetball venue at the Exhibition Center. Practice is scheduled from 2:20-4:20 pm. 
 
Tune in here in the 10 days ahead for results, schedules, anecdotes, news about participating countries and players, our surroundings, and much more!
 
Begin the chant…
 
GO TEAM USA!!