Day #16 – The Best Day in Rio … So far!
Greetings from Another Rainy Rio Morning,
Our work schedule in Rio has been more intense than any I have ever had in my 5 Olympic Games for NBC Sports. We are covering a total of 38 matches over 14 days which includes 5 Marathon days of 18 hours or more at the office. For this reason alone, some days just can be a bit painful and exhausting. Than are days like yesterday … A day that started and ended in perfect harmony where everything that we wanted/hoped to happen landed perfectly on our laps.
It began with an incredibly hard fought match between the top-2 teams of Pool B. Argentina, with a raucus crowd took on an extremely talented a powerful squad from Poland. Though the match only lasted 3 sets the play was intense as Poland took soul possession of it’s medal destiny winning the match to go 3-0.
Than the fun began. Our Host Paul Sunderland and analyst Kevin Barnett are both former Olympians and therefore have “Exclusive” passes to the USA House in Ipanema where any of the US athletes can go to eat a great variety of tasty dishes or just chill on one of the 6 Floors of the “House.” A few of us were lucky enough to go with them and after some shopping took the tour and saw how the US Athletes live. A cool thing about the Olympics and the USA House is the partnership they have with one of my favorite artists, Charles Fazzino, who again made limited edition pins and artworks for the Rio games.
The 3D work of the Great Charles Fazzino
Needless to say, it was a fantastic excursion and a great way to fill our 5.5 hours break before our final, late night match. In typical Olympic form we “Griswalded” out and took tons of pictures … These are the moments that help bond our team and experiences that I will take with me forever.
But perhaps the Apex of our day happened in our final match that started at 10:35 pm local time and went until 1:15 am … The match featured a hungry and desperate USA Men’s Team, who were on the cusp of elimination from these games, taking on an undefeated and extremely confident team from Brazil. Besides playing at a very high level in its first two matches, the Brazilians also had the support of nearly 15,000 screaming fans. If you have been reading this BLOG up to today you know the US Men’s Team has been mediocre at best and we all feared the worse. But coach John Speraw had a plan that was both physical and, more important, a psycholgical solution for his team’s dissapointing play. He turned to Team Psychologist Andrea Becker to help the team work through the big points at “Clutch Time” and it worked. Team USA showed up. They won a majority of the long rallies and were by far the more consistent team during the final points of the sets. Players like Taylor Sander and Erik Shoji drastically reduced their mistakes while USC Trojan Michah Christenson was dominate from the service line. But no one was more impactful than the big hitters of Team USA, Matt Anderson, Aaron Russell and Max Holt, who all played an inspiringly visious match to help the US defeat the Brazilians and take control of their own destiny in Pool Play. Team USA plays France tomorrow and Mexico on Sunday before the quartefinals on Tuesday of next week. It was so much fun to be a part of …
Every USA Athlete, past and present signed this wall at the USA House.
The only downer, we had to be back at work by 8:00 am.
Today the US Women take on Italy at 2 pm/et LIVE on NBC daytime show as they continue the quest for the first gold medal in Women’s Volleyball … Thus far, they have been the best team in the tournament as they sit atop Pool B with a 3-0 record.
That’s it from Rio for today …
Love to All,
PS – Happy Birthday to Uncle Craig and Cousin Jessica back home in Los Angeles, I love you both …