Welcome to Blogtober!

Hello, dearest readers!

Remember when I blogged every day in July last summer? Well, I've been seeing some blog-every-day challenges floating around recently, and I was inspired to create my own for myself.

A few months ago, I posted on my Tumblr about an Olympian named Peter Norman, who has an AMAZING story but probably 99% of people have never heard of before. I expected it to not get a single like or reblog, but it shockingly got 61 notes! It made me wonder what other random tidbits about Olympians I know that people may actually care about. So that's what October is going to be -- a different Olympian every day. :)

But then, last week, I received a sign from the universe. My boss lent me a book called Steal Like An Artist by Austin Kleon that, first of all, is incredibly inspiring and made me want to go MAKE ALL THE THINGS. But more than that, there's a page titled "Write fan letters" in the chapter called "Be Nice." It basically says to show your appreciation for someone else's work without expecting anything in return. When the author suggested writing a blog post about someone's work that you admire, I was sold. Don't you just love having your ideas validated like that?! (Ironically, though, the very next page is titled "Validation is for parking.")

Hence, Blogtober was born!

Every day, I'll be writing a fan letter of sorts about a different Olympian, explaining why they're incredibly awesome and why you should care, and doing it in bite-sized chunks (because lord knows I could blab forever). I tried to stay away from the big names that everyone knows so I could try and expand some people's horizons, but I can't leave out my favorites in a month full of fan letters! I will, however, leave out Jim Craig and RA Dickey, 'cause I've written (read: fangirled) about them before.

I'm excited about this, guys! I've got my list and I've got some graphics ready to go. It's going to be a fun, nerdy month. :)


Flash back with me, if you will, to the spring of 2012.

I was studying abroad in London, topped-up Oyster card in my wallet and an email saying, "hey, we'd like you to volunteer with London 2012 Ceremonies all the way through the end of the Paralympics!" in my inbox. Life was good.

And then reality happened. My student visa expired in June, which meant I would no longer be allowed to work and would have to leave the country. I attempted to get a work visa, which you need a sponsor (aka your employer) to sign off on, only to find out that L2012C didn't sponsor visas. I went to the U.S. embassy for help and was literally turned away at the door (thanks a ton, America). So I grudgingly packed my bags and bid a tearful adieu to my hopes of working at the London 2012 Olympics.

It sucked. Goooood times.

Now, let us return to the present. As I'm not working or interning for the USOC (*pointed look in their direction*), I applied to be a volunteer with them at the USA House during the Sochi Olympics. The USA House is basically the USOC's hospitality center during the games, for sponsors, athletes, athletes' families, etc.

It's where Shaun White meets Wayne Gretzky. Because, y'know, why not? [via]
It's also where Jim Craig speaks to the media in front of a GIANT CHALK MURAL (!!!) that was also signed by Bonnie Blair, Peggy Fleming, Scott Hamilton, Dan Jansen... [via]
Basically, it sounds like the coolest gig ever. And as of very recently, there's an email in my inbox that says, "hey, we'd like you to come to Sochi and volunteer with us!" Super cool, right?

Welp. Reality, once again, kicked me in the shins. Round trip flights to Sochi are almost $2,000, Russian visas cost $305, and the USOC doesn't cover any of its volunteers' expenses. So that means I'd have to find a hotel to stay in (HA) for three weeks (DOUBLE HA), as well as pay for transportation to and from Olympic Park and meals (and the exorbitantly expensive souvenirs, because let's be real). Basically, if I wanted to get myself to Sochi and stay in a hotel -- not going anywhere else, not eating anything, and not buying souvenirs -- that would cost me a cool $5,000. And that's a conservative estimate.

Considering I, a) make minimum wage, which is barely enough to cover my living expenses, b) don't have five grand to my name, and c) am biding my time before student loans come and hit me like a truck...

For the second time in under a year and a half, I have the opportunity to volunteer at the Olympics, and have to turn it down.

How. Is. This. Even. POSSIBLE?

I feel like this is becoming a joke. Applies for USOC internships for four straight years? Rejected. Tries to volunteer at London 2012? No visa. Tries to volunteer at Sochi 2014? No money. That's funny, universe. Reeeeeally funny. At this point I think it'd be easier to become an Olympic athlete and get there that way.

I could totally rock those pants and be a curler, right? PyeongChang or bust! [via]

But I'm not here to whine. (Well, okay, I'm here to whine a little bit, because... I mean, seriously? Seriously?) This whole situation has made me take a step back, take a deep breath and appreciate what I'm doing and what I have.

Since being out here in Colorado Springs, life has sort of fallen into a rhythm, and it's really easy to lose perspective of how freaking cool this all is. But sometimes I'll be returning to the OTC from work, and there'll be tourists posing in front of the Olympic rings that I see so often it's become routine. Or I'll be eating lunch on a Saturday and spot a tour group being led around outside. And just the other day, when a shooting coach asked me what I was here for, his response to hearing that I'm an intern was, "Oh, so you're someone, huh?"

It's interesting going back and reading my old posts about how badly I wanted what I have right now. Two and a half years ago (omg) I wrote this post that says:
And being vocal about my passion will one day lead to blog entries written from inside one of the Olympic training centers as I eagerly await the start of my internship.
I'm kind of impressed with myself, to be honest. Granted, things didn't happen exactly how I pictured them, but I came pretty damn close. And then there's the added benefit of being the resident ceremonies expert during London 2012, and the resident volleyball expert when Rio 2016 finally rolls around! Working for an NGB is incredibly cool, as is working for an organizing committee. Had everything happened the way I originally wanted it to, I might not have gotten the chance to learn this firsthand.

So even though I'm about to decline yet another awesome volunteer experience (just allow me one more moment of bitterness), what I have been able to do has been 100% amazing. And I couldn't be any more #gladtobehere. (Hashtag credit goes to the awesome Chris Yandle! [Twitter//blog])

GRAD-ITUDE 101: A Linkup By Chimerikal

And hey, now I can put the $2,000 I won't be using on airfare towards buying souvenirs! I think that two grand will be able to buy me one t-shirt and a pen.

The Power of the Intern

It's time that I spoke here about something I feel very strongly about: being an intern, otherwise known as #internlife.

Internships have basically replaced entry-level jobs. They're all but required if you want to get into the working world. Even so, I don't think attitudes about interns have changed. Interns are still sort of viewed as barely competent coffee-getters, go-fers, filers, etc. There've been numerous times when something, somewhere, goes wrong -- say, the blackout at the SuperBowl -- and someone will jokingly grumble, "Damn intern!"

Well, I'm here to tell the world that that's not okay.

If I've learned anything from living with some of the best interns in the country, it's that (most) interns are incredibly smart and incredibly motivated -- and that we would never, EVER be caught dead screwing up our jobs. We're the ones who go over things meticulously, trying to put our best foot forward 24/7 to impress our bosses (and everyone else) and to prove ourselves.

I've been lucky enough to work under people at USA Volleyball (and elsewhere) who know that "intern" isn't synonymous with "incompetent," and who are willing to trust me with responsibility and listen to my ideas. I've also been lucky to work with another awesome intern, Kristina, who I've been a team with pretty much since day one. And it's a good thing, too, because we've made some pretty awesome things happen.

I mean, don't we look like the most baller team of interns ever?

As most of you probably know, Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh Jennings are the best beach volleyball team of all time, having won three consecutive Olympic gold medals. They're also one of the best teams of all time, period, in any sport, as only one other team in Olympic history has kept the same members and won three consecutive gold medals. (Trust me, I looked it up. The other team is two brothers from Slovakia who compete in canoeing.) This past August was the first anniversary of their third gold medal win, and Kristina and I thought... well, why not turn that into some awesome content for the website?

We took the idea to our boss man, who helped us fine tune our idea and brainstorm a bit, gave us some guidance and advice, and then basically told us to have at it.

We decided to turn it into two stories; one talking to Misty and Kerri, and the other talking to other volleyball greats about Misty and Kerri. I emailed probably close to a dozen athletes for quotes, and you wouldn't believe the names in my inbox; Matt Anderson, Todd Rogers, Holly McPeak, Sinjin Smith, Rich Lambourne, Danielle Scott. One of my bosses even did a video interview with Karch Kiraly, the king of volleyball and the undisputed best player the game has ever seen, Olympic gold medalist in indoor AND beach, using my questions.

The king of volleyball.
Kind of fitting that his last name literally means "king." All hail the man in the pink hat!

And that's Karch answering my questions, and me transcribing it. One of the cooler moments of my life.

It was kind of insane! Check out the story here!

But then, of course, there was the task of getting ahold of Misty and Kerri themselves. Nobody was
particularly optimistic that we'd succeed, and for a while it wasn't looking too good. But at long last, Kristina was able to set up a phone interview with Kerri. There was a bit of a mishap at the get-go that involved me sprinting through the USA Volleyball office with my recorder in one hand and our list of questions flapping along in the other. But Kristina pulled it off beautifully, and moments of panic like that are what fond memories are made of!

Misty, on the other hand, was posing more of a problem, and we were freaking out a little bit. How could we write a story about Misty and Kerri without Misty?! After a brief powwow, we decided that desperate times called for desperate measures. So I tweeted at her. Shot in the dark. Couldn't hurt, right?

Imagine your surprise when, the next night, I saw this:

I basically fell off my bed, before promptly screencapping it and sending it to Kristina with a text that said, "OMG I'M GOING TO PASS OUT!!!"

Misty ended up emailing me her answers to the questions Kristina had sent her agent rather than doing a phone interview, but any response at all was so much more than ANYONE had expected! Like, it was a really big deal that we got this done. Read our Misty/Kerri story here!

So our stories were published on USAVolleyball.org, and we got all sorts of kudos (and apparently made someone at the FIVB cry), but my favorite praise was this:

Hey girl hey! Life = complete.

How's that for some lowly interns?

Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh Jennings after winning gold in beach volleyball at the London 2012 Olympics.
Yes, I agree. [Photo courtesy FIVB.]

So the next time you feel like hating on us peons of the workplace, just keep in mind that we're busting our butts and chatting with Olympians while making less money per hour than we used to make working at a gym...

Sigh. It's a small price to pay for the experience, for sure, but... man, what's it like to be able to afford things?

But anyway, I digress. Interns. We're awesome. And if you insinuate otherwise, you may just find an intern's foot in some very uncomfortable places on your body. :)

The Herb Brooks Guide to Life

Because who doesn't want some life advice from one of the most famous and successful coaches ever, amirite?

If you've ever seen Miracle, you've witnessed Kurt Russell spouting some gems; "The legs feed the wolf, gentlemen," and, "The name on the front of the jersey is a hell of a lot more important than the one on the back!" to name a few. They sound like great Hollywood screenwriting, but the great part is that Herb Brooks actually said all of these things in real life. As far as I know, every quotable line from movie!Herb was taken directly from real!Herb. I, for one, am sort of sad that the movie doesn't show his pre-gold medal game speech: "If you lose this game, you'll take it to your f*cking graves" is one of my personal favorite quotes of his. So prolific, so eloquent.

In fact, Herb was so prolific that a bunch of members of the Miracle on Ice team -- Bah Harrington, Dave Silk and Mike Eruzione -- took to recording all of his sayings (dubbed "Brooksisms") in a little notebook. Things like, "You're playing worse every day and right now you're playing like it's the middle of next month," and, "You've got a million dollar set of legs and a ten-cent fart for a brain." Poetry, I tell you!

Start watching at about 10:15 in to hear the players talk about their favorite Brooksisms (read: insults). :)

But in all seriousness, Herb didn't coach two teams to Olympic medals by accident. In fact, some of his quotes suggest that he probably could've been a successful life coach. So here's what we can all learn from the incomparable Herb Brooks. (Most quotes and photos courtesy of the Herb Brooks Foundation.)

Because no matter how good you are, there's no substitute for busting your butt.

You won't make anything happen for yourself if you don't put yourself out there.

"My recruiting key -- I looked for PEOPLE first, athletes second. I wanted people with a sound value system as you cannot buy values. You're only as good as your values. I learned early on that you do not put greatness into people... but somehow try to pull it out." -- Pretty self explanatory! Be quality human beings, folks.

Okay, you might not play anything, but you're meant to be where you are. You earned your success. Own it.

The grandaddy of all Herb Brooks quotes! You'll never get the chance to defeat the Soviets (er, hypothetically) if you don't give yourself the opportunity to. History-making moments don't happen by accident.

"Let me start with issuing you a challenge: Be better than you are. Set a goal that seems unattainable, and when you reach that goal, set another one even higher." -- Don't even need to touch this one, do I?

So, this might sound like an insult, but it's a fantastic way of going about your life. There are probably some crazy-talented people that can be lazy and get by, but for the rest of us, our talent won't get us anywhere by itself. Nose, meet grindstone.

"We should be dreaming. We grew up as kids having dreams, but now we're too sophisticated as adults, as a nation. We stopped dreaming. We should always have dreams." -- Ain't that the truth!

Now, don't you feel all ready to strap on the ol' skates and score some goals for your country?!


Post-London Depression

I'm not sure why it hit me recently, but I had a little bit of a moment yesterday morning. I was listening to Spinnin' for 2012 by Dionne Bromfield and Tinchy Stryder -- THE London 2012 Ceremonies song, ICYMI -- and for some reason I got a little bit emotional. Nostalgia hit me like a truck. I sat there and closed my eyes and suddenly I was back in the lobby of 3 Mills Studios, wearing my high vis vest, listening to the London 2012 montage on a loop, freezing my fingers off and scanning hundreds of forms and ID badges.

I could practically taste the tea and granola bars and feel the sore spots on my palms where the badges rubbed them raw.

This sort of reminded me that I never wrote a "holy crap, I miss London" post. Which is all sorts of wrong because, holy crap, I miss London. Desperately.

And the thing is, I left over a year ago. Shouldn't I be over this by now? Shouldn't the gaping, London-shaped chasm in my heart have healed already? I've never experienced homesickness like this before, and it was only my home for five months. That has to mean something, right?

Well, I've been sort of looking into going back for a permanent-type reason, and I just need to vent yet another time about how much I HATE visa requirements. Basically, I either need to: a) be a student (but I have no money with which to pay for further education), b) have a job (but in most cases I need to have a visa in order to get a job), or c) be married to a Brit (hey, a girl can dream, right?). So it looks like I'm stuck Stateside with nothing but my tea and my memories and my tears.

Funnily enough, the stuff I get most nostalgic over is the day-to-day. Sure, I miss being able to see Olympic Park from my bedroom window...

...and living in the same city as some of the most beautiful places in the world...

But I also just miss waiting for the tube.

And taking the tube.

And I'd even happily deal with rush-hour tube traffic if it meant being back in London!

I miss wandering around the city...

...and the parks...

...and along the water.

I miss the minutiae of my commute to 3 Mills; walking through the pedestrian tunnel and down the overpass, past the sketchy abandoned building, across the street, around Tesco's and down a cobblestone driveway that would routinely kill my feet.

I miss the annoyingly long walk down Mile End Road, and feeling like I might very well die every time I cross it.

I miss the sunny days...

...and the snowy days...

...and, yes, even the rainy days.

I also may or may not miss the (slightly goofy) people I met there, American and British and Italian and Scottish and everything in between.

So, if anyone out there knows of someone at a sports entity based in London that's looking to hire an awesome American for an entry-level position on their communications team, or a male Brit who's twenty-something, intelligent, cute, funny and a sweetheart... send 'em my way!

Decisions, Decisions

There's a pretty monster weekend coming up in the Olympics world, guys. On Saturday, the IOC will decide on the host city for the 2020 Olympics. And on Sunday, the IOC will decide which sport to add to the Olympic program for 2020.

Basically, this is the weekend we can start getting excited about the 2020 Olympics.

("But wait!" you say. "Shouldn't we be getting excited about 2014 and 2016 and 2018 first?" To which I respond, "Hush.")

So who do we think will come out victorious?

 First of all, this pool of candidate cities is the smallest for a summer Olympics since I've been alive. This is probably what the '70s and '80s felt like... I can only imagine this is because every games since Sydney 2000 has left massive debt and decaying venues behind as its legacy (though London still remains to be seen). If cities don't start managing their hosting duties better, we could very well return to an '80s-like state, where the IOC is scrambling to find potential hosts. (For 1980 and 1984, Lake Placid and Los Angeles won their bids against a grand total of zero other cities. 'Murrica.) It's also probably not helping that Rio is rioting in the streets, Sochi is embroiled in LGBT controversy, Beijing came under fire for all sorts of human rights violations...

Yeah, hosting the Olympics is lookin' real attractive right now.

But nonetheless, we do have three cities whose hats remain in the ring for Saturday: Tokyo, Madrid and Istanbul. And this quote pretty much sums everything up:

"There's no obvious choice," senior Canadian IOC member Dick Pound told The Associated Press. "Where do you go? None of the three is risk free. Probably somebody ends up backing into it this time." [x]

Initially I was hoping that Istanbul would win, just because the Olympics have never been held in the Middle East and we should probably consider spreading the love a little bit. But that's exactly what happened with Rio, and the citizens are not happy about it. Istanbul also had a host of its own issues recently, which got me thinking: the Olympics probably haven't been held in the Middle East yet for a reason. Like, uh, the constant wars. So maybe this is a bad idea right now, but Middle Eastern cities have my vote in future bids.

That leaves us with Madrid (which is broke) and Tokyo (which is marginally radioactive). Sweet, right? Madrid has apparently proposed a budget of only $1.9 billion (read: only [good lord]), but that basically means nothing, because every single Olympics in recent memory (potentially ever) has come in at far, far over budget. Tokyo, on the other hand, is already renovating its Olympic stadium for the 2019 Rugby World Cup. Tokyo also hosted the Games in 1964, which is a fairly decent indicator that it could do it again.

So I think Tokyo has to be my pick. But then again, Asia already has the 2018 Winter Olympics (PyeongChang), and just had 2008, which might hurt its bid... So who the heck even knows at this point?

Now, moving on to a decision I know far more about but also have literally no idea which way it will swing...

 I don't want to say I'm excited to see how this will turn out. I don't think "excited" is the right word. Fascinated, maybe? Anxiously awaiting it? Whatever the semantics, I'll be glad to see this saga finally come to an end. Sort of. Maybe. Hopefully.

I was as shocked as anybody when wrestling was removed from the Olympic program earlier this year. Like, literally stunned. To the point where I remember where I was when I found out. Personally, I think the IOC made an absolutely awful decision for more reasons than I care to take the time to list (this article lays out everything pretty well), and am hoping beyond hope that wrestling gets re-added. #WrestlingOrBust

But here's the rub: if the IOC does decide to re-add wrestling, it's admitting that it made a horribly bad decision. Of course, it could be spun that all the changes wrestling has made in the last few months got it re-added, but let's be real. I can't see the IOC taking back a decision like that so fast. To save face, it has to stand by it.

At the same time, though... I can't see squash being added to the program. Does it have a big following? I literally have no idea. I can't imagine squash drawing huge viewership. And as much as I love baseball/softball, it was eliminated from the Olympics for a reason. Actually, probably a good number of reasons. The one I'm having trouble getting past is the need for facilities: stadiums are gigantic, they're expensive, and a city would need a ton of them to be able to accommodate an Olympic-style tournament within three weeks. It could be fine in countries where baseball is already big business, like America or Japan; games could happen scattered around the country, like soccer (er, football) was for London 2012. But, for argument's sake, let's say Istanbul wins the bid for 2020. What happens then?

So, basically, I have absolutely no idea what's going to happen. But my fingers are crossed for wrestling!

The new IOC president is also getting elected imminently, on Tuesday. I know nothing about any of the six candidates except that they're all men. Laaaaaame. Get with the times, IOC.

Which city/sport do you think is going to prevail?