That Rio Thing

I went to Rio this summer.

You might not've known that. I went from not having time to blog to not having any desire to blog to a combination of the two, and suddenly more than half a year has passed since I last posted here (and 2016 is over?) and so much has happened in the interim. (So, so much.) So if we don't talk on a regular basis and/or you don't follow me on Twitter or Instagram (shameless plug), you definitely won't have known that.

So hi, I went to Rio this summer!

It wasn't for the Olympics. It was for the Paralympics. And it was perfect.

In March of 2014 -- after the Sochi Games ended -- I wrote a post titled "I'm Not Crying, I Just Have The Paralympics In My Eye." And honestly? That's more true now than it was when I wrote it. I've been pretty vocal about my support of adaptive sports in the years since, but being at the Paralympics in person... man. I swear the Paralympics are the sports world's best-kept secret. There's a human element to the Paralympics that you just don't get at other sporting events, plus all the drama and elite competition of the Olympics in a smaller, friendlier package that has all the kinks already worked out... it's great. GREAT, I tell you.

Before the Games, people were extremely concerned about what the situation was going to be in Rio; ticket sales were almost nonexistent, logistics were a mess, there were endless budget cuts to try to make ends meet, and on and on and on. But you know what? Venues were packed (packed!), crowds were loud and rowdy, and logistics were a little messy due to those budget cuts but what's life without an adventure and some questionable bus rides? The main press center gave off unfinished vibes and the media shuttle schedules definitely left something to be desired, but I wouldn't even change any of it. To be fair, I did hear stories about some venues being sketchy and honestly kind of scary, but I was lucky and only ended up going to nice ones.

Like, really nice ones.

My job was to help manage, so most of what I was doing involved sitting behind a computer in the U.S. Paralympics office in the MPC. But I was sent to help out with two sports, which were both unbelievable and totally worth the 14+ hours I worked those days. I spent two mornings at paracanoe, where we didn't medal but our athletes were so beyond overjoyed just to be there that I had to stop myself from getting teary-eyed while talking to them.

And I spent a day at paratriathlon, where we did medal and I ended up smushed against a metal barrier at the finish line so I could snap a picture of a Team USA podium sweep to tweet for USA Triathlon.

Do you ever have those moments when you almost literally have to pinch yourself because you don't understand how what you're witnessing could possibly be real?

And speaking of not understanding how what you're witnessing could possibly be real, guess what else I got to go to!

I finally got to experience an opening ceremony in person! It was phenomenal and I'm obsessed with it and it was every bit as magical as I ever imagined it could be. And what was really great is that I was with a group of people that were just as thrilled about it as I was. ('Cause, y'know, when you're going to check an item off your bucket list, you don't want to be surrounded people who'll mock you when you inevitably cry about it.) We were all working our first Games so we were like kids on Christmas morning, taking pictures of absolutely everything and getting emotional and watching it all unfold in a general state of disbelief.

Related: I worked with the most amazing people. Press officers and web managers and photographers and athlete liaisons, USOC employees and contractors, men and women, Games newbies and veterans... everyone was fantastic. I wasn't expecting that, to be plugged into this unit and bond with them over competitions and bus rides and copious amounts of meat. We were like a weird little family that passed around cold medicine and was always wearing matching clothes.

I'll cut myself off here and write more posts about more specific moments and experiences because holy hell do I have a lot of them (and hundreds of pictures!). But in the meantime, the Games ended months ago and I'm still kinda pining for them... so, y'know, I'm doing about as well as you'd expect. :)

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