University of Louisville men's and women's track and field head coach Ron Mann is serving as the men's middle distance coach for Team USA at the 2008 Summer Olympic Games in Beijing, China. Over the next two weeks, Mann will be providing updates here at UofLSports.com on his experiences at the largest and most diverse athletic stage in the world. Check back often to see his latest entries from China!
Aug. 20, 2008
August 19 was another day filled with ups and downs in the world of Team USA track and field. We qualified three men to the finals in both the 200m and 400m, while the women's final in the 100m hurdles gained another gold medal. The medal ceremony for the men's 400m hurdles was a touching moment in my personal history book. To see the US flag raised on each of the three flag poles and the national anthem being played was one of the most touching I have ever experinced in track and field. WOW!
Today brings the 800m prelims, 5000m semis and the finals of the 200m to the front and center. We will have another opportunity for medals and more opportunities for advancement!
Aug. 18, 2008
Today was a great day for Team USA in track and field. We finished 1-2-3 in the men's 400m hurdles (Angelo Taylor, Kerron Clement and Bershawn Jackson), we won the women's discus (Stephanie Brown Trafton) and we finished second in the women's pole vault (Jenn Stuczynski). Team USA is coming alive and it's exciting to see that. We had a bit of a down day yesterday, but the moral of the team is very good right now.
This is event has already been more than I could've expected. The people of China are very friendly and the Olympic Village is very accommodating. On the inside, the track and field meet is very well run and it's already been a great Olympic Games.
And even though I'm very focused on what's happening here, I want everyone in Louisville to know that I'm excited about the start of our cross country training camp this week at Lincoln State Park in Southern Indiana. I wish Coach Brice Allen and all of the athletes the very best from half a world away, and I'm very excited about our team and the 2008 season.
Aug. 14, 2008
All of the days after the Opening Ceremonies until today have really faded together as we've been doing our final preparations for the track and field events. Each day has included morning practice at 9 a.m., and afternoon practice at 4 p.m.
The excitement for the first day of the track and field events is building day-by-day and Team USA is ready! The spirits are high and the team is healthy. We are now on a countdown to our destiny. At this point, the Olympic Games are just like any other meet, only with many more people watching!
Aug. 8, 2008
With this being the day of opening ceremonies, there was a lot of excitement and anticipation. The morning included a trip to Beijing Normal University (BNU) for practice from 8:30 until noon. At noon, I visited the dry cleaners to have my pants hemmed and then I returned to our complex to iron my shirt, get any wrinkles out of the sports coat and basically get ready for the evening events.
At 5:15, we assembled outside of our building and then loaded the busses to depart for the Olympic Gymnastics arena where we were to meet US dignitaries, including President Bush. We waited in the receiving area for about an hour and finally Peter Uberoff (USOC CEO) addressed our team and then introduced the President of the United States of America. The president spoke briefly and then circulated around the room getting photos with each team. Several other dignitaries were there, including President George W. Bush, whom I met, First Lady Laura Bush and men's basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski.
The next stop was the assembly of nations inside the main arena for Gymnastics. Each nation was assigned a section of the arena and we were seated in Section 304. We were the 140th team into the Birds Nest for the Opening Ceremonies. I learned that the team who hosted the last Olympiad is always the first team introduced and that the host team is the last to enter, meaning Greece was the first team into the stadium and China was the last. The order of entry is alphabetical; however, the number of strokes it takes to make the symbol determines the Chinese alphabet. USA takes 9 strokes to create so we were 140 out of 204 nations, which is the largest number of countries ever represented in the modern Olympics.
Team USA lined up for the march into the stadium at about 8:30 p.m., and Lopez Lomong was the flag carrier. He is one of the athletes that I'm responsible for, so I was asked to accompany him to the front of the Team USA contingent. My position in line for the Opening Ceremonies was Row 1, Lane 5, located just behind the flag barer and the Chinese escort who carried the USA sign.
The walk into Olympic stadium was indescribable. To walk into a crowd of more than 90,000 and with several million people watching on international TV was so humbling. I found myself in a mix of disbelief and honor beyond description. Every young athlete in the world dreams of the Olympic Games. The slogan "Amazing Awaits" was here. A career of hope, anticipation and work was actualized in a short moment in time. I found myself in reverent prayer, thanking God for the opportunity and being in awe of the experience. All the while, the temperature inside the stadium was approaching 100 degrees and the humidity had to be 115%.
By the time we walked the 300 meters around the track and onto the infield where we could take off our jacket, my shirt was completely drenched. Several of the women have perspired so much that the ascot was bleeding onto the new white shirt. And it was quite a decision whether to drink water to hydrate or not because there were no bathrooms on the infield. I chose to tough it out without water because I am over 50 and you never pass a bathroom at my age!
The next two hours were filed with the parade of nations, speeches and flag rising. Then the moment of distinction, the lighting of the Olympic cauldron! The torch barer was an Olympic gymnast and 1984 gold medalist from China. He was raised off of the stadium floor via cable to a position at the rim of the stadium, 15 stories above. He ran the rim of the stadium and finally the cauldron was ignited. The 2008 Olympic Games were officially open and I'm here. Wow!!! Wow!!!
Aug. 7, 2008
I arrived at the Olympic Village following our training camp in Dalian, China earlier today.
Lopez Lomong has been chosen to carry the USA flag for the Opening Ceremonies, so the track and field team will lead the USA delegation into the stadium. I'm responsible for the middle distance events, which includes Lopez, who is a 1500-meter runner at the Games. We have connections on a variety of levels as he attended Northern Arizona University, just after I left. He is from Sudan originally and is now a US citizen. He trains in Colorado Springs under the direction of John Hayes, who was the distance coach at NAU just after I retired. Just last year, John left NAU and went to Air Force Academy where he works for Ralph Lindeman.
All in all, the Olympic Village is hot with action. However, I did find that Pam Bustin (UofL field hockey head coach and Team USA assistant) is in the same building and just two floors from where I'm staying. WOW!! Half a world from Louisville and two of UofL coaches are in the same building.
More to come after the Opening Ceremonies!!