Sunday, December 23, 2018

A Look Back at 2018

What an interesting year it was! There were ups, there were downs, and there were Olympics! We're bringing the year to a close with a look back at some of the biggest stories of each month.

January: Larry Nassar Sentencing

After a fall trial where a lot of horrific details were shared about MSU ex-physician Larry Nassar and his attacks on US gymnasts and MSU athletes, he was sentenced to 175 years in prison.

As a result of the allegations coming to light and the subsequent conviction, USA Gymnastics experienced a huge shift in leadership (three times, actually), filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy, and has been threatened with a revoking of its membership by the USOC.

It will be a while before I can put any trust into USA Gymnastics. But that doesn't mean we can't support the athletes that compete! If anything, we give them even more support now because of everything they've been through.

February: PyeongChang Winter Olympics!

There were so many wonderful memories from these Olympic Games. I saw a record number of hours of competition, got my students obsessed with the athletes and the competitions, and cried when it was over.

From Mikaela to the ShibSibs to Team Shuster to "Here comes Diggins!!!", it was an Olympics to remember. You can read all my recaps of each day HERE.

March: IAAF World Indoor Championships

I didn't even know this was a thing until I saw coverage of it was being offered on NBCSN. Indoor world championships for track and field? But I'm so glad I was able to tune in and watch some of my favorite athletes compete in the wintertime!

Since they took place in Birmingham, England, I was able to watch a lot of the competition live. This year there's no outdoor championships, but this takes its place. It was a great way to preview the outdoor season and figure out who to watch, Christian Coleman, Renaud Lavillenie, Murielle Ahoure, Mariya Lasitskene, and Sandi Morris all had great summer seasons that carried over from their indoor championships.

April: Team USA Basketball Teams Announced for 2018-2020

Eleven gold medalists from the Rio 2016 men's basketball team were invited to a minicamp in Las Vegas in July, and the final 12-man roster should come from the list of names that were released this month. Familiar names include Stephen Curry, LeBron James, Chris Paul, and Russell Westbrook. Gregg Popovich is the head coach for the teams.

For the women, former player and current head coach Dawn Staley will be working with much of the same faces that have helped them do so well in the past. Sue Bird, Diana Taurasi, and Seimone Augustus are all on the roster.

They will compete in the 2019 FIBA World Cup and the 2020 Tokyo Games!

May: Goodbye Historic Hayward Field

At the end of the month, the Prefontaine Classic was held at Historic Hayward Field for the final time before the stands were demolished in the summer and construction commenced on the brand-new stadium that will welcome the USA Track and Field trials in 2020 and the World Track and Field Championships in 2021! (Already updating my calendar!)

June: FIFA World Cup in Russia

Yes, Team USA wasn't there, but it seemed like everyone else's attention was drawn to Russia for the men's World Cup in football. It was a bit hard to watch over here because of the time difference, but those who were interested made sure to make time to watch live!

Croatia and England were the stories of the World Cup, with England losing in the third place game and Croatia losing to France in the final.

July: Visa is Still a Partner

Visa and the IOC extended its partnership through 2032. The sponsorship has provided millions (billions?) of dollars for the Olympic Games since 1986.

August: Curling Night in America is Filmed

If you've tuned into NBCSN this fall, they have been heavily promoting Curling Night in America, which covered the Chaska, MN tournament with women's, men's, and mixed teams from all over the world competing.

Each Friday, a different match was highlighted. They took the idea from Hockey Night in Canada, which has been a CBC staple on Saturday nights for many years. If anything, it's a great way to capitalize on Team Shuster's popularity and increase awareness of the sport!

September: Team USA Softball Earns First Tokyo Berth

After the 12-year gap between softball's appearance in the Summer Olympics, the Team USA softball team qualified in September for the Tokyo 2020 Games. They're actually the first US team to qualify for Tokyo! I'm sure that the grudge between the US and Japan is ramping up; Team USA won the 2016 World Title over Japan, but Japan was the one that beat Team USA in the Beijing Olympics - the last time softball was at the Olympics.

October: Gymnastics World Championships

Simone Biles won six medals in Doha, Qatar, including four golds, a silver, and a bronze after only coming back to train a year earlier. She now has a vault named after her by the world gymnastics governing body, and all of this happened while dealing with a kidney stone!

Not only was Biles winning medals, but Morgan Hurd, Sam Mikulak, and the women's team all won medals in Doha, even with the simmering instability amongst USAG.

November: Calgary Says No to 2026

Over 300,000 votes were cast in Calgary, and 56% of the population voted against hosting the 2026 Winter Olympics, bringing the selections down to two cities: Stockholm, Sweden, and Milan/Cortina, Italy.

Later on, the USOC chose Salt Lake City as its choice to be the American bid for the 2030 Winter Olympics, leading everyone in Denver to go, "Phew!"

December: Nathan Chen is Still Amazing

Even after faltering in PyeongChang, Nathan Chen had a great 2018, winning the World Championship in March, breaking the record for number of quads performed in a free skate, and winning the Grand Prix of Skating in December. Oh, and did I mention he is in his first year of college at Yale? Looking forward to seeing him compete at the US Championships next month!

So what was your highlight of the year? Comment below or tag me on social media to let me know!

Tokyo 2020 Prep

The volunteer application window has now closed! Now I just sit and wait for the next step. Did you sign up?

Olympic Channel Video of the Week

As soon as I saw this, I said, "This is the Video of the Week." Mostly because of the awesome artwork and music!

Weekly Cauldron Check

Is the cauldron lit????


I'm Claire Nat and you're reading Light The CauldronFollow me on Twitter and Facebook @CauldronLight and read my past Olympic articles! You can start with my daily recap of the PyeongChang Winter Olympics HERE!

Sunday, November 25, 2018

The Next Olympic Hopeful: A Live Blog

So remember last week when I said I wasn't going to have a blog this week because of Thanksgiving? Well, I ended up with a free Saturday evening on my way back home from Pennsylvania and remembered that The Next Olympic Hopeful was airing on NBCSN. Then I remembered how crazy busy my December is going to be and that I probably won't be putting out any articles that month, so I should probably put one out now.

And thus, my live blog of The Next Olympic Hopeful began. Enjoy!

If you want to view this as you read, you can catch it online at I'll put down times so you can easily track along with your viewing!
(PART 1 and PART 2)

:00 Aw, Opening Ceremony memories...

:01 I wish I was fit enough to put out an audition for this show. Instead I'm watching it. Bummer.

:02 I totally remember visiting that gym in Colorado Springs! Such a cool place - you all should go there. (It's free!)

:03 I will admit that I hate reality shows - mostly because of the editing that is supposed to create drama where there wasn't any. So remember that as I am blogging through this.

:04 I miss Colorado and those mountains...

:05 It's very clever for them to not be so specific about a sport as they start the audition process. They determine where you excel, and no one comes in with a focused mindset.

:06 Sprints! Nice to see a lot of diversity and gender equality.

:06 LaDarren Landrum - our first profile piece! I get why we are taken from the competition - to get backstories and get a bigger emotional connection - but it still feels like an interruption.

Commercials. I'm not used to commercials, guys. This stinks. This is why I have commercial-free Hulu and Netflix.

:13 Standing vertical test. Surprising to see how much speed and jumping factors into weightlifting. 23 1/2 inches? Wow!

:14 I'm a sucker for fancy shots - that overhead shot of the field was cool.

:14 Blech - endurance tests. It looks like they're four overall groups - men's grey and light grey, and women's red and blue.

:15 Excuse me Avinash Jawahir - endurance running is important for every sport. It's endurance testing.

:17 Kayla Caldwell - gymnast turned pole vaulter turned ??? Rugby maybe? That's my guess. Surprised to see she actually was in the Olympic Trials for pole vaulting in 2016!

:20 Sorry - I love this whole "sports transitioning" thing. I am also someone vehemently against kids playing one sport their whole lives. If you raise a child to be well-rounded in sports, then when things like this competition come up, they're prepared to do anything!

:24 Oh I love these kinds of "find the light" games!

:27 Look at how the fellow competitors cheer when they're not working! I hope the coaches and trainers noticed that. Being a solid teammate with good sportsmanship can be just as important as being a good athlete.

:33 Meals at the OTC? Is Sam Mikulak there? Do they live in the dorms right now?

:34 Have we seen Marissa Howell in action yet?

:35 CUTS. Oh no! The worst part of tryouts!

:36 Weights! I love weights! Interesting to hear them talk about kilograms on the weights - gotta keep it consistent with world weightlifting standards.

:43 Oh - chin-ups with weights? Count me out.

:44 Hey it's Michigan's own Claressa Shields - two-time Olympic gold medalist!

:47 So is this just an hour long? With all the commercials, it doesn't seem like nearly enough time to display these athletes. But I guess it isn't for the television audience. They just bring in the cameras to promote it.

:50 Fabian Griffin is from Victorville, California - where my grandfather did his army training in World War II!

:50 I really need to start doing some serious weightlifting again. I miss it.

:51 Some of them with this lifting technique are keeping their heads down - you can tell they're tired when they start lifting their torso to get the next rep.

:53 Sport-specific selection time. Ugh. That has to be incredibly stressful.

:54 I wish we'd gotten to meet more competitors - did we only meet the ones that they selected and no one else? That's pretty anticlimactic.

:56 Carlin Isles can boost my spirits any day.

:57 Oh good - there is more to this than just one episode! There's two episodes - and now we get to see them zero in on a sport!

And here's my live blog of Part II, which aired on Sunday!

:07 Aw, some get multiple sports? How cool! (I'd totally want to try rugby.)

:10 So did anyone not make the sport-specific lists at all? I'm sure they don't want to emphasize that, but there probably were some.

:16 Kayaking test! Can they balance or not? Power is great, but balance is key.

:19 Wow - Avinash is very talented! All four string instruments?! And dancing?!

:27 Bullying in school can result in several different things, and Sophia Mirabella uses it to motivate her training.

:42 Yes! Bobsled and skeleton! Look at all that muscle.

:44 If you thought we were done with athlete profiles at this stage, you were wrong: Rodriguez Russell has a dad and a brother in bobsled, and the coaches are impressed by his speed and push! I love that he pretended that the Wal-mart carts were bobsleds. I mean, who doesn't?

:46 Hey, it's Josh Williamson, who is now on the US bobsled team and did this whole competition last year!

:47 True words from LaDarren: "You know, in life, you win and you learn. You only lose if you quit."

:51 It's time! At this point I think we know who is getting picked, but for what?

:52 Oh look! They get a special jacket!

:52 Rodriguez Russell for bobsled!

:52 Stephanie Grant gets boxing? Ooh - we didn't know about her. So there are people that didn't get profiled that are winning.

:53 LaDarren gets the rowing?! How wonderful! He looks good in that jacket.

:53 Lindsay Mayo's choice for rugby was one of the biggest no-brainers.

:54 So many choices for weightlifting but Kayla Caldwell gets it over Marissa and Avinash.

:56 I hope to see Sophia, Marissa, and Avinash next time.

:57 These people are proud to participate for Team USA. That chant just brings a smile to my face every time. Different backgrounds, different cultures, different genders, but all united with a common goal.

:59 Epilogue: The eight Olympic hopefuls are all training. Kayla Caldwell participated in a weightlifting competition and placed ninth out of 129. I hope to see her in Tokyo! Meanwhile, Rodriguez Russell is "reassessing his pursuit of the sport." I hope that he figures out what he wants to do, whether it's in the Olympics or not. Do what you love, buddy.

I hope you enjoyed The Next Olympic Hopeful from Team USA! December's posts might be spotty because of my crazy schedule, but I'll try to get something out. I hope everyone has a happy holidays!

Weekly Cauldron Check

Is the cauldron lit????


I'm Claire Nat and you're reading Light The CauldronFollow me on Twitter and Facebook @CauldronLight and read my past Olympic articles! You can start with my daily recap of the PyeongChang Winter Olympics HERE!

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Hosting the Olympics: Facing Facts

This week, the city of Calgary voted against hosting the 2026 Winter Olympics, with about 54% of the voters voting "no" to the referendum.

This means that there are only two cities left in the running for these Olympics: Stockholm, Sweden and Milan, Italy. In the past few months Sapporo, Japan; Sion, Switzerland; and Graz, Austria have all dropped out. Even Milan's host bid is unique: it is actually a dual-city bid with Cortina, spreading out the host duties.

Coincidentally, I was catching up on my Olympic YouTube videos and watched this video, which was recorded during the Olympism In Action forum last month. It's about 40 minutes long, but worth your time:

In short, there were several people directly involved with hosting the Olympics in their respective cities, and one - Chris Dempsey of the No Boston Olympics movement from 2024 - who was involved with making sure the Olympics never came to his city.

The spectacle of hosting an Olympics has now been overshadowed by social media's campaign to make sure the public knows exactly what they're signing up to do. Dempsey repeatedly talked in the forum about "hosting a three-week party" and then being forced to deal with all the set-up and clean-up.

In that book that I lambasted a few months ago, it was clear that the bidding process and the Olympic Games themselves had blown up out of control by the turn of the millennium. The host city organizers wined and dined the IOC to get them to award the Games to them. Then the venues they used were left to waste away once the IOC had waved bye-bye from the rearview mirror.

The IOC and host organizers were under scrutiny in 2002 after the Salt Lake City scandal, and then the venues of Athens 2004 have been famously passed around via social media as they lay abandoned. Dempsey certainly has a point. I won't say he's wrong.

But I will say that there will always be positives and negatives to anything. Yes, the costs will be monumental and there will definitely be growing pains as the city adjusts, but there will also be infrastructure strengthening and legacies to come.

Critics of the Olympics laugh at the idea of "legacy" after the Olympics are done. Agenda 2020 is working hard to ensure it. But is it perfect? Nothing is! Atlanta struggled in 1996, but it has also turned into one of the most sprawling metropolises in America. Sochi (doping scandals aside) has turned into a vacation mecca for Russia, and last summer hosted several World Cup matches with rousing success.

I got to see London's legacy firsthand, as I got an AirBNB in the Olympic Village, rented a bike and rode around Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park (it made me cry - not gonna lie), eat dinner at a very cool gastropub, and sat outside my complex while watching families walk around and kids play football at Victory Park. I don't think London's East Side looked like this fifteen years ago.

Face the facts: the supporters will point to all the positives of hosting an Olympics, and the critics will point to all the negatives of hosting an Olympics. There are always positives and negatives. It is important not to get caught up with one side or the other. Enjoy what comes, deal with the problems, and let the athletes play.

Olympic Channel Video of the Week

I love where these videos have been going lately. In a video this week Terron Beckham, a fitness instructor and YouTuber (and Odell Beckham Jr's cousin, for you Giants fans) traveled to Samoa to witness the weightlifting mecca for himself and discover their secrets. (Spoiler alert: there is no secret. They're just really, really good.)

Tokyo 2020 Prep

Volunteer applications for Tokyo end next month. I checked out my profile, and as of right now there isn't anything going on. Once the new year comes I'm sure that will ramp up.

Mini Blurbs

  • I enjoyed those Olympism in Action forum videos very much. It's nice to see some transparency. If you want to watch more of those presentations here's Day 1's videos and here's Day 2's.
  • My favorite track hurdler (and recent retiree) Dawn Harper-Nelson just announced this week that she's pregnant! After listening to her amazing 2-part interview from Olympic Fever, I learned that she and her husband were looking to start a family relatively soon. It's wonderful that it came together so quickly! (And check out the adorable video!)
  • While the IOC struggles to keep host cities for 2026, the USOC is working to put together a bid for 2030. This week they toured around Denver and Salt Lake City. Either city is fine for me! 
  • I have my Thanksgiving vacation reading material! Managed to snag Rome 1960 from a seller on Amazon - a hardcover book, mind you - for just $4! With shipping it still only cost me $10, and for a hardcover book in great shape, it was worth every penny! Looking forward to starting it!
  • Following up on last week's NBC Sports Gold article, I've decided to hold off for now. Olympic friend Meredith gave me some great information about the figure skating pass that she purchased. If you're curious, check out the comments section!
  • Publishing note: there won't be an Olympic Blurb next Sunday because of the holiday weekend. I hope everyone has a Happy Thanksgiving!

Weekly Cauldron Check

Is the cauldron lit????


I'm Claire Nat and you're reading Light The CauldronFollow me on Twitter and Facebook @CauldronLight and read my past Olympic articles! You can start with my daily recap of the PyeongChang Winter Olympics HERE!

Sunday, November 11, 2018

What is NBC Sports Gold and Should I Get It?

I watched the ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating today on NBC, where we got two competitions - men's and women's figure skating - in just an hour and a half. Without too much fanfare, we got barely any of the short programs and a handful of free programs. No pairs, and no ice dancing.

The supreme editing makes sense since it was on NBC proper, but still a bit disappointing. The crew actually doesn't travel there, either, which is why we don't get any interviews.

But at the end of every broadcast, we are urged to check out NBC Sports Gold to get even more figure skating, including live broadcasts of many of the competitions NBC would air instead of the tape-edited features.

It frustrates me, because as much as I want live-streamed coverage, I don't want to fork over more money since I already have the yearlong pass for track and field.

Here are some details for the Gold pass:

  • NBC offers a Gold pass for a given yearly period for certain sports, including
    • Track and Field
    • Speed Skating
    • Figure Skating
    • Skiing/Snowboarding/Ski Jumping/Nordic Combined/Biathlon
    • Premier League Football
    • Cycling
    • Rugby
    • Philadelphia sports, and 
    • Portland Trailblazers. Not sure why they have the last two. 
  • The year pass ranges from $19.99 (speed skating) to $74.99 (track and field), though they do offer sales. (Figure skating is currently ten dollars off - $59.99 - and track and field is $5 off - $69.99.) Most just have a season-long pass, but the Philly pass offers a monthly plan.
  • You get a login, and the pass allows you to live stream events from the main broadcasting feeds. You can also view replays of events. 
  • The subscription auto-renews at the start of the next season unless you cancel beforehand, so a credit card is required. 
I bought the track and field pass back in May, and I got my money's worth. Even last month I was able to use it to watch Eliud Kipchoge's world record-breaking Berlin Marathon run. 

There are two caveats to the Gold pass: it's very expensive, and the app isn't great. 

I wish that it was a bit cheaper, because then it would be no doubt to purchase the figure skating and snow passes. It's nice that it is just a one-time payment, but that can creep up on you when the auto-renewal kicks in. 

I am not a fan of the app. It doesn't always work with Chromecast, which is something I really enjoy. The app also kicks me out a lot of the time so I'm constantly logging in, and it always forgets which pass I subscribe to. It says "NO SPEED SKATING AVAILABLE" and I think, "Good, because that's not what I want!"

Hopefully they can make the app a little easier to work with, and someday they can offer a combo discount where the more passes you buy, the less you have to pay. (Kind of like a Disney vacation: the more days you buy, the less the daily passes cost!)

I really enjoy having the international broadcast feed because then you can see everyone competing instead of NBC's chosen few. But it does also mean you have to sit through ice resurfacing, breaks in the action, or bad weather delays. Keep that in mind. 

So is this something you would consider purchasing? Does it make you angry that NBC is nickel and diming Olympic lovers by making these single passes? Should I splurge for the figure skating pass since it's on sale right now? I'm curious what other people think!

Olympic Channel Video of the Week

There were some great videos this week - I especially loved yesterday's look at the Samoan weightlifting craze - but the one I adored from this week is the "On the Line" interviews about  Duke Kahanamoku and Johnny Weissmuller. It revealed so much information about these great athletes!

Weekly Cauldron Check

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I'm Claire Nat and you're reading Light The CauldronFollow me on Twitter and Facebook @CauldronLight and read my past Olympic articles! You can start with my daily recap of the PyeongChang Winter Olympics HERE!

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Play it Again, Sam

I have a love/hate relationship with Sam Mikulak.

Love, because c'mon. The dude is gorgeous, AND he attended the University of Michigan and helped their gymnastics squad win two NCAA titles. He always has a smile on his face, and is very upbeat and supportive of his teammates.

Hate, because when it comes to international competition, Mikulak fades. At least, that's what I've always thought.

Last week was the artistic gymnastics world championships, and while the world was talking about Simone Biles (as they rightly should), I decided to take a different spin by looking at the only US male gymnast to get a medal. He had to wait until the very last event to get it, but he did.

This is a time of peak performances in the male gymnast world. It is absolutely incredible the things that they are able to do with their massive muscles and tumbling skills. It is an entirely different sport compared to women's gymnastics, and doesn't get the publicity that maybe it deserves - especially in the past six years. (I've been writing an article about the difference between men's and women's gymnastics in my head for about three years - someday it will be ready!)

Maybe that's why I magnetize to Sam Mikulak. He has been America's best hope for a medal since Jonathan Horton retired, and I'm expecting him to be able to compete with the likes of Kohei Uchimura from Japan or Artur Dalaloyan from Russia.

Unfortunately, maybe the incredible competitiveness of the male gymnasts of today means that he can't quite meet those insanely high expectations. I had all the faith in the world that he would medal in Rio, and event after event Mikulak flubbed in some way or didn't have the beginning difficulty score to be level with the elites. I ended my Rio Olympics pretty sore when it came to Sam Mikulak.

I did think that was his last chance, honestly, and it surprised me to see that he was still training at the USOTC in Colorado Springs and planning to compete in this year's world championships. We as Americans can sometimes gain a false sense of eliteness when watching a national championship, because when those same amazing athletes go up against the world's best, they tend to be knocked down a peg. Mikulak fit that mold for a long time; he was clearly the best in the States, but was not nearly as good as the rest of the world.

This year, it looked like things might change. Going into the final round of the individual all-around, Mikulak was in third place - bronze medal position. But then he made a costly mistake in (arguably) his best event - the high bar - and finished in fifth instead.

During the event finals, Mikulak did almost every discipline, but was always barely out of the medal positions. He even started the parallel bars competition but had to watch as three gymnasts passed him for the podium.

Finally, in the event that took him off the all-around podium, he knocked it out of the park and only lost to insane high bar specialist Epke Zonderland of the Netherlands (look up his stuff - it's incredible) and King Kohei himself. Can't argue with that!

Will Mikulak ever be atop a men's gymnastics podium? I know he still has another Olympics in him, barring any injuries. But it is going to be really hard to catch up to those amazing elite gymnasts. However, this week made me feel a little better about rooting for him. He'll keep working hard - there's no doubt about that - and hard work yields results. Let's make those results global!

Olympic Channel Video of the Week

If you have half an hour, watch this mini doc about the women's handball team from Montenegro, who took silver in 2012 in London, giving the country its only medal ever. It covers the aftermath of the competition, and how it has positively affected the country:

Tokyo 2020 Prep

If I get to see any gymnastics, it's going to be an event finals night for sure. Forget the all-arounds! I want to see the men and women compete, and I don't want to be distracted by four or five athletes going at the same time.

Ugh, what am I talking about. I'll never be able to get a ticket for gymnastics!

Mini Blurbs

  • The Japanese gymnastics teams mirrored their Tokyo 2020 logo on their singlets, but they made it black instead of blue to match their country colors. In the end, it looked like a checkerboard across their chests. 
  • I am all about women gymnasts competing who aren't teenagers. Aliia Mustafina, who won the Olympic gold in uneven bars the past two Games, had a baby and still qualified for the Russian world championship team at age 24. And then there's Uzbekistan's Oksana Chusovitina, who qualified for the vault final at age 43 and placed fourth! I think Simone Biles would heartily disagree, but I want her to be the next Chusovitina and compete for longer than her competitors have been alive.
  • This is the magical time of year where summer and winter sports are going on together. While Biles is competing in Doha, Qatar, Yuzuru Hanyu is winning the men's figure skating competition in Helsinki, Finland. While Shalane Flanagain won bronze in today's NYC Marathon, Abzal Azhgaliyev is winning the men's short track speed skating 500 meters for Kazakhstan. Just a beautiful time!
  • Finally got to catch NBC Sports' Curling Night in America on Friday evening, and liked the setup, even though the actual match was recorded back in July, I believe, and they are milking it for all it's worth. Check it out if you're curious next Friday!
  • Instead of NBC airing the NYC Marathon, the honor went to ESPN, though a few of the normal commentators and journalists switched allegiances for one event. Tim Hutchings, who announces many NBC Sports Gold track events, also analyzed this event, and they should have just let him do the whole thing - he is my favorite track announcer by far!
  • Speaking of ESPN, their coverage of the marathon basically sucked. They didn't show any of the wheelchair competition (which ended up being quite exciting) and threw in some puff pieces during the race. DON'T DO THAT, ESPN. JUST SHOW THE RACE. Or at least keep the men's and women's elite events in the corner of the screen! When Mary Keitany pulled away, guess which cameras didn't show it? When Shalane Flanagan overtook several athletes to finish in third (after winning the whole thing last year), guess who didn't show it? I never thought I'd say this, but I missed the NBC Sports coverage. No, ESPN, I don't need to see a touch-screen feature about steps per mile for some runner I don't know. 
  • My guest sting on the Olympic Fever podcast aired on Thursday - you can catch it here! (And regardless of the title, we were not running for our lives - that's the title of the book we covered.)

Weekly Cauldron Check

Is the cauldron lit????


I'm Claire Nat and you're reading Light The CauldronFollow me on Twitter and Facebook @CauldronLight and read my past Olympic articles! You can start with my daily recap of the PyeongChang Winter Olympics HERE!

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Book Review: Running For My Life

Often we hear Americans complain about "first world problems." We know that our issues aren't as bad as those who live in smaller, poorer countries, and we acknowledge it with that phrase. But let's be honest - even though we might convince ourselves that we get what they go through, we don't.

The things that I read in Lopez Lomong's book, Running for My Life: One Lost Boy's Journey from the Killing Fields of Sudan to the Olympic Games were eye opening. As a six-year-old, Lomong was taken from his parents by Sudanese soldiers in the People's Liberation Army in order to be trained as a child soldier.

The boys were stuck in one large room, ate terrible food out of one bucket, used the bathroom wherever they could, and watched as fellow boys died around them. With the help of some boys from his village, he escaped the camp and literally ran for his life to Kenya.

At the UN refugee camp, we would assume that Lomong's life drastically improved, but it took longer than that. One of the shocking aspects of this section was that on Tuesdays, the refugee boys would jump into the dump where the UN would dispose their garbage and take all the food they could fine. They ate garbage, and that was the best day of the week.

Eventually Lomong hears about a program that sends boys like him to America to be adopted, and he makes it to Syracuse, New York to be adopted by Rob and Barbara Rogers. The kind of culture shock that Lomong experienced was very different to what we're used to - he was suddenly in a huge house with all the food and drink he could have, a bedroom of his own, indoor plumbing, and multiple sets of clothing. Yet he was scared - scared that it would all suddenly get taken away and he'd be back where he started.

Lomong's story is enthralling. I read this in the span of 36 hours back in August. I started reading and I couldn't put it down! (It helped that I was still plodding my way through The Games and was excited to read a book that wasn't so dreary and documentarian.) Although I read this because it is related to the Olympics, I realized that the Olympics aspect of the story was secondary to Lomong's life.

The book was selected as the Olympic Fever Book Club book for the fall, and Jill, Alison, and I will be talking about it on this week's podcast. I would highly recommend that you pick up the book and read Lomong's story - it won't take very long! Then make sure to download the Olympic Fever podcast to hear our take. If anything, this book will give you insight into what people have dealt with in Sudan and South Sudan for many, many years.

Honestly, the I feel like I wouldn't even bother saying "first world problems" ever again. It just seems to put third world country problems into a nice, neat box - and we could all do ourselves a favor and see how real this world around us is.

Tokyo 2020 Prep

In listening to a podcast centered around Japan, I heard that interviews in Japan are very formal. Japanese students who are interviewed at school do not just have a conversation with their teachers, but are grilled intensely. It makes me wonder about the interview process for volunteering at the Olympics. Should I expect something casual? Or should I prepare myself to be grilled? (It never hurts to be prepared for both.)

Olympic Channel Video of the Week

Marjorie Jackson is an Australian sprinter who won gold in the 100- and 200-meters in the 1952 Olympics. In her own words, we hear her story. How cool!

Bonus Video: I loved Runner's World's video from the Chicago Marathon Expo. They set up a giant treadmill and set it at Eliud Kipchoge's world record marathon pace that he ran last month in Berlin. It really makes people realize how fast these distance runners are - and they keep it up for two hours!

Mini Blurbs

  • The World Gymnastics Championships started last week and the team finals start tomorrow morning. Unfortunately, I work during the day, so I'll have to catch it later. But I will be watching and covering it next week!
  • Speaking of gymnastics, Simone Biles had to go to the ER in Qatar last week - the night before qualification day - because of a kidney stone! She still has the stone, and is competing with it. Amazing!
  • I have been catching up on the Skate America and Skate Canada figure skating competitions. It is a lot of fun watching the figure skaters I watched last season in PyeongChang skating to completely different routines. A standout is Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue's free dance routine. Last season they did a hot and sexy routine, but this year they are doing a dance that is much more fluid and emotional. Hubbell does an amazing job emoting throughout the routine!
  • The Olympic Channel has been airing track cycling, and I got to watch a women's points race - 100 laps, with a sprint held every ten laps. This is where the long track speed skaters found the inspiration for their mass start race, which first happened in PyeongChang. It is just as confusing on the track as it was on the ice!

Weekly Cauldron Check

Is the cauldron lit????


I'm Claire Nat and you're reading Light The CauldronFollow me on Twitter and Facebook @CauldronLight and read my past Olympic articles! You can start with my daily recap of the PyeongChang Winter Olympics HERE!

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Practicing What I Preach - Find the Tournaments and GO

It is so common for us to turn on the television, watch a sport, and think, "Man, it would be really cool to be there."

Well, not all the time. If there's blistering heat or freezing cold, it might be more comfortable to watch on the couch than in the stadium. But be real: if an incredible event in sport took place, don't you want to say that you were there?

As a lover of the Olympics, it has become a goal of mine to not only watch more Olympic events outside of the two weeks of Winter and Summer Games, but also attend more stuff. And with not one, but two national championships coming to the great state of Michigan, I would be remiss if I didn't try to attend a session or two.

The first is the US Figure Skating Championships in January. Those are taking place at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit. Unlike this year's Stars On Ice show, this is a competition, so the athletes will be giving their all and trying hard stuff so they can go on to the world championships in Japan.

I decided to go for two events instead of trying to fit all four disciplines on my schedule. One priority is the men's program. What can I say? I love watching men turn quads. I got tickets in two different areas so that I can enjoy two different vantage points. I don't splurge on insane tickets prices - I go for the cheapest possible, but there were still great seats available and I think I did well!

The second national championship is actually in curling! I know how curling is played, but have never had an insane obsession with the sport. However, with the national championships being in Kalamzoo - about an hour away from me - how could I refuse?

I'm excited to see a day where there are multiple matches going on at the same time. I wasn't assigned a seat, so I'm sure that I will be able to walk around the arena and check out different competitions as they go along.

The reasons I am excited to attend are multiple, but one of the coolest things is coming together with fellow fans of the sport. They know what's going on! They know the rules, they know the athletes, and they know the ins and outs. I'm hoping to see a lot of sponsor stuff around the concourse - not that I have money to buy anything, but it will be fun to see.

Are there any competitions in your area in the next few months? The Team USA Twitter and each individual US sport social media is good about promoting upcoming events, so be sure to take a look. Remember - this is one of the ways to support the sport and athletes. While it's great to watch on NBC, sometimes it's even better to throw your own voice in the arena!

Olympic Channel Video of the Week

Now that the Youth Olympics are over, the YouTube channel is back to its normal stuff. One of its first videos was an awesome look at the amazing hype that Indonesia dedicates to its badminton athletes. It's a longer video, but I encourage everyone to at least watch the first thirty seconds to see the extremely awesome title sequence.

Tokyo 2020 Prep

Nothing here - just a bit of regret for the additional things I could have added to my Tokyo volunteer form that I can't add anymore. I guess I'll just have to wait until I get interviewed to add that I helped organize a bunch of track meets! (I mean, that's pretty important, right? Especially if I want to work at the track and field venue.)

Mini Blurbs

  • I will admit, the Youth Olympics were nice to put on while I was correcting papers and working in the classroom. There's a bunch of IOC sessions took place and were put on YouTube, and I'm going to try to take a look at those this week. Maybe I'll have something to talk about next blog!
  • Road cycling is hard, but off-road cycling is brutal. I watched a competition for a little bit yesterday and there was so much mud and muck and hills that basically the athletes biked for a while, and then had to get off their bikes and carry them up or down a steep portion! Wow. 
  • I caught some table tennis, too. I still don't know how in the world those high-level athletes can play so far from the table and be so precise. It's crazy!

Weekly Cauldron Check

Is the cauldron lit????


I'm Claire Nat and you're reading Light The CauldronFollow me on Twitter and Facebook @CauldronLight and read my past Olympic articles! You can start with my daily recap of the PyeongChang Winter Olympics HERE!

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Youth Olympics: A Strange Alternate Reality

A few years back I lived in Wisconsin. Because I'm originally from Michigan, the transition from one Midwest state to another wasn't that big of a deal. However, there were just enough little things all over the place to remind me that I wasn't in my home state anymore. It felt like a parallel dimension; everything is the same, but everything is just a tad different. 

I have that feeling as I try to watch the Youth Olympic Games that are taking place in Buenos Aires, Argentina, right now. For all intents and purposes, this is an Olympic event. The official logos and colors and designs are plastered all over the place. Athletes are wearing their countries' colors (and sometimes the exact same uniform as two years ago). Omega is still displaying the screens. There's even the same English announcers! 

But it all seems different.

For one thing, I don't know anyone. Due to my constant intake of Olympics news, I am well familiar with athletes from many of the different sports. While I will know many of these athletes in the future, I have no idea who they are right now, and there are no familiar faces on which to cheer. 

Talk about alternate reality: after a Winter Olympics where Russia didn't make an official appearance and a IAAF season where Russia was banned, it's crazy to see the Russian flag on the screen again. 

I'm glad that it looks like the people of Argentina are enjoying themselves as these games play on. I am also glad that NBC isn't tight-fisting the broadcast of these Youth Olympics. You can go onto Youtube and find a livestream of many events right now, plus the Olympic Channel YouTube page is providing daily recaps and clips for people to watch. Twitter also provides links to events that air airing live. (And since these are in South America, they are live in the American time zone!) 

But I just can't get into it! Perhaps NBC's insane promotion of the Olympic Games actually does its job: it gets me excited to watch. 

I also have one more slight issue with the Youth Olympics: these are geared towards kids aged 14 to 18. I don't particularly agree with broadcasting and promoting kids that young on an international stage. That's why I avoid watching the Little League World Series, where the kids are even younger! Those kids should not worry about saying or doing the right thing on television or the Internet. They are still trying to figure out their lives, for goodness' sake! 

There are only 4,000 athletes there, and even in some of the events, countries are competing together. I saw the end of the ladies' doubles final in tennis yesterday, and the winners were from two different countries: Poland and Slovenia. So when they got their gold medals, the Olympic anthem was played instead of their countries' anthems! Very strange. 

I do like the "preview" of future events at the Olympics. They have sport climbing and 3x3 basketball and karate, so if someone wanted to see how it would work in 2020 they could watch. The 3x3 basketball was actually quite interesting - it's only half court and once the team scores a point, the other team just has to take it out beyond the arc and they can shoot! I think I'd rather watch 3x3 than the "real" 5x5. 

Jacques Rogge created these Youth Olympics to promote an active lifestyle in the youth, but as was correctly pointed out in last week's Olympic Fever podcast, the only ones who get the spotlight are those who are basically training exclusively for these events already. And are kids watching? Do they even know it's going on? I'll admit I haven't checked Nickelodeon or the Disney Channel, but I don't think they've been mentioning these games. If you've seen promotions on those kid channels, please let me know!

It's an admirable idea, but it probably would be better served in different locations that would include more kids, instead of just making it Olympics-lite. It seems more ideal to continue their "Olympic Day" activities or create school programs that can be implemented worldwide instead of dumping millions of dollars into something that very few people know is going on. 

I see this alternate reality, and I think there's got to be a better way. What do you think?

Tokyo 2020 Update

I finished my Tokyo Volunteer application! Now I have a profile and they will let me know the next steps in the process. I heard last week they'd already received 30,000 applications, so I'm now in the next ten or twenty thousand or so. 

I made sure to plug as many things as possible; I have helped out with sporting events in the past. I taught English in China. I am actively involved in running and other sporting activities. I have an Olympics blog! 

I would love for this to be a springboard into future volunteer efforts (LA2028, anyone?). And this might be a good way to introduce myself into the Olympics in person, as opposed to cornering myself into a spectator package or something. We'll see - I'll keep you posted!

Mini Blurbs
  • One of the IOC Members passed away suddenly while attending the Youth Olympics; Switzerland's Patrick Baumann died of a heart attack. He was only 51. Looking at his biography he has done a lot to promote basketball in particular (like 3x3) and was one of the people chosen to organize the next Youth Olympics in Lausanne. It's a big tragedy and everyone is offering their condolences and support at this sad time. 
  • With all the Olympic people I follow on Twitter, I have to say that I'm pretty shocked that track and field athletes and other summer sport athletes are already starting up their training routines again! They only have a month off?! I guess if the end goal is the Olympics, you don't want to take off much time at all! 
  • Laurie Hernandez announced her intention to begin training for Tokyo 2020 while the rest of her potential teammates (including Simone Biles) did their Colorado Springs World Team Selection Camp. The final six choices weren't surprising, and these are definitely names to watch as we look towards Tokyo. (And remember - there are only going to be four on the team in 2020!)
  • Speaking of gymnastics, Tom Forster had a Twitter Q&A for merely 30 minutes and was bombarded with questions. People care, and people made their voices known. He did a pretty good job being politically correct while still acknowledging people's concerns. 
  • On the other side, Mary Bono was named interim president and chief executive officer of USA Gymnastics, and then posted a picture on Twitter of her coloring over the Nike logo on her shoes. She then took it down and posted an apology. But she really did herself a disservice by starting off on such a sour note. 
  • NBC Sports showed off their new logo for Tokyo 2020, which looks pretty great: 
  • I like the blue city background especially - though they do seem to lean a lot on blue when they make their logos. Whatever - it looks nice!
Weekly Cauldron Check

Is the cauldron lit????

Not really. In an alternate reality - yes! 

I'm Claire Nat and you're reading Light The CauldronFollow me on Twitter and Facebook @CauldronLight and read my past Olympic articles! You can start with my daily recap of the PyeongChang Winter Olympics HERE!

Sunday, October 7, 2018

I Am Bolt: Documentary Review

Last week I was flipping through Netflix and was reminded that the documentary I Am Bolt was there. It seemed like the perfect night for a documentary, so I turned it on! I was only thinking I'd be watching half of it, but I ended up watching all of it in one sitting!

The documentary follows Jamaican track star Usain Bolt as he prepares for the 2016 Olympics in Rio - his last Olympics. In between life, training, and injury recovery (more on that later), the doc inserts highlights of Bolt's early career and Olympic moments. It was crazy seeing him as a 15-year-old!

This was originally put together for German television and aired in late 2016. If you've been a fan of Bolt, this documentary will only make you like him more. He's not always shown to be omniscient - leading up to 2016 he actually suffered a hamstring injury early in the year which postponed his training. It also reared up in the national championships, and if you remember, he didn't race in them but was still named to the Jamaican team.

I think the moments that struck me the most were the times when Bolt was kind of holed up in his hotel room. There was one night where he couldn't sleep, and was just shooting a video in his teeny room while rolling around on his electric skateboard. Why? Well, if he'd gone anywhere, he would be mobbed!

I was never a huge fan of Bolt because of all the media hype, but this documentary helped me to appreciate him more as a person and less as a gloating athlete who panders to the crowd. I've learned to admire athletes for simply capitalizing on adrenaline than being showhogs. I also blame the media more than any other group for overhyping athletes and making them look more like myths than men and women. This documentary helped me see Bolt as a person.

I recommend this documentary if you have a free couple of hours and have Netflix. I hope they put more stuff like this on streaming platforms!

Tokyo 2020 Prep

Still working on my volunteer application. I also sent in an email to the Abroad in Japan podcast about where to stay during the Olympics, and they (Chris and Pete) suggested a hostel instead of two weeks in a capsule hotel. They also said that AirBNB, who has completely overhauled their Japanese rules and reservations, should be back to normal by the time the Olympics roll around. (I'm not a huge hostel fan, so AirBNB is probably the best idea for me.)

Olympic Channel Video of the Week

I'm not going to link a video this week, but if you have any interest in the Youth Olympics, they have been live streaming a ton of stuff today, and probably will continue to do so as the week progresses. I actually got to watch the entire Opening Ceremony on YouTube!

Mini Blurbs

  • Speaking of Opening Ceremony, here's my hot take: it was boring. One highlight was that instead of doing the ceremony in a stadium, they did it in the middle of Buenos Aires' Avenida 9 de Julio, its main street that features a large obelisk that they used to project various things via projection mapping. But that positive was also a negative: they had a very small amount of space to use, and while they tried to spread the entertainment, it ended up only being visible to a small crowd of people. 
  • The athletes were brought in all at once at the beginning of the ceremony and were allowed prime standing room in the middle of the front stage. But then they tried to bring in the Olympic flag through the teenagers, and they did not want to let the thing through! You really thought that teenagers would know to move aside? You guessed wrong. 
  • Since the athletes all moved into the area at once, they just announced the flag bearers and they walked across the stage. It was pretty dull - plus the announcers only had about five seconds to say one interesting fact about the athlete or the country. Clearly the flags are more interesting if they come in with all the athletes. 
  • I might watch some Youth Olympics - especially at school while I'm correcting papers. Otherwise I just can't drum up interest. I'll let you know next week if I did get any interest. Let me know if you watch anything!
  • I am watching the US men's gymnastics selection competition from last month, and this week the women are competing. They just do it in one of the US Olympic Training Center gyms, so there's basically no audience. It's quite different!
  • The Olympic Channel also has a podcast, and a few weeks ago they did an episode on mental health and interviewed two athletes: Michael Phelps and Pieter Van den Hoogenband (still the best name in Olympic history IMO). The Phelps interview wasn't long at all, and that's basically the reason I downloaded the episode. However, the Van den Hoogenband interview was very entertaining and I like him even more now. 
  • Anyone aware that NBCSN is doing Curling Night in America? I mean, why not take advantage of the curling "craze" and turn the sport into a regular show instead of four times a year? I'm going to try to watch!
  • I almost forgot to talk about the Chicago Marathon! I watched it this afternoon and was thrilled when British runner Mo Farah won the marathon! It was tight between him and Ethiopian Mosinet Geremew until about 400 meters to go, when Farah turned on the jets and Geremew couldn't keep up. (It should be noted that world record holder Eliud Kipchoge didn't run this marathon.)
  • The weather in the midwest has been disgusting for about four days, so the weather in Chicago was also gross. But it was still better weather than this year's Boston Marathon!
  • I'd been following triathlete (and Olympic gold medalist) Gwen Jorgensen as she trained for the Chicago marathon, and she ended up finishing in ninth. She said she was disappointed, but anyone who decides to run 26.2 miles and finishes ninth in an elite field should be commended. Way to go Gwen!

Weekly Cauldron Check

Is the cauldron lit????

Well, kind of? I don't think I want to count it, though, so no. 

I'm Claire Nat and you're reading Light The CauldronFollow me on Twitter and Facebook @CauldronLight and read my past Olympic articles! You can start with my daily recap of the PyeongChang Winter Olympics HERE!

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Winter Is Coming

It stinks for some of us to think about it, and it's a delight for others. Regardless of which way you feel, winter is coming, and winter Olympic sports are reminding us of that fact this week.

While the first day of fall was a mere week ago, winter sports are starting up their long seasons with warm-up competitions and tuneups. Already we've had competitions in figure skating, bobsledding, and curling, and the NHL season starts this week.

Because the Winter Olympics were back in February, it seems crazy that the winter sports are already starting up their new seasons. But it just means that this year is flying by, and that these athletes spend a lot of time training and competing. It's not like high school where the season is just three months of the year.

Since we are in the beginning of the quadrennial for winter Olympic sports, the competitions are going to be just a bit lackluster. Maia and Alex Shibutani are actually taking the entire year off of competition, and I'm sure that would apply to many other winter athletes, as well!

It's too bad, because the US Figure Skating Championships are going to be in Detroit this year, and I'm probably going to go. It would be a bummer if many of the top skaters sat the season out.

This is a great time to follow social media for these winter sports - they can help you notice new talent and alert you to events that are taking place. Even though there aren't Olympics, there are still many World Championships to enjoy!

Remember: since these seasons are long, athletes probably aren't going to be at their yearly peak right away. I caught Yuzuru Hanyu's free skate from last week's Autumn Classic International, and his new routine is still a bit rusty. The more he does it, the better it will get!

Enjoy the autumn leaves and the cooling temperatures, because the sports of ice and snow are already upon us!

Tokyo 2020 Prep

The Tokyo Olympic volunteer sign-up opened up on Wednesday, and I started my registration! The process is lengthy, and I'm pretty sure I don't have the skills they want, but I'm going to give it a shot anyway. I think it would be super amazing to not only go to the Olympics, but participate in a special way!

Olympic Channel Video of the Week

The Olympic Channel is really pushing the Youth Olympics, which really don't interest me. But last week Sunday they put up a cool video about twins that compete in the Olympics:

Mini Blurbs

  • You might wonder why I'm not more excited for the Youth Olympics. I'm not really sure - maybe I should just watch it and see what it's about. They start on Saturday from Buenos Aires, Argentina and are every two years instead of four. If I watch anything next week, I will let you know! These are our future Olympic athletes, after all.
  • The IAAF changed the requirements for next year's entry into the World Championships. Instead of hitting a "standard" and qualifying that way, they are emphasizing important meets and placements in those meets. Apparently it's to prevent countries from submitting bogus standards (which has been done in the past), but it seems to have a negative affect on everyone else. Not everybody can get a Diamond League invitation!
  • The more I watch archery, the more I want to purchase the USA Archery jersey and wear it in Tokyo. Is that possible? 
  • Big congratulations to my friends at Olympic Fever who just celebrated their first anniversary! I think I'm going to have to buy a shirt since I'm kind of on their crew...
  • On Friday I got together with my faculty and played some games. One of the games was Trivia Crack, which is basically a modern version of Trivial Pursuit with multiple choice questions. I really liked how it was set up, too! There were a ton of Olympic questions, but three of them were out of date! 
    • Which fighting competition is not an Olympic sport? The answer was karate, but that's not true anymore.
    • How many Olympics has Michael Phelps competed in? The answer was four, but we all know that Rio made five.
    • Which sport is no longer in the Olympics? The answer was softball, but it's coming back!
    • If you need to make me sound like an Olympic nerd, just give me incorrect or out-of-date information. I kind of Hulk out.

Weekly Cauldron Check

Is the cauldron lit????


I'm Claire Nat and you're reading Light The CauldronFollow me on Twitter and Facebook @CauldronLight and read my past Olympic articles! You can start with my daily recap of the PyeongChang Winter Olympics HERE!

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Breaking2 Documentary Review

Okay, back to reality.

I think it's pretty cool how streaming platforms are allowing us to view documentaries and other shortform films that used to be aired and then subsequently never seen again.

A few months ago I reviewed Icarus, found on Netflix. But this week on YouTube, I found Breaking2, a documentary on three athletes vying to break the 2-hour marathon mark. It originally aired a year ago on National Geographic before the running of the Berlin Marathon, when everyone thought Eliud Kipchoge would break. He didn't actually do it until this year, which made watching this documentary now even more fun.

Here, I'll just post the whole documentary:

Kipchoge of Kenya, Lelisa Desisa of Ethiopia, and Zersenay Tadese of Eritrea were all profiled over six months and trained to run in a specially-designed marathon sponsored by Nike. Instead of a road race, the athletes ran on a racecourse. Like a marathon, the athletes had water, gels, and pacesetters strategically placed along the course. The coaches figured what mile pace they would need to run and ran simulations and tests to assure that the three could finish in under two hours.

Desisa and Tadese finished well behind two hours; Kipchoge was only 25 seconds over. Since this wasn't an officially sanctioned marathon it didn't count as a world record breaker, but I guess it was only a matter of time.

The pacesetters were some of the best distance runners the world has, including Bernard Lagat and my main man Lopez Lomong and ran with Kipchoge until less than 1 kilometer to go. Drafting was a huge part of the experiment - at some points there were six or seven pacesetters out there. In the future, marathons could be more of a team race than it is even now - even if the leader has to run the last few miles on his (or her) own.

Kipchoge is one of the best marathon runners ever, and I wasn't sure if he was going to be featured or not, so I smiled when he appeared. I hope to see him run in Tokyo. Who knows? Maybe by then he will be running under two hours.

Tokyo 2020 Prep

The aquatics schedules for swimming and diving have been released. The finals for swimming are in the morning (for easy US primetime viewing) and last for 9 days. That mixed medley relay is a top priority for my ticket schedule, and that's the morning of Day 7. So I have one days planned! Yay!

Olympic Channel Video of the Week

How enjoyable is it when a small country unexpectedly wins gold? Here are some of the best winners that came from small countries:

Cutting the Onion Update

I won't do this every week, but thanks for all the messages of support that came in from last week's post. The week was better then the last one, and I am staying busy. As I was teaching, I came across a hymn verse that made me smile: "Oh what peace we often forfeit, oh what needless pain we bear, all because we do not carry everything to God in prayer." I've been saying that to myself a lot lately. #CutTheOnion

Mini Blurbs

  • So WADA reinstated Russia and no one is happy except for Russia. It doesn't seem like many sanctions were made to prevent Russia from its doping tactics before they were reinstated. I'm curious how the next year will go.
  • I watched archery, but not the kind I'm used to. Instead, I watched barebow, which is much more similar to the Robin Hood-style of archery we're used to on television and in movies. No fancy bows with sights, and no flat courses. It was a lot more fun to watch than what I had been watching! 
  • USA Men's Gymnastics held a tryout for its national team over the weekend in Colorado Springs. I was a little confused; wasn't that the purpose of the National Championships in Boston? Or did that just whittle down the playing field? In any case, now we have the five men that are going to Worlds: Sam Mikulak, Yul Moldauer, Alec Yoder, Colin Van Wicklen, and Akash Modi. 
  • Announced this week: from now on, medalists in both the Olympics and Paralympics will receive the same money amounts. It wasn't that way before?

Weekly Cauldron Check

Is the cauldron lit????


I'm Claire Nat and you're reading Light The CauldronFollow me on Twitter and Facebook @CauldronLight and read my past Olympic articles! You can start with my daily recap of the PyeongChang Winter Olympics HERE!

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Cut the Onion

Boy has this been hard.

I am a lifelong sufferer of anxiety, but just over the last month has it really started to affect my life. I was  am a miserable wreck and couldn't can't love the things that I used to love.

Like the Olympics, for example.


So my mother came over and stayed with me for a few days while I visited a doctor and got sorted out with medication. I'm seeing a counselor. I'm talking to my pastor. My coworkers know. My family knows. I'm being brutally honest with them because I want to be brutally honest with myself. I've shoved it aside for so long that it reared its ugly head in an ugly way, demanding to be heard.

I heard you. Believe me, I heard you.

My mother made me food, we talked about a lot of stuff, we watched Jack Ryan on Amazon, (which was amazing, by the way - get on it) and she was a huge help. But I did realize that she couldn't stay - I had to find ways to figure this out while living and working on my own.

Before she left, she had bought an onion and left it out on the kitchen counter. I told her, "Mom, why did you get that onion after you cooked the food?"

She shrugged and said, "I'm not sure. But you can still cut it up and freeze it for later."

So every day this week I would go to my kitchen and see that onion.

I should cut that onion.


The worst thing an anxious person can do to themselves is ruminate about what they're thinking. It just makes it worse. So I'm working on being mindful and aware of the present.

It's very, very hard. Especially when I've had 33 years of experience in anxiety.

Medication does its job, but it can't do everything. I need to place all my trust in God, my anchor, and get my brain to a sense of normalcy.

I also have to start changing my life a bit. I live in a tiny town and don't really have neighbors. Currently the building that is directly across the street from me stands vacant after being a resale shop for a few years. It's a pretty lonely building to watch every day.

I used to love getting out and being amongst people, but on my own. I loved hiking and walking - and I kind of even enjoyed shopping, when I had the money to purchase stuff. But I think that I need to be with people.

I need to cut that onion.

Now social media isn't an answer at all - I can talk all I want, but you'll never know fully how I'm doing. So I've been texting and calling a few more people lately. I'm looking to volunteer at a local animal shelter - animals calm me, and I can meet fellow animal lovers there. I'm even thinking of auditioning for the local community theater - not my idea; in the summer my voice teacher said I should give it a try. I can blame her.

My automatic reflex when anxiety comes is to just curl up and stare at a TV until I have to deal with the next thing. News alert: that doesn't work.

I need to cut that onion.

It is making me reconsider a lot of stuff, but it's strengthening my relationship with God. He's always been there for me even when I have been more focused on "career" rather than "ministry." I get frustrated with God because he's not working with me, but why should he? He's almighty and knows all, while I'm just one piece of his magnificent creation. He sees the light at the end of my trouble tunnel, even though I can't.

You know what else helps? Writing. My mom reminded me of that when I was just complaining to her that I wasn't having a very good afternoon and was thinking of just scrubbing a second straight Sunday post. She's right - writing is good. I might write a little more - we'll see. I missed quite a bit of World Championships this week (including rowing!) - not all of that was because of my anxiety; most of it was due to work.

I need to cut that onion.

I am currently watching Eliud Kipchoge break the marathon world record, which he did this morning in Berlin. They really set him up for success: a flat course, three pace setters going right with him, and special drinks every 5 kilometers. They were hoping it would happen in London a few months ago, but the weather didn't cooperate. Today the conditions were perfect.

Another world record that I was disappointed to miss was Kevin Mayer's decathlon points record, beating Ashton Eaton's old record. Watching decathlon on television has always been difficult - it is a very personal experience - but it's still awesome that he did it.

Watching sports helps. I had gotten sour on sports-that-weren't-Olympic, but now I'm seeing through different eyes how important this stuff is for me. Wouldn't it be nice if one of my sports teams won it all this year? (Not likely - every team in Detroit SUCKS this year.)

I need to cut that onion.

When I first started being Olympic-exclusive, I followed a bunch of random Olympians on Twitter. One was gold medalist Tianna Bartoletta, long jumper and sprinter. I just recognized her name and clicked follow. Little did I know that she's been going through a very tough year, but has been blogging about it. The stuff she posts about the athletics life and mental health has been very eye opening, but encouraging. There are so many athletes that suffer from anxiety but can't share it because of fear of losing that success they have; Bartoletta just said, "Screw that" and ended up becoming an even more amazing person from it. Here, sample one of her articles to see.

My mental mindset needs to calm, but my physical self needs to work. I know what I have to do; I just need to constantly - CONSTANTLY - keep myself working on it. It won't be fixed in a day. It might not even be fixed in a month. But I just have to keep working.

And if anything else...

I just need to CUT. THAT. DAMN. ONION.

Done. What's next?

I'm Claire Nat and this was a very personal blog on my usually Olympic-centric Light The CauldronFollow me on Twitter and Facebook @CauldronLight and read my past Olympic articles. Mental health is not something to be taken lightly - talk to someone, listen to someone, and don't keep it to yourself. 

Saturday, September 1, 2018

Book Review: The Games

After many weeks, I finally finished The Games: A Global History of the Olympics by David Goldblatt. I kept talking about it in podcasts and blogs, but I hadn't actually finished it! You'll find as I do my review the reason why it took so long.

The Games tries to cram all of Olympic history into one very large tome. While reading it and thinking about how all-encompassing the book is trying to be, I could only think of Leia Organa talking to Grand Moff Tarkin during Star Wars: A New Hope: "The more you tighten your grip, Tarkin, the more star systems will slip through your fingers." 

The book starts off modestly. We read about the formation of the ancient Greek games and Pierre de Coubertin's efforts to bring them into the twentieth century. We read all the hurdles that had to be overcome and other people's efforts to present a similar Olympic-style competition in their areas as the Olympics grew. 

I found the first half of the book to be very good. It is amazing to think of how these games were meant to show the greatness of men, but really just promoted the hubris of the wealthy upper class men of Europe and other white-dominated societies. They didn't even try to hide the fact that this was a feat intended for men only!

Eventually (and thankfully) women's participation and the inclusion of people from all different corners of the world increased. With that inclusion, however, came political baggage that the IOC needed to consider. At first it was simply the dissolving of the British empire. Then it was the ramifications of The Great War. Then it was Hitler's reign and World War II. Communism. Apartheid. Which China was really China. While the games try to keep politics out, it is a very real side effect that challenges the Olympics to this day.

Goldblatt does a good job condensing the global history as it relates to the Olympics. However, when it comes to the Olympics themselves, he struggles. Barely any space is given to the men and women who competed, instead wasting paragraph after paragraph on greedy organizing committees and the constant increase of sponsors and promotion.

By the time Goldblatt gets into the late twentieth century, it's almost like he's grown more and more apathetic to the Olympics. His entire chapter on Atlanta 1996 was basically a slam to every single organizer and business sponsor. (Oh, and while no space was given to any other mascot, he found some room to insult Izzy. Just Izzy? Really?)

Since the book was released right before Rio 2016, he spent the last chapter talking about the follow up to those games. Did I say "talking about it"? I meant, "writing about all the political corruption, unstable national climate, and ill-prepared facilities." If you'd read this before departing for the Olympics, you would have had your excitement balloon deflated immediately.

The Winter Olympics are smushed in between chapters like an afterthought. While he dedicates an entire chapter to every single summer game, there are two or even three Winter competitions that are combined in a very disjointed way. There is no way a chapter could join Vancouver 2010 and Sochi 2014, but in this book they are combined.

I was hoping that the end of the book would allow for some hope for the future. He does mention Agenda 2020, but basically resigns to the fact that the Olympics have evolved into something that barely resembles its primary purpose. In short: the Olympics were terrible, currently are horrible, and will continue to be awful. Here, I'll quote him:

"Rather, the tragedy of Agenda 2020 is that, beneath the contorted language of corporate change - repositioning, benchmarking, leadership - [current IOC President Thomas] Bach and his minions are operating under the illusion that they are still part of a social movement - a force for value-driven action and goals, shielded from and antithetical to the demands of economic and politics...There are Olympians and Olympic officials, but there is no Olympic public and there are no Olympian activists...just the whirring wheels of a small but immensely connected and powerful bureaucracy."

Well, if there's no Olympic public, then who am I? What the heck am I doing? Why am I even typing this?

The basis of Goldblatt's book is that organizers of Olympics have been trying to achieve unattainable goals. With every Games there were negatives. The positives were too small to enjoy or too late to appreciate. And the cost is too much. 

I can acknowledge that the Olympics have always had struggles, and a lot of the time personal gain by organizers or countries meant that the movement suffered. But I can't just read this book and accept that nothing good is being done for the Olympic movement. Work is being done. Thanks to terrible people of the past, the IOC has to regulate and sound more like a business, which can make it seem like they are very flat and unenthusiastic and uninventive. But they're not! 

Plus, that "Olympic public" that doesn't exist? Those people are organizing rallies in Tokyo right now to get people excited for the next Olympics. Those people are making shows and videos to show on the Olympic Channel. Those people are working in Olympic training centers all over the world to prepare future Olympic athletes. Those people are writing Olympic blogs and recording Olympic podcasts and taping Olympic videos even though the next Olympics is still 700 days away. 

Best of all, those people are getting their plane tickets to Tokyo and are prepared to make this one of the most well-attended Olympics of all time. 

When you tightened your grip and tried to encompass the Olympic history, the more you let the stars of the show and the wonderful memories slip through your fingers. 

Not cool.

Tokyo 2020 Prep

Nothing to report!

Olympic Channel Video of the Week

Like I mentioned, the Olympics used to be a competition for the rich who had the means and the time to enjoy sport. But it's rare nowadays that royalty actually is good enough to be competitive. Here's a fun video talking about some of the more recent royals from around the world: 

Mini Blurbs
  • This week's BlurbWatch:
    • archery
    • rugby
    • track and field
  • Rugby is nuts. They have some full matches on YouTube. I wish Americans would get more into rugby. I should play rugby! Is there a rugby league around me? 
  • The IAAF Diamond League wrapped up its season with finals on Thursday and Friday. The weird thing is that one night was in Zürich, and the other was in Brussels. If an athlete made it to a final in both places, then the travel in between must have been a nightmare! But someone made the travel nightmare worthwhile; Catarine Ibarguen won the triple jump on Thursday, and then went to Brussels on Friday and won the long jump!
  • London's Olympic stadium puts cameramen on four-wheelers. In Zürich, they get put on Segways!
  • Noah Lyles and Christian Coleman finished their Diamond League seasons with incredible performances. Lyles tied Bolt's meet record of 19.66 in the 200 and Coleman's 9.79 was the seventh-fastest 100 ever. Here - watch them and see!

  • I found my future profession: sweeping the sand from the long jump pit off of the track. Sign me up!
  • South Africa's Luvo Manyonga ended up winning the long jump on the very last leap of the competition. He was behind fellow countryman Ruswahl Samaai, but didn't let that stop him. 
  • Looking for inspiration to get up and run? Kenya's Consuelus Kipruto lost one of his shoes during the first full lap of the 3000-meter steeplechase, but didn't break his stride and ended up winning! Remember that the steeplechase isn't just running; he was jumping barriers and the water hazard while barefoot! 
  • Mary Lee Tracy was hired a few days ago to be USA Gymnastics new elite development coordinator. (Coach? Why can't we just say coach?) Then she contacted Aly Raisman, who is suing USA Gymnastics for its handling of the Larry Nassar case. Then USA Gymnastics fired her. So when is the IOC going to start laying down the law? The USOC doesn't seem to be doing much to help regulate USA Gymnastics, and the organization is making bad decision after bad decision. Does Raisman want to take over? Can she do that? She seems more in control than anyone in the group.

Weekly Cauldron Check

Is the cauldron lit????


I'm Claire Nat and you're reading Light The CauldronFollow me on Twitter and Facebook @CauldronLight and read my past Olympic articles! You can start with my daily recap of the PyeongChang Winter Olympics HERE!