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!