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!