Why do all good things come to an end?

Scripps London team at the London Bridge.

I can’t believe it’s almost over. Pretty soon I will be on a plane headed back to the states to resume a normal life. Although this experience has been life changing, I must say I am kind of ready to come home. Don’t get me wrong; I had an amazing time.

Covering the Olympics is almost a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and I took full advantage of it. But a certain someone was right when he said when you travel abroad at first you love it. Everything about the city is amazing, and you can’t imagine ever wanting to leave.

Then you start to notice the little things that are different in another country, and culture shock really starts to set in. It’s things like walking down the street and not having a trash can at every corner, having to pay 30 pence to use a public restroom and having to specify whether you want tap water or still water at restaurants that start to poke at your nerves a little, and pretty soon you just wish you were home where nothing really surprises you because you’re so used to the ins and outs of everything.

At the same time, I’m really going to miss it here, a lot actually. The Olympics were amazing, and I can’t wrap my head around the fact that I actually lived my dream and got to meet some of the world’s greatest athletes.  A chance like this comes only every four years, and I was lucky enough to receive it.

The games really brought everyone together during my time here in London. I’ve had many conversations with perfect strangers on the train and spectators at events. From China to Australia it was great to see everyone from different backgrounds and countries come together to support these athletes who have been training their whole lives for this moment. Sports really do bring people together.

Megan Hickok and Jacob Corrigan at Old Trafford stadium

I’m especially going to miss the peers I came here with. We’ve done so much and have really bonded over these last few weeks. I have no doubt that some of us will come away from this trip as life long friends. The memories that we have of this trip and each other will last forever.

I know that when I get home I’m going to be kicking myself and wishing I was back in London. If I could relive this whole trip, I would, but like all good things, this must come to an end. I not only grew as a journalist but as a person here.

I’m glad to be able to say that I was in London covering the Olympics. I can not only add that to my resume but check it off my bucket list. London, it’s been great and I will miss you. But Rio, here I come! See you in 2016.

 

 

 

 

 

That’s the spirit

I’ve learned that cultures are different, but people are really the same. No matter what skin color or accent or mannerisms a person has, we’re actually not that different. Men and women are all looking for their mates, their careers and their desires.

But I’ve noticed that it’s in the children here where you truly see the basis of our humanity. Children are going to laugh when you tickle them, cry when they fall, or smile when they are hugged because those are purely human feelings, stripped of cultures and backgrounds.

The Olympics makes us these children again, and that, in itself, is what I’ve learned most here. It’s not the volleyball match or basketball game that makes it such a memorable event. It’s the people and communities formed.

It takes me back to being a kid when it didn’t matter where you are from or what you look like because I’m going to ask you to play anyways. We reconnect with the youthful innocence we lose in the judgments we pick up and carry throughout the years.

These judgments are lost when you’re sitting in one of the arenas with four different cultures surrounding your seat, and you realize you are all there for the same thing: the experience, the atmosphere, the “just so I can say I did it”.  What people don’t see, however, is through our playful country loyalties and appreciation of other cultures at these events, we create our Olympics.

This atmosphere isn’t planned out by an administration. It happens when you see someone waving an American flag and another person three seats down waving a Pakistani flag, and it doesn’t bother you in the slightest.

I now realize how some things can truly transcend cultural differences or political strife. The Olympics isn’t a time to find out who the No. 1 athletes are in the world but instead to celebrate our youth, each other and the human race.

 

USA Men Prepare for Rematch of 2008 Finals against Spain

London, England – The United States men’s basketball is undoubtedly the favorite in the Olympic competition, and anything less than gold would be a shame. However, the team is getting used to the pressure.

“We have expectations on us to win every single game. If we lost an exhibition game, it would be the biggest news,” said Kevin Durant. “We went through that in 2010 in the World Championships. We can’t let that affect us. We have to come out and play our game.”

The United States took home the gold medal in 2008, only four years after they had fallen apart in Athens, claiming only a bronze medal. This team has been put together differently, though. Most of the players have played on an Olympic team and in the World Championships and have put years of commitment into the Gold medal pursuit.

“You feel the pressure, but every athlete here has to deal with pressure,” said Kobe Bryant. “Every event in every sport has a favorite. It’s part of what we do.”

The team will match up with a Spanish team that gave them a close ballgame four years ago. The U.S. won 118-107. The Spanish are led by a trio of talented big men in Pau and Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka.

Durant
USA forward Kevin Durant speaks with media on Saturday before practice to prepare for a Gold medal matchup with Spain.

“Pau is one of the best players in the world. We are obviously very concerned about him,” said Bryant.

Spain is a better team than they were in 2008,” said LeBron James. “They have a great team. I am not surprised we are playing them.”

Spain has been a defensive minded team throughout the Olympics, holding opponents to only 73 points per game. On the other hand, the USA has been dominant offensively, shooting 45 percent from three-point range and averaging nearly 117 points per game. However, the Americans aren’t going to take Spain’s offense lightly.

“Offense will come because we have so many great shooters,” Durant said. “On the defensive end, we have to do what we have been doing by getting steals and forcing turnovers. We all have to be locked in and ready to play.”

US Women set world record in 4 x 100 meter relay

LONDON — Before the Olympics, Carmelita Jeter wanted to make it known that her name wasn’t pronounced the same as the shortstop from the Yankees. After helping set the world record for the women’s 4 x 100m final, Jeter finally got the name recognition she was looking for.

For the first time since 1996, the Americans took gold in the 4 x 100m final, and did so in runaway fashion with Tianna Madison, Allyson Felix, Bianca Knight and Jeter teaming up to clock in at 40.82 seconds. The mark shattered the old record by almost half a second.

 

 

Krzyewski prepares Team USA for a gold medal final

Mike Krzyewski locked his hands behind his back as he stood with statuesque calmness in an East London gym, thousands of miles away from the indoor stadium where he’s affectionately known as Coach K.

Mike Krzyewski talks with the media before practice. (Photo by Kerry Crump)

“Really you’re always playing an away game,” said Krzyewski. “We’ve gotten as accustomed as we can to it.”

Krzyewski, the Duke head coach and West Point graduate, has to rally his troop of NBA superstars to perform on an international stage. In London, the stage is one decorated differently from when NBA fans last saw the Heat and Thunder battle it out in late June. A shorter three point line, 10 minute quarters and different substitution rules are just a few of the minor differences.

When it comes to the gameplay, even NBA players with otherworldly talent have to adjust their game if they want to beat their international counterparts.

“You see more zone defense, which makes holes to drive the ball, so you try and drive and kick,” said Oklahoma Thunder forward Kevin Durant.

Durant’s Thunder teammate, James Harden, has found that despite some initial challenges, the adjustment to international basketball after a long NBA season comes easier with this group of players.

“The whole game and style of play is different than the NBA,” he said. “There is no hard part when there are 12 of the best players in the world on your team.”

Even with Team USA’s experience, Krzyewski, Division I college basketball’s all-time wins leader, has been around the game long enough to know nothing is ever a sure thing.

“I get blinders on with everything,” he said. “It’s a huge game and I’ve been fortunate enough to be in a lot of huge games and this is the next one.”

Team USA, who took home the 2010 FIBA World Championship, has glided into the championship round of the Olympic tournament.

“We’re more prepared than most U.S. teams in the past for that, but the guys who have played now longer have become more familiar with it,” said Krzyewski

Sunday, Team USA will take on Spain, the team widely believed to give Krzyewski and his players their biggest scare yet. After telling the Associated Press that this game would be his final one as Team USA head coach, Krzyewski will get the chance to go out on top as an Olympic champion. But if he’s affected by the emotions of a gold medal chase, Krzyewski said he isn’t moved.

“I’m just focused as a competitor,” he said.

Sights, sounds of Teddy Riner’s +100 kg gold medal win

Teddy Riner of France beats Alexander Mikhaylin of Russia in the gold medal final of the 2012 Olympics Friday, Aug. 3. Scripps London was there to capture some of the sights, sounds, and emotions.

For more on this story, the New Zealand online news site Stuff has a great profile of what Riner means to France and his native Guadeloupe.

The people you meet along the way

Twenty days in the rear view mirror as I woke up to the 48-hour countdown on my time left in London. I don’t want to leave.

Not because I want to attend one last Team USA event or come across one more story to tell at the Olympics. I love the fish and chips, but I could fry them up back home. The train and Underground were never really nice to me, and I could certainly go without paying for drink refills ever again.

Yet I don’t want to leave, at all.

When it comes to memories in my life, it’s not about what I did, but rather whom I was with. I may forget all of the small details of an experience in my life, maybe even London one day, but I will never forget the people who shared these days with me.

Photo by Megan Hickok
Megan Hickok and Colin Brown sight see London on the Big Bus Tour.

Andy, security cop at the Tesco Market.

Better known as Miami Vice, Andy and I talk on a daily basis. He works as the security cop at the grocery in Guildford. On my third day here, while searching through Tesco, trying to deal with my culture shock about food, Andy helped me find the peanut butter. Ever since that day, he always welcomes me with a smile when I come through the doors.

He told me about his trip to Miami and how he bought a pink shirt and white pants last minute to fit in. He didn’t believe me when I said only people in Miami dress like that. I update him on my experiences reporting and socializing in London, and he continues to share his outlook on the world with me.

Tyler and Jacob, football’s biggest fans.

These two popped up during my instant rush to meet a million new people the first couple of days on my trip. After the introductions, they went right back into their heated argument about Arsenal football. I nodded my head along, acting like I knew anything about what they were saying.

Then, I did the unthinkable. I said the forbidden word ‘soccer.’ They looked at me blankly for what felt like a long five seconds, then proceeded to tell me I was going to make no friends in London because I said that. After apologizing 20 times in 35 seconds, they laughed and told me that I could still be their friend. They spent the next 20 minutes teaching me everything there was to know about European football.

Photo by Megan Hickok
A group of Scripps students pose with local police after chatting about their unique helmets and duties during the Olympic games.

French fry guy on the train.

It was a late night catching the trains back from London and I was with a few of our friends. As we walked down the aisles, I noticed everyone indulging in late night McDonalds. I instantly became severely hungry, remembering I still had a 35-minute train ride to sit through before I could eat.

Then, he sat down. French fry guy instantly talked to us about Guildford and all of the London suburbs we pass through on a daily basis. He too was headed home after a day out in London. He munched on his fries, sharing his opinions on everything from football to Americans. Then, as if fate sat him next to me on this train in my time of need, he offered me his extra fries. The fries were exactly what I needed as my stomach growls subsided, but his stories and friendly face are what got me through that late night train ride.

Josh, the waiter at Wetherspoons.

He has seen how far this American has come over the last three weeks. The first time he noticed me, I was sitting at the bar stressing as I counted out my pounds and pence. The money thing over has been a struggle for me. Josh came over and collected the right change out of my big pile of coins sitting across the table. Since then, he checks in with me between my food or drink orders to see how I’m getting along in London. My accent still makes him laugh along with my million questions about unusual drinks and food in Europe. He, along with many others at Wetherspoons, has become a friend of mine.

The names, faces and stories are turning into memories as I start collecting my thoughts and belongings to say goodbye to this place I’ve called home lately. I am so fortunate to have sat 10 rows back from a men’s beach volleyball game. I had to pinch myself as I chatted with Candace Parker about London. I snapped a thousand pictures of the London Bridge and Big Ben. However, these aren’t even the experiences impacting me the most.

Photo by Megan Hickok
Megan Hickok and Danny Medlock pose with the official 2012 Olympic mascot.

As I reflect, I realize all of the people who became friends of mine over the last three weeks made this trip for me. Those long chats were invaluable. I met real people who could share the culture and personalities of London. I taught them everything I could about back home, and they unknowingly opened my eyes to a new outlook on life.

I can say goodbye to Buckingham Palace and even the Olympic Park, but it hit me this morning, I’m not ready to end the conversations.

London is no different than any other journey in my life. It really is about the people you meet along the way.

An extended halftime: WNBA takes month break for Olympics

LONDON – The U.S. Olympic Women’s Basketball team has pulled the eyes of USA supporters towards television screens as they continue their 40-game winning streak and work towards another gold medal.

USA coach Geno Auriemma talks to the press after practice.
Photo by Kerry Crump

When the closing ceremonies end and the cameras are turned off, the athletes will return home to their WNBA careers. They’ll return to the court Aug. 16 after the league took a month hiatus during the Olympics.

While many of the athletes have played on the same court before, they have never been together on the same team. USA’s Head Coach Geno Auriemma from University of Connecticut said he can see the team’s drive.

“These 12 players, without knowing each other that well, without being together that long, expect winning and being in gold medal games,” said Auriemma

The USA team might be on a winning streak, but the WNBA players back home are not slacking off.

“It’s pretty much like training camp all over again, but not as brutal,” said Sylvia Fowles, a player on the USA team and the Chicago Sky.

For the Minnesota Lynx, the break hit at a good time in their season.

“We had a lot of players that were injured coming into the break so it was good for us, so that they could get healthy and push forward when we get back,” said USA Basketball and Lynx player Seimone Augustus.

Seimone Augustus, a USA Basketball and Minnesota Lynx player, catches rebounds between taking shots in practice.
Photo by Kerry Crump.

When Aug. 16rolls around after the Olympics, the women will go back to being competitors instead of teammates.

“I got a chance to hang with some people that I don’t normally hang with in the league, and hopefully this will kinda transfer over into the WNBA,” said Augustus.

Fowles has been through the jolt back to the WNBA a number of times and has her own way to combat it.

“Once I leave here, that’s just the mindset. You click back from USA basketball to WNBA , and just keep pushing forward,” said Fowles. “It’s about trying to get back in the groove of how your WNBA team plays, and learning their plays again.”

With their success in the past and current Olympics, athletes hope the support will roll over into the WNBA.

“We’ve been so successful with USA Basketball and women’s basketball in general that it has to transfer over,” said Augustus. “We’ve got the greatest players in the world. Hopefully this will get us a lot of publicity for the WNBA season.”

How I became Brazil’s biggest fan

Brazil’s Ricardo Santos spiked the volleyball into the sand as crowds of green and blue chanted.  “Arriba, arriba, arriba!”

Somewhere among the packed house at Horse Guards Parade, under the lights, a young American girl, draped in 50 stars and red stripes, found herself cheering on Brazil as well.

I have no explanation as to why I chose Brazil over Germany that night. I had never heard of Santos or Pedro Cuhna until the Bon Jovi music faded, the dancers left and the announcer introduced the teams.

At first, I simply placed my bet on who will win, as I always do with any sporting event I watch. When the Cleveland Browns take on the Pittsburgh Stealers, as a Cincinnati Bengals fan, I still have a hopeful outcome.

Cheering on a team I had no relationship with was nothing out of the ordinary, or so I thought.

Photo by Jenna Stenger
Both teams argue to the referee their case about the controversial call. Point was later awarded to Germany.

I realized how emotionally invested I had become in the game when there was a controversial referee decision during the first match. A point, initially awarded to Brazil following a superb rally, was stolen by Germany, after referee discussion.

I immediately felt frustration and booed alongside a group of Brazilian fans behind me. This wasn’t Dusty Baker out at the plate, arguing a call for my beloved Reds. This was Brazil taking on former world champions Brink and Reckermann of Germany.

As the sets and matches continued, my desire to see Brazil hold on and comeback overcame me. Every impressive dig, save or point, I waved my American flag and screamed for Brazil. I saw other USA flags across the court waving proudly, but I also noticed one guy in particular jump up after every German point.

We were not from Germany or Brazil, but we adopted their players, fans and country for an hour. You truly become a part of the Olympics when it’s right in front of your eyes and all around you. It’s something you cannot explain until you experience it.

At the Olympics, surrounded by high emotion, winning means much more than another medal. America counts medals in the race against China, but for some of these smaller countries, the victory represents hope. When Guatalama’s Erick Barrondo, 21, claimed the country’s first-ever Olympic medal with his performance in the race walk, optimism transpired.

Following his silver, Barrondo told the Associated Press, “If somebody tomorrow changes a gun or a knife for a pair of shoes and begins to train for a sport, I would be the happiest person on earth.’’

Photo by Jenna Stenger
Jacob Corrigan, Kayla Hanley, and Megan Hickok attend the men’s beach volleyball event. All three dressed in support of their country, America.

This, to me, exposes the power of the Olympic games and the emotions that accompany them. An unfortunate and unexpected loss meant Team USA would not be playing the night I had tickets. Instead, I found myself in an arena surrounded by German and Brazilian fans, not sure how I would fit in. Quickly, you realize how intense the crowds are at the Olympics. The cheers are electric and unifying. I made the decision to bet on Brazil, but the Olympic atmosphere overtook me, and before I knew it, I wanted Brazil to win more than anything. ­­

Triathlon spectators hold their ground in crowds

LONDON — The men’s Triathlon on Tuesday, Aug. .7 drew large crowds specifically for the cycling segment of the race outside of Buckingham Palace. Some spectators went to great lengths to secure their sights on the cyclists.

Cycling Leg
Competitors in the triathlon event on Tuesday raced around Hyde Park during the cycling leg of the race.
Photo by Jillian Felllows

Perry and Jackie Griffis of Peterborough came prepared with a cardboard periscope in an effort to see the event from above the ground level.

“We got this device at the Jubilee,” Perry said. “They were just giving them out for free.”

The two also came prepared with a backup plan.

“There’s the big screen in Hyde Park, so we could just go there and enjoy the atmosphere,” said Jackie.

Others sat on top of the brick barriers surrounding the event. Maria Higginson from Stafford and her two boys ate lunch and watched the cyclists.

“We got up here by pure luck,” said Higginson. “There was a bit of a gap and we climbed up.”

The family arrived at the park during swimming, the first segment of the triathlon.

“It was all very busy still when we got here, but it’s a great showcase for Britain,” she said.

While the Higginsons said they got lucky finding seats, Owen Williams and his family from Wales credited patience.

“We got here about half past 9, ten o’clock to make sure we get a good speck,” said Williams. The family watched from the side of the race closest to Buckingham Palace directly against the barriers, giving them a front row view of the athletes.

The family successfully kept their spot throughout the whole event, but not without tactics.

“I recommend getting there nice and early,” said Williams. “Hold your space, don’t let anybody push you around.”