Friday, August 22, 2008
As I always have done in my life, I am listening to my gut and trusting that this "writers block" that I am experiencing is there for a reason. I don't want to go home in a few days and regret not taking part in absolutely every sporting event, media opportunity and party I possibly could. I was very disciplined during the process of getting here and right now I feel like I need to celebrate the HUGE accomplishment that this Games has been for me personally, my team and for all of Canada's athletes.
So, I am probably not going to write until I get home. Please know that I am on top of the world right now. I am proud and I am really looking forward to coming home and sharing this wonderful experience with as many people as possible.
Happy Closing Ceremonies and keep checking back for an update...It will arrive when the time is right.
Thursday, August 14, 2008
I have been piecing together a post competition blog, but it is still a work in progress. It's been hard to find the time to get everything in there!
I want everyone to know that I am doing well and I totally appreciate your support and kindness (I am not replying to many emails right now because there is an overwhelming amount of them pouring in, but I am reading every one!). I have been smiling and enjoying the Olympics to the max. I have been extremely busy with media stuff (including helping out with the CBC men's gymnastics broadcasts which has been an awesome opportunity for me...I hope I'm doing OK and not butchering it).
I will continue to plug away and hopefully have a post up in the next couple of days.
Thanks for being patient and I hope you all are enjoying the Olympics so far!
Go Canada Go!
Friday, August 08, 2008
I feel like today should be the day where I write something extremely monumental and philosophical...but I have to be honest, I don't have the time or focus to put that one together right now. Maybe the philosopher in me can come and play another day. Right now I am getting into the competition zone. I am slowing things down and keeping it simple. I am breathing and I am constantly reminding myself that I am ready...because I am.
Just to give a quick update: The Brandon situation has been decided. He will compete. He will be in pain (the poor guy's ankle is black and blue, which I guess is a good thing because it means everything bad is getting out), but as I mentioned in my last post, he can fight with the best of them. I know that he is going to give his best effort and in the heat of the moment he will feel adrenaline and urgency which will help tremendously. As it turns out, it is a sprain (there are some other "doctor terms" in there, but in layman's terms, it is a sprain). A pretty major one, but one that can be managed with tape, anesthetic and pain killers. I have full faith in B and I know that tomorrow he will rise to the occasion for the team.
The entire Canadian team left for Opening Ceremonies about an hour ago...some of us decided to stay behind and catch the action on TV. I know that this is the right choice for me. It is hot out there and the night has the potential to be long and tiring. I don't know of any gymnasts from any countries that are going because we all compete within the next 2 days and we need to feel amazing.
In all 3 of my Olympic appearances, I have never been to an Opening Ceremonies. I am on the same page as many of you: I can only imagine the feeling of walking in when the announcer says, "Canada". That would be incredible and I think at that moment I would burst with Canadian pride and excitement. But I know why I am here...I am here to compete and tomorrow is the day.
I've had a pretty good pre-competition day. We trained this morning and that went well. I did some stuff on all events and spent about 2 hours in the gym. It was packed. China, Japan, Russia, France, a mixed group and us are all in our session. I'm interested in knowing who the audience will choose to watch at any given time during the competition. I'm sure the majority of the audience will be transfixed on China (duh!), but I hope that I can stand out amongst the crowd and be noticed.
In the day leading up to Olympic competition your brain plays a few tricks on you. At one moment you have yourself convinced that you are going to be calm and nail your routines, but then the next you have these thoughts of doubt creep in. Today I imagined myself missing something that I have never missed. I am not going to say what it was because I don't want to jinx myself, but I got a little mad at myself for even thinking it. Why am I trying to sabotage my own performance?? Seriously, I think a lot of athletes do it. I think it is very normal, very natural, but it is so frustrating. I go through this vicious cycle every time I am at a big competition and so I am trying to not let is phase me, but it is not something that I like experiencing. My goal for tomorrow is to constantly tell myself that I am ready, prepared, awesome, finely tuned and incredibly good looking (inside joke)!
I had a conversation with Susan, my wonderful physio, today about how I am going to try and not be too excited tomorrow while I am competing. Why should I be? I am just going out there and doing the same thing that I have been doing for the past few months. I have to go in there and hit 4 routines for my team. I'm not hoping for a miracle. I have already created one. This kind of thinking puts my mind at ease...
Well, I should end this post. I could write forever tonight, but I should really be visualizing and resting. I have some energy that I need to store in a safe and happy place so I can feel better tomorrow than I have ever felt.
I know that I am not going to have the best sleep tonight, but that was in my plan. I am going to keep to myself tomorrow and just get myself deeper in the zone. When you are all watching me compete, I want you to know that I am going to be enjoying every moment of it and appreciating the opportunity, but it just might look like I am a very serious athlete!
I can't wait to write my next post.
Wednesday, August 06, 2008
I'm sure those of you who are following the team have heard about Brandon's ankle injury. I happened on Monday night and it was one of those freak things that you could never predict. He wasn't doing anything crazy, he was just completing a routine that he has done a whole whack of times since we started this preparation process (He has been doing them incredibly well, in fact). He had a mat in for safety. His coach was standing there. Everything looked good and then he just landed a little short. It happens to every gymnast at one point or another, but in this case it was a little more serious. Brandon is one tough F--ker. I have seen him in pain before many a time and he just grits through it. When he landed this time it was different. He knew it wasn't just a crunched ankle that he could walk off in 10 minutes. My heart broke for him because I know what it feels like all too well to be laying on the side of the floor feeling helpless and having a million thoughts rush through your head.
He came back to the village immediately and went to the Polyclinic for some xray and all that jazz (This place could seriously become a small town..Olympicville, Olympicmore, Olympicmere, Olympicowna, Olympicbrook- that one sounds nice) Luckily, there are no breaks, bone bruises or fractures. I am not a doctor so I won't even try to diagnose it, but I can tell you that B has been doing physio every hour possible. He has been icing, elevating, taking an anti-inflam, taping, moving, massaging, stretching...he is doing everything he can. We are even bringing food to him so that he can take advantage of every second possible to heal in time. We are a team and when one is wounded we all help in every way we can. I am sending my positive vibes to Brandon and so is everyone else.
The hardest part about this is the fact that we still have to compete on Saturday. That does not change. We don't get an injury extension...do any sports get those? I wish we did, but at 4 pm in Beijing on Saturday August 9th, the competition will begin regardless. Harsh reality, but reality.
A decision of whether he is good enough to go will be made at some point, I don't know when, but I am leaving that up to Brandon and the coaches. I know my job and it is to keep focused, be supportive and get myself prepared to compete on Saturday. 'Control what I can control' has always been a very steady motto for me.
So, moving in another direction, today was podium training. For those of you who don't know what that is, let me quickly explain.
In gymnastics you get one chance to try out the competition venue and apparatus and that is at podium training. The judges are there (in jeans and sneakers! much more relaxing for the athletes than the suits they usually dissect you in) and the media has a chance to check out who looks good and who looks not so good (I hope that I get a big check in the "looks great!" column). Each team gets about 20 minutes per event and we move in the order that we will during the actual competition (rings, vault, pbars, hbar, floor, pommel horse). We wear our competition uniforms and it is basically a dress rehearsal before the big show. If you make a mistake, no worries because you can just try again. If you don't want to do a whole routine, no problem...be lazy (except Edouard, our National coach would be kickin some major ass if we decided on podium training day that we just didn't feel like it!). It is more relaxed than the real deal, but I have always tried to make it feel 75% real. If I can lift a car above my head on competition day then on podium training day I would be able to lift up the back bumper with ease, but I would put the car down right away knowing that it will be no problem to heave it over my noggin' when it actually matters.
One thing that I don't think a lot of people realize is that this is our ONLY chance to touch the apparatus before competition day. I literally spent less than 2 minutes total on highbar today. I have worked my whole life and I get 2 measly minutes to try out the equipment that could decide my destiny...doesn't seem fair, but it's the way it is and everyone has to deal with it. Can you imagine test driving a car for 2 minutes and then paying a ridiculous amount of money -I'm talking years and years of salary, like 20 of them- to buy it outright. That would be crazy, wouldn't it. Gymnastics can be a little crazy sometimes too, but I still love it with all my heart.
Anyway, enough with the random tangents. Let's get on with podium training:
We started our day on rings. I am first up. I like this position. I get to start the party which is great because I like parties. My job is to do a clean and simple routine. I am usually embarrassed to do this event at big competitions because it is not my forte, but this time around I am cool with it. I am not great at this event and I know that, but I am pretty happy with how clean my routine is. Today was no exception. I did a great job. I held all of my strength parts and swung to handstand cleanly. The only thing that I would like improve is my dismount landing. I took a small hop. Bad boy. It's all about the sticking at the Olympics!
I had an amazing sense of calm over me today on rings. I was focused and present and I felt so comfortable and ready. I didn't feel like I was doing rings at Olympic podium training. It was just another day of training. That is a good thing. That means I am ready.
Vault went well. It's always fun at the Olympics because there is a camera that chases you down the run way. That thing is so annoying! I remember at my first Olympics in Sydney I actually stopped after a couple of steps because I didn't expect this thing to chase me down. I'm more used to it now and I try to ignore it, but regardless of how focused I am, I still know that little bastard is there.
I sometimes make the mistake of trying to stick my vault. What I have learned from experience is that when you stand at the end and think "stick stick stick" you almost always fall on your ass. It's because you try too hard to be perfect and you open up early and get a little under rotated. So, today I made that error. I thought about sticking and I landed a little short, but I didn't fall. What I need to think is "small hop forward small hop forward small hop forward". This will give me a better chance of sticking and if I don't then I will at least only take a small hop and my team won't suffer a near fall (and I won't have a heart attack when my ass almost hits the ground!).
I have been struggling with the decision of whether or not to do a second vault here. It was a hard battle back to get my Shewfelt (Yurchenko 2.5) perfected and I didn't have too much time to work on a higher start value second vault. In order to make individual finals you need to perform 2 different vaults. The plan is to nail my first one and then do a great second one, but with a little lower start value. I am not a crazy vaulter like some guys. I don't do the double flipping vaults nor will I ever attempt them. I broke my legs once and I don't need to do it again thank you. But my chances for finals are quite slim because many guys will do at least 2, 7.0 start value vaults. My starts will be 6.6 and 6.2. If I am super clean then I could sneak into finals...if someone else falls; which I honestly hope they don't because they deserve to land and not die.
My next event was highbar. This event has been so consistent for me lately. I have been hitting routines easily and today that trend continued. I caught my releases and even stuck my dismount -thought I'd show everyone that my legs are OK. In competition I really want to keep my legs together on my def because that would be the "perfect" feeling to do that at the Olympics games. It always feels great to know that you have done your absolute best out there...in fact, I think that feels better than a medal any day.
My last event today was floor. Oh floor, how I love you.
I warmed up and did my arabian double pike for the second time without a mat, Yeah me(I did my first one the other day in training...I thought it was important to have one under my belt before a lot of people would be watching)! It felt great and I just reminded myself to BEND my legs on landing! The floor is a little softer in the competition gym than it is in the training hall. It has a little bit different of a bounce (or it could have been the energy and excitement that I had in me) and it took me a couple of turns to get used to it, but now I am totally comfortable.
I went through a routine and it was clean, but I know that I will do it better on Saturday. I only did a half twist in one part where I should have done a 1.5, but that is minor in the big picture. It only lowered my start value by .1 and I covered it up well. I re-did it at the end and it was kind of a funny situation. I tried one and totally got bucked out by the floor. Then I walked back and talked to Tony for a second. I told him that I wanted to do it again, but I felt a little weird because it felt like everyone was watching me. Then I looked up and we were on the big screen. Tony laughed and said, "Well Kyle, I hate to tell ya, but everyone IS watching you. Now go and do it again and do it the way you know how to". And I did.
It felt amazing to be out there tonight. I tried to take a second to appreciate the enormity of this moment in my life. It's hard for me right now to grasp what I am accomplishing here because I feel like I am just doing my job. I am in a bubble and I don't want it to burst, but I have a feeling that when the competition is done I am going to take a look back at how far I've come, to those days when I couldn't straighten my leg and was just pushing it as far as I could and dreaming of being here, and I am going to see this experience for much more than I can right now. I am not immune to emotion, but I am very focused and I am trying to be as much in the present and the NOW as possible. When I do take a minute to reflect on the past I get shivers. I get shivers because I know exactly how hard I had to struggle to get here. I appreciate this, every ounce of it, but I don't think I am going to realize the meaning that this experience holds until I am done competing.
I have come so far and today was just one step closer. I am living the dream that I worked very hard to create. I am proud of myself. I am at the Olympics and I am not only ready to compete, but I am ready to show an amazing performance. A journalist asked me tonight about whether or not the victory is in just being here. In one way, yes it is. That is a huge victory. But I am also not the type of person to be content with being a participant. I am a competitor and I am ready to fight.
Podium training today was fun and it confirmed to me that I am almost ready for the real thing. In 3 more sleeps I definitely will be!
Monday, August 04, 2008
I don't get this feeling often, but sometimes it comes along and freaks the shit out of me. It puts me into a panic and I feel like I am on a heroine trip (I, of course, have never done heroine and never will, but I have watched the movie 'Trainspotting' a few times and I am just assuming that is what it would be like - babies on the roof are scary!). You get a little dizzy, your stomach sinks to the deepest depths and your neck starts sweating. When it all comes down to it, our days on Earth on numbered...and so are my days until Olympic competition. 5 more sleeps in fact. Wowzers.
The reason I mentioned the "death" feeling is because that is the only feeling I have ever experienced that feels slightly the same as knowing competition day is coming.
I have been getting these pangs of nervousness in the last couple of days. They come and they hit hard. I feel a knot in my stomach, a lump in my throat and my hands start to sweat profusely. I can't control these attacks, but luckily they come and go quickly. It's almost like I'm going into labour and these are my contractions! Breathe. It's a constant reminder that this is real. I am not in a dream. Competition day is coming fast and I only have a certain amount of exact hours and minutes until I compete.
Deadlines are stressful. They eat you alive. I feel like a caged lion and I know I have to roam around and go through the motions for a few more days until I am set into the wild and I can show the world what I've got. Waiting is the hardest part. It's so friggin' cruel. I don't want to wait anymore. It's killing me.
On the other end of the spectrum, sometimes I just want to run and hide. I'm not gonna lie, I am afraid. I'm afraid because I care. It's scary when you put everything on the line and you only have a moment to prove how hard you've worked. It's also extremely exhilarating and as much as I like to pretend that I HATE these feelings, I know that they are what bring me to be my best. I am a warrior preparing for battle and my body is just getting ready to do it's thing. I am going to feel like I can lift a car on competition day!
It's crazy how you subconsciously prepare for imminent deadlines. I notice that I start to talk a little funny. I get a weird energy and buzz in my voice. My hands become a little shaky. I spend more time writing. I become very reflective. My ability to plan ahead goes out the window. I get a little quiet. My answers to questions seems lazy and lame (sorry media friends, I am not interesting right now). All of my energy is going into gymnastics and I'm saving everything I can for Saturday.
Training the past couple of days has been going well. I am always a little sore after a day off (weird, I know, but I think it's because my body starts to go back to the way it's supposed to be and having a normal body hurts as a gymnast!) and we got the day off on Saturday. Sunday was a little bit of a struggle in the morning. My body was achy and I didn't feel as fast as I did on Friday. I tried not to let that rent too much space in my head and I just did some conditioning, warmed up and saved my events for the afternoon.
Much to my surprise, everything was ultra easy on Sunday night. Phew. It didn't feel like it should have been, but it was. This is how I know I am ready. Even when I feel a little off I can still be great.
Today, Monday, we had one routine. I breezed through it. I don't want to train anymore. Let me compete!!!!
Here's some "Olympic" life news...The village is getting more and more packed which is exciting on one page, but a pain in the ass on another. It's so funny how some countries weren't brought up with the same manners system that we have in Canada. A line? What is a line? In the mornings I need a coffee. It's my only addiction and it is widely accepted through out the world so I don't feel that bad about it. Anyway, the only place to get good coffee in the village is at the McCafe. Yes, McDonald's is just like Starbucks...soon McCafe's will be on every corner as well! As more people come to the village, the crazier it gets in the morning with all of the other java abusers. So the system is: you line up forever, order and then stand in another never ending line to get your coffee. Well, I have learned that you don't order a "general" coffee drink. You have to add something crazy like a vanilla shot or mocha-choca-latte-yeahyeah...whatever. If you order a cappuccino then good luck! Let's just say that someone who was at the end of your 'ordering' line will go right to the front of the 'pick up' line and grab the first cappuccino that is delivered by one of the cute little Chinese barista girls. Excuse me! How rude. I always smile and push through everyone when my "special" order is up. Get outta my way and let me have my coffee god damn it!
How about the weather?! It has been an inferno here. Yesterday it was 35C and with the humidex it was 45C. I love the heat, but that was just messy hot. You would walk outside and be sweating, train and sweat and then even sweat after a shower. There was no escaping it. I can't even imagine being an "outdoor" athlete. I would pass out and die. There was some good news to the incredibly hot days - the sun was shining and the sky was blue...except for today when it was smoggy and hot. That's not a nice combo.
We are in a training group with China and they have been MIA until today. We saw them at morning training and they looked awesome. I don't envy the pressure they are under though. In China, Gold is the only colour that matters. If I was to make a prediction, I would say that they will win. They are so strong, well prepared and deep. I am a sucker for Japanese gymnastics (they are so calm and they just seem to love what they do), but I think China will be the victor here...I at least hope they are. Their futures will be much brighter if they pull off the win!
My teammates, Nathan and Adam have passed the "Easy" level of Dance Dance Revolution. Congratulations. They're shooting for "Hard" by the end of the games. I have faith that their practice will pay off!
I also wanted to quickly mention that I have been getting all of the kind and thoughtful emails through my website http://www.kyleshewfelt.com/. I really appreciate everyone writing and inspiring me. I wanted to share a few thoughts that came my way...
"Some times things have to be taken away from us before we truly understand their value and what true hunger really is."
"It's about the scariness of lining up when you have a chance"
"Breath, love, live - every moment"
I am trying.
I am feeling great and ready for the next bout of nervousness that should hit in about 2 minutes time!
Friday, August 01, 2008
I had been feeling a little out of sorts and almost like my brain and body hadn't quite arrived in China yet! My brain felt tired (fighting to keep my eyes open was a constant battle), disorientated (some skills like a def - a one and a half twisting release move- on highbar were very interesting!), confused (why is it lunch time and I am not hungry at all?). My body felt heavy (I am not fat, in fact I am 'ripped' Kyle right now, but sitting on your arse for 20 hours can make you feel like you have a little extra junk in your trunk), slow (most things, gymnastically speaking, felt sluggish and laboured) and a little frustrated that things weren't falling into place the way I dreamt they would. There were a couple of times I thought, "I'm at the Olympics...why don't I feel AMAZING?! Have I lost my passion? Why didn't I hold off on that McDonalds cheeseburger until after the competition?! What's wrong with me? Life is over!!!" (OK, maybe a little dramatic, but you have to remember that I am an actor -cough, White Palms, cough- extraordinaire! haha)
I guess I was just being a freak and over analyzing my state of being as per usual.
As it turns out, all I really needed was just a couple of days to get adjusted. Yesterday, folks, was absolutely AMAZING!
I had another one of those training days where it felt like no obstacle could get in my way. My brain was there, I was focused and driven. My body was there, I felt fast and powerful. My emotions were in check, I felt like I was at the Olympics and it totally empowered me.
Our training plan for yesterday was 1 routine on each. At this point in the game you want to take a couple of quick warm up turns and then show your coach and your team one incredible routine. Sounds easy enough...and yesterday it was.
You know those days when you have a 'things to do list' that is long, you know it will require efficiency and effort, but there is nothing in your mind that will stop you from getting it done. By the end of the day you've got your car washed, picked up your dry cleaning, bought a card at the dollar store, gone grocery shopping, dropped off your prescription, got your hair cut and even bought a bottle of wine for the party you're going to in a couple of days. Well, yesterday was my errand day. Except instead of buying and cleaning, I was planche-ing, yurchenko-ing, double double-ing and tkatchev-ing! haha. I was on fire.
Not only did I look like a champ yesterday, but my entire team did as well. Everyone was hitting routines like they were going out of style. I think Edouard got a little bit dizzy at a few points in the day because as soon as one guy landed then another was calling his name to come over and watch. It was great. It makes me smile right now just thinking about it. Momentum is such a powerful thing. As an athlete, on those days that things just click you feel like you are absolutely invincible.
This is a great way to be feeling right now. It's exactly what I wanted and expected, but I wasn't getting the confirmation in training until yesterday. Now that I have it, I feel like my focus is going down one level deeper. I am getting a little more prepared for my battle.
One week left.