Looking Back…

 

For the past two years, August has been a special month for me. Two years ago, I had just finished volunteering at the Los Angeles 2015 World Summer Games. One year ago, I was in Rio volunteering for the Rio 2016 Olympics. Both of those experiences are very important to me, and I have such wonderful memories for both of them. Before both of these experiences, I was very nervous. For LA, I was traveling somewhere by myself and volunteering at an international event for the first time, and for Rio, I was going to Brazil without knowing a lot of people or a lot of Portuguese. However, I loved each experience so much.

Thinking back to August 2016 and 2015, I thought a good blog post would feature my favorite picture from each one. I love photography, and there are some photos that really capture the spirit of the Games.

Here’s my favorite photo from LA 2015:

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LA 2015 was an eye-opening experience for me partly because it seemed like the whole world had come together to compete or to cheer for the athletes, but also because of moments like this. This is one of my favorite photos I’ve ever taken. Those two athletes are from different countries, might not even have spoken the same language, and one of them won gold while the other won silver, but they are united in their celebration. They look so happy, proud, and triumphant. It makes me happy just to look at it.

For Rio 2016, it was a lot harder to choose, but I do love this one.

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This photo reminds me of the Closing Ceremony, one of my favorite moments of the Olympics. It was a symbol that I had achieved my dream of going to the Olympics. I had gone there and made the most of it. I was there at the Closing Ceremony! It felt like a really big party, and I think this photo captures that.

Thanks for reminiscing with me! Even though I’m sad that these events are over, the great thing about the Olympics and Special Olympics is that there will always be more moments like these in the future.

Olympic Comebacks

When the Olympics are over, what do Olympians do? Many of them retire, but some keep training for the next four years until the next Olympics. The really interesting and inspiring stories happen when retired athletes come back and begin training to compete at the Olympics after a long time in retirement. Here are a few of their stories.

Laura Wilkinson 

Here’s Laura’s comeback video. She competed the Sydney 2000 Olympics and won a gold medal even with a broken foot. Her medal was the first gold for an American female competing on the 10 meter platform since 1964. At the Athens 2004 Olympics, she won fifth place, and in 2005, she won gold at the World Championships. She competed at the Beijing 2008 Olympics and then retired. Now, at 39 years old, she is working to qualify for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. Good luck, Laura!

Janet Evans

Janet Evans, a three-time Olympian (1988, 1992, 1996), won four gold medals and held seven world records by the time of her retirement. In 2011, she began training again to compete at the London 2012 Olympics, and at the age of 40, she competed at the U.S. Olympic Trials. She finished 80th out of 113 swimmers in the 400-meter freestyle and 53rd out of 65 swimmers in the 800-meter freestyle. Currently, she is the Vice Chairperson, Chair of the Bid Committee’s Athletes’ Commission, and Director of Athlete Relations at the Los Angeles 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Bid Committee.

Ed Moses

Ed Moses competed at the Sydney 2000 Olympics and won a gold medal in the 4 by 100-meter medley relay and a silver in the 100-meter breaststroke. Over his career, he also set two world records. He made a comeback and qualified for the 2012 Olympic Trials but didn’t make it out of the first round in either of his events. Amazingly, he qualified for the 2016 Olympic Trials after only 2 practices in the 4 years before.

Anthony Ervin

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Anthony Ervin, a three-time Olympian (2000, 2012, 2016), has won three gold medals and one silver over his career. He competed at the 2000 Olympics where he tied for first in the 50-meter freestyle and won silver on a relay team. He retired in 2003 and sold his gold medal on eBay for $17,000 to help the survivors of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. In 2012, he came out of retirement and won fifth place in the 50-meter freestyle. At the Rio 2016 Olympics, he won gold in the 50 free for the second time and gold in a relay.

Dara Torres

Dara Torres is the first swimmer to compete for the U.S. at 5 Olympic Games (1984, 1988, 1992, 2000, 2008). Over her career, she won 12 Olympic medals including 4 gold, 4 silver, and 4 bronze. She has won at least 1 medal at each of the Olympics she competed in. In 2000, she made a comeback and competed at the Sydney Olympics after being retired for 7 years. At those Olympics, she won more medals than any other member of Team USA even though she was the oldest member of the U.S. Olympic swim team. When she was 41, she had her second comeback at the Beijing 2008 Olympics and won 3 silver medals.

The Olympics of Blogs will keep you updated on any more comebacks that happen before the Tokyo 2020 Games!

Additional News…

Tomorrow night at 8 pm EST on ABC is the ESPYS, the Excellence in Sports Performance Yearly Awards. Tim Shriver, the Chairman of Special Olympics, will be accepting the Arthur Ashe Courage Award on behalf of his late mother, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, who started Special Olympics. Eight athletes will be on stage with him. I’m sure it will be a night to remember, and I’m really excited to watch it!

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Trading Tuesday: London 2012 Games Maker Pin

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A really kind British volunteer I worked with at the Main Press Centre in Rio gave me this pin. She had volunteered in London, and her experience in London had pushed her to volunteer in Rio too. Over the course of volunteering at the London Games, volunteers were given this pin in gold, silver, and bronze. She brought these pins to the Rio Games to give them to people she became friends with, and she gave me one! 😀

I loved watching the London 2012 Olympics. They were a phenomenal Games, and after watching those Olympics, I promised myself that I would go to the next Games, which I did. I love having this small part of the London Games and of Olympic history!

Her giving me this pin showcases the kindness and humanity I’ve experienced at the Olympics and the Special Olympics World Games. She received these Games Maker pins as gifts to thank her for volunteering, and then she gave them away as gifts even though volunteering at the London 2012 Olympics meant a lot to her. She wanted to share the kindness she had received as a part of those Olympics with new friends from the Rio 2016 Olympics.

To explain the pin a little more, volunteers for those Games were called Games Makers, which I think is a very accurate description because without volunteers, there would not be a Olympics or Paralympics. McDonald’s is on the pin because it is a sponsor of the Olympics.

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When I volunteered at the Rio Games, I received a pin of the Games mascot, Vinicius, in the Olympic volunteer uniform as a gift for volunteering. If I go to the Tokyo Games in 2020 (I’m planning on it), I want to carry on the tradition started by that British volunteer and give it to someone I become good friends with during the Games!

I’m really missing the Olympics and all the amazing friends I made today. ❤

My Olympic Summer

Hi everyone!

I’m sorry for not posting for such a long time. After Rio, I was really exhausted, and then I had to get ready for my last semester of college! Now, I’m back in school, and I’m going to try to keep a regular posting schedule again.

Coming back to school again after Rio and my summer has been difficult, but I’m slowly adjusting. Because it’s almost the end of summer (it ends on September 21), I thought I would look back on my very Olympic summer for this post. Here is a recap video.

This summer, I was lucky enough to intern for Special Olympics Southern California at the Summer Games, volunteer for LA24 and LA84’s Olympic Day at the LA Memorial Coliseum, organize a day for Rio 2016 volunteers in Southern California to visit LA 2024’s office to learn more about the bid, meet Kerri Walsh Jennings, attend the Road to Rio event at Venice Beach, meet Dustin Plunkett, attend NBC’s Social Media Opening Ceremony, intern for the LA 2024 Olympic Bid Committee, and volunteer at the Rio 2016 Olympics. Mostly though, I was really lucky to be able to spend a whole summer doing what I love. I’m so grateful to have had the summer I had and to have met the people I met.

What’s next for me?

I am currently writing my senior Honors thesis about incorporating a Special Olympics’ Unified Sports experience into the Olympics. It’s due in December! In the meantime, I’ll also be going to Olympic, Paralympic, and Special Olympic events in the city and volunteering! Keep an eye on my blog to read more about what I’m up to!

After that, I’m graduating from Pace University, and then, I’m not sure what I’ll be doing. 🙂

Last Day in Rio

Unfortunately, my Rio adventure ends today. Tonight, I leave for the U.S., and although I’m excited to come back and see everyone I’ve missed, it’s still really hard to say goodbye to all the friends I’ve made here and to this beautiful city. Obrigada, Rio.

When I started this adventure two years ago when I applied to volunteer, I could guess that it would be amazing, but I really had no idea that this would be the best thing I have ever done. Thank you to Rio, thank you to all the people I met and became friends with, and thank you to everyone who supported me from home. For the past few weeks, everyone has been filled with the Olympic spirit, and I’ve seen a side of humanity that you don’t usually get to see. Through sport, people united. This experience was incredible, and my favorite part was all the people.

Sunday night, the Olympic flame went out, but the spirit of the Olympics will live on until Tokyo, and I’ll see it there!

Volunteering at the Olympics has taught me so much, provided me with a new perspective of the world and my place in it,  and given me a lot of new goals. Experiencing the Olympics firsthand as a volunteer and a spectator has confirmed that I want to work for this incredible Movement.

See you later, Brazil, and see you in four years, Tokyo!

Here’s a recap video of my last few days in Brazil! ❤️

Olympics Update

Hi everyone!

My time in Rio is starting to wind down, which is very bittersweet. Yesterday, I finished my last volunteer shift, and today I’m attending my last competition. So many of the friends I made are leaving, but even though we’re sad, we’re also happy because we had the chance to do something most people in the world don’t get to do. Volunteering at the Olympics has taught me so much about the world. I have interacted with people from so many from countries that I might never visit, but we still managed to communicate with each other sometimes even if we didn’t speak the same language. Pierre de Coubertin, the founder of the modern Olympic Games, once said, “the most important thing about the Olympic Games is not winning but taking part.” Although he was talking more about athletes having good sportsmanship, his quote also applies to my experience. I didn’t compete at the Olympics, but I did take part, and doing that has been life-changing.

In the past week, I’ve had the amazing opportunity to watch Usain Bolt run the prelims, semi-finals, and finals of the 100 meter sprint; Simone Biles and Aly Raisman perform at the Gymnastics Gala; Russia win the Synchronized Swimming duet; and various teams play Water Polo. I also visited the Sugarloaf Mountain with two American volunteers who I met online and was really excited to meet in person, I went to the Escadaria Selarón (the famous steps in Rio de Janeiro), and I rode one of the bikes used in the Opening Ceremony! This has just been so incredible because every day is an amazing adventure, and most of the time, I don’t know what will happen when I wake up in the morning. Rio de Janeiro is one of the most laid back and relaxed places I have ever been to, and I really like its stress-free environment. I think it’s very healthy, and it allows for people (like me!) to have awesome adventures.

I go to diving today, and tomorrow, I’m going to attend The Today Show. To my friends on the East Coast, it will be aired live at 7 am! Try to find me. 🙂 Tomorrow is also the Closing Ceremony!

Here’s a video that I made last Thursday for my second recap on my Rio 2016 adventures. Check out my next video for what I did starting yesterday until the end of my trip.

The Olympics!

Hi everyone! I’m sorry for not updating sooner. As soon as I got to Rio, it has been go go go because I want to do and experience everything!

Here’s a video recap of my time here so far!

I am loving it so much. Everyone has been so friendly both in the Olympics and in Brazil. Even if we don’t speak the same language, we somehow manage to make it work through hand motions, Google Translate, and body language. I am so grateful that I’m in Rio right now having my dreams become true! Thank you to everyone who has helped make this amazing experience happen for me.

About volunteering:

I’m working in the Main Press Centre at the Main Help Desk in Barra Olympic Park. I help journalists and photographers by checking them in, giving them their press kits, and answering any questions they have. I love where I’m working because I get to talk to so many people from all over the world and from big news outlets like BBC or The New York Times. Additionally because we are working with so many people from around the world who might not speak Portuguese or English, we have the help of the Language Team. It’s been really fun to start trying to help a journalist or photographer in English, identify his or her language, and then have someone there who actually speaks it be able to help him or her.

I’m the only American volunteer in my section, which makes it really amazing because I’m making friends with people from all over the world. There are volunteers from Russia, Brazil, Argentina, Mexico, Great Britain, Italy, Japan, China, and Colombia who work with me. It’s been incredible to learn more about people’s lives in other parts of the world, and it has definitely been a life-changing experience so far. I’ve learned that some things are very different in other parts of the world (like people don’t say “bless you” after someone sneezes), some are close but different (the keyboards on computers in Brazil are almost exactly the same as keyboards in the U.S. but a few of the keys are moved around), and others are exactly the same in every country like smiles, laughter, loving dogs, and people wanting their countries to win gold! 🙂