Monday, September 15, 2008

Golden Haze

What an incredible evening.

Last night USA Women beat China in the gold medal game. During pool play China went undefeated. The USA had one loss and two tie games. We were the underdog
going into this game... 

We played in front of a standing room only crowd of 6000 spectators- which was rather remarkable all in and of itself! During the 96 Atlanta games the final
games attracted under 500 spectators. Think of the atmosphere of a division one basketball game- those were the competition conditions- it was lots of
fun!   

No one really prepared me for the mayhem that occurs directly following a big win. Two of my teammates were immediately taken for drug testing after our
game. There is a limited amount of time to go and change into the medal attire. There were 100 or so other players from other countries who were in the
athletes section of the venue congratulating us and posing for photos. We had a press conference with the Chinese team. The press conference was full of
drama- including a protest of the game by the Chinese coach. 

Those Chinese women played hard. They have really helped to raise the bar in women's goalball and I am honored to have competed against them. The venue
is state of the art and  my Paralympic experience has given me a great deal of respect for the Chinese Paralympic training program. The Chinese have a
Paralympic training center that dedicates two teroflex courts exclusively to the goalball program. China's men took the gold and their women battled it
out with us last night to take the silver in their Paralympic debut        

Nothing is like standing on that medal podium and hearing our national anthem play. I was keenly aware of how many people touched part of this dream. Behind every athlete is a partner, friends, family, co-workers and coaches- I happen to have the best of all of these supporting me.
One oddity with having all visually impaired people on the podium was
our challenge in finding the appropriate direction to gaze in to show the flag our respect. One of our players spotted it though- so there we were, right
hands on heart, singing along, most  of us with tears in our eyes- for all the world to see that the USA has the best woman's goalball team in the world.
I believe that athletes with visual impairments challenge society because we become what many people feel is impossible. To be the best in the world at
my sport was what drove me to continue to play- and now here we are- at the top of that podium.

After the medal ceremonies I had my picture taken with several hundred strangers- everyone wanted to be in a photo with the medal and the beautiful flowers. 

(I taught a lot of Chinese people how to say cheese.)     

Bob, who was with the gold medal French handball team during the Olympics was only ever able to touch the medal itself for 2 seconds. I let Bob put my medal
around his neck and he took a photo with the entire team. 

    This entire experience has been an incredible journey. 

Quite frankly, I am still in a golden haze.    

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