Woke up early on Monday morning to get to the velodrome to interview Marty Nothstein, who had just arrived the night before. It went great. Marty showed up for training right on time, took some time with me between efforts on motor-pacing, and I had one story down.
What looked like an easy day, however, turned out to be very difficult. The track cycling began in the afternoon, and just after lunch, USA Wrestling press officer Gary Abbott handed out a sheet informing everyone that Sara McMann was the first U.S. woman to make the gold medal finals in the first Olympic women's wrestling tournament. It's a story I just couldn't turn down - if everything ended at the velodrome on time. Everything did end at the velodrome on time, but getting the interviews done was another story. The IOC keeps the media away from the athletes in something called the "mixed zone," which resembles a rugby scrum of reporters, photographers and television crews that resembles tag-team wrestling.
Unfortunately for McMann and an army of reporters that had shown up for the gold-medal match, she lost. She was not only tearful at the loss, but tearful for a good half hour afterwards, which was very uncomfortable for reporters who were looking to laud the entry of women's wrestling into the Olympics.
I don't think many of the reporters had ever seen a wrestling match. One of them asked John Fuller, another of USA Wrestling's press officers, how the scoring went in the match. John was dumbfounded for a second, so I started explaining the scoring, the takedowns, the call against the Japanese girl for passivity, their history wrestling each other. John just smiled and said USA Wrestling should hire me.
Afterwards, about 10:45 p.m. here, they held a special press conference with Patricia and Sara to ballyhoo their accomplishments, but neither girl was pleased because they did not win gold medals. It wasn't the story everyone wanted, and I found it impossible to write a column on it that evening given their reactions and often conflicting remarks about this Olympics was all about winning a gold medal, but that they would tell young girls it's not about the medals, it's about the life skills the sport teaches you. If that was indeed true, then they shouldn't have been so distraught over not reaching the gold medal.
Forget the ouzo, I need a Glen Livet!
Morning Call Sports Reporter Gary Blockus is on assignment in Athens, Greece for the 2004 Summer Olympics. Gary's Athens will be providing updated reports from the Games as well as the various sights and sounds from Athens in his daily blog.
A day of cycling and wrestling...
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