Editor's Note: Spider diving coach Erika Matheis will pen a blog over the course of her visit to London for the 2012 Summer Olympic Games. Below is her fourth entry.
Even the stereotypical London rain can't dampen the excitement at the Olympic Park. Smiles and cheers offer a warm welcome to the Park, as a large volume of volunteers direct visitors. In addition to the volunteers, there was also a very noticeable military presence, as the British attempt to ensure visitors' safety while enjoying the Games.
We soon arrived at the pool, where we also received a warm welcome. We are seated with the Brits, and are happy to be here, enjoying the wit of some pretty cheeky people. We got to the pool fairly early and were able to watch Team USA come in. Chris Colwill and Troy Dumais are diving in the men's 3-meter semifinals. As we arrived early, we were able to benefit from the explanation of the sport and commentary on the key competitors to watch.
For diving there are three scoring components: Take Off, Flight and Entry.
This explanation was particularly helpful for those who do not understand the sport. It is awesome that the IOC does this so that everyone can appreciate the event they are attending. Shared knowledge between fans can also enhance the spectating experience.
I happened to be sitting next to Princeton's rowing coach, and she was explaining rowing while I was explaining diving before the start of competition. I enjoyed sharing stories about the collegiate sports experience but greatly anticipated seeing competition at the Olympic level.
Spectating at this diving competition was nothing like I have ever experienced. There were big screen televisions replaying every dive at all angles and in slow motion. If only the judges could use slow motion to judge maybe their scores would have been different! They even had an emcee who got the crowd hyped up and played music between dives.
The whole pool became especially alight, however, when British diver Chris Mears competed. It was amazing to watch him represent his home country and see his enthusiastic supporters. He was first in the order and the union jacks were everywhere! In addition to the Brits, there was also a lot of support for American divers Dumais and Colwill.
From a completely different part of the world, the Chinese performed amazingly with dives by Qin Kai and He Chong. They are so effortless and clean with every dive. They make it look so easy! The Ukrainian and Russian divers were also extremely impressive, competing at such a high and difficult level; that is the Olympics. The hardest dive of the competition had a degree of difficulty of 3.9. A difficulty this high was unheard of four years ago!
Proudly representing my home country, Team USA performed well and Dumais did some pretty nice dives. Colwell presented some pretty amazing dives as well, but unfortunately missed his last two attempts. My heart went out to him, as I know at what level he can compete! He is a very impressive diver and I'm sure it was difficult to perform the way he did at the biggest stadium in the world. Dumais gave a qualifying performance and will represent the USA in the finals. Unexpectedly, Chris Mears also qualified for finals after moving up nine places from his original preliminary spot. Apparently, according to NBColympics.com, Mears was in a coma three years ago... Talk about a comeback!
After the 3-meter semifinals and leaving the pool, walking through Olympic Park was crazy! If you think amusement parks are bad, the Olympics takes it to a new level. A fun aspect about a large volume of people, however, is people watching. I think my favorite group is the Dutch. We saw a bunch of Dutch bachelors wearing all orange suits and orange ties - what an outfit! Aside from the fun getups, I think what astounded me the most at Olympic Park was the 30-minute line to get McDonald's. Can you imagine waiting 30 minutes for "fast" food?!? What a way to spend time between events.
While walking to our next venue, the Today show was filming and we were able to see Michael Phelps being interviewed. Lo Lo Jones was up next with a couple of British athletes to follow. There was a crazy French basketball group that was like the Harlem Globetrotters with accents. They flip and dunk with the help of trampolines. Ironically, these were the same guys who performed at the halftime show at the women's basketball game to which we were heading.
When we originally got the tickets to this women's basketball quarterfinal game, we had no idea who was playing. Luckily we walked through the doors and it was none other than the USA! It was the game against Canada, and with the win the Americans qualified for the gold medal game. These women played incredibly and with such finesse and grace. They made everything look easy.
Diana Taurasi and Candice Parker were the leaders of the team and made quite a duo on the court. The incredible height of these women is also impressive, especially when watching them perform in person. There were also a few familiar faces in the crowd, like LeBron James and Kobe Bryant to name a few. The USA men's team came to support the women! You can clearly tell that USA is one joined force ready to take the medal stand. Go USA!
After a busy and exciting Olympic day today, I am ready for one thing: a bed! Back to the pool for more diving tomorrow!