I am pleased to tell everyone that our arrivals (so far) have been fairly smooth (compared to some of my past experiences at World Championships). Although I am not sure what Canada did to Turkey, but our entrance visa's into the country cost 60 US dollars, while the the Americans and all the other countries paid 20! I thought we were fairly well liked as a nation abroad, I guess I was wrong...
We were met promptly to my pleasant surprise by Chris Stefopulos (our fearless team leader) as we cleared customs. He was waiting for us with our hotel room keys and accreditation in hand. A short while later we were in our own bus headed directly to our hotel. We are staying (our women's team) in the Radisson hotel which is directly adjacent to the airport. It is a nice hotel with great facilities: excellent fitness center with sauna's (dry, steam, as well as a traditional Turkish Hamma). The food has been excellent so far. The hotel rooms are fairly nice (typical european sized yet comfortable). The hotel has free wifi, and many nice little places to relax and socialize down in the lobby. Our men's team is staying at the Atakoy Marina hotel. The rooms are a little more spacious yet the hotel is a little older. Not quite as glamorous however there is a waterfront view. We had wanted to try and have our entire team in the same hotel, yet despite our efforts the organizers would not budge. Operating as "Team Canada" will be a little more complicated given the fact that we are split up geographically.
Today we had our first training session, just after 2 o'clock in the afternoon. As we arrived a little late last night we didn't worry about wake up times this morning. The first night we want our team to get as much sleep as they can. With the excitement through the rest of the week it may actually be one of the best sleeps we might get. The competition start time is actually 2 pm. Which is very interesting compared to most of the tournaments we compete in. The late start time gives our athletes a little more breathing time in the mornings and a little more recovery time after making weight.
The practice this afternoon was one of the best first practices I have watched our girls have. (Carol, Jessie, Tonya, Amanda, and Justine) were on the mats. Our girls stepped onto the mat with outstanding focus today. My expectations of the first workout is usually a little lower. Yet to my pleasant surprise timing and tempo of practice was excellent and our girls (in general) were in excellent spirits. The actual session was 30 minutes of technique and drilling, followed by 5 x 1 minute matches. Paul Ragusa was our sixth athlete on the Mat today. The mats were pretty crazy busy with many of the Greco teams training at the same time. We were only able to spar one group of two wrestling at a time. It is always a coach's fear to have one of our athletes run over by some heavyweight wrestler. So we are very careful to ensure our girls were watched as they wrestled. I walk around the mat like a nightclub doorman blocking anyone who comes into our area. The person who actually deserves the MVP for his efforts today is Ragusa. He stepped off of the mat today and his face was like hamburger from our "loving girls". Actually I used Paul a great amount with the girls today. He wrestled all five of our girls multiple times.
Went we got back to our hotel our medical support staff leapt to action! We have such a great support team in Canadian Wrestling on our trips and tours our athletes get treated so well. Tonight was an example of this. Rick Tkach, Surinder Budwal, Jessica Pawlik, and Mike Nicholls all worked diligently to help our athletes recover and feel great heading into the competition. I can tell that our team is different than most... honestly I believe there is a chemistry and a camaraderie that our group shares that is truly special! We spent over an hour tonight in Rick's room as he treated athletes, there was ELEVEN of us in there!!! In one hotel room! People were chatting, laughing, and teasing each other.... I sat back with a smile on my face the whole time. My job is supposed to be stressful, right, I mean we are at the world championships! What a great team to be a part of (and we are a real team)!
Anyways, even as I was doing this blog tonight I am sitting a room with our staff. Hard to focus, but I'm laughing lots... It has been so slow writing this because I can't think straight with these guys...! I am going to let Tamara proof read this now, so if this doesn't make sense please don't blame me...
We are in great spirits, stay tuned!!!