Sunday, 30 October 2011

Mall/VIP Cinemas

October 28, 2011

So today we made plans to go to a movie at the Cineapolis VIP (VIP Cinemas) with Alana and her boyfriend Isaac later that night. There was a 740 and 1020 showtime and by mid afternoon we still hadn't heard back from Alana to make sure they were coming so we headed over to the mall to do some "snooping". For those not in the know, snooping is used here to refer to the act of going through a mall, perhaps looking at potential purchase opportunities but not intending to actually buy anything. For the most part we accomplished this goal.

Kaitlyn with the set in the back

We arrived and were hungry, but first Kaitlyn had to find a bathroom. I'm starting to wonder how she functions on a daily basis with having to make stops every hour... but anyway we found one and then began looking for a food court. On our way we passed a large open area with what looked like a set for a talk show put together. It didn't look like anything was happening anytime soon so we kept on going. The promise of sustenance our motivation.

Enjoying donut nirvana :)
 We happened upon a Krispy Kreme and for anyone who is unfamiliar, Krispy Kreme is head and shoulders above any other donut brand I've tasted. I would go as far as saying you haven't really had a donut until you've had a Krispy Kreme. We soldiered on, eventually finding the food court. Kaitlyn ordered something suspiciously like an authentic Mexican dish while I went my own way and decided on a nice greasy burger and fries :) Our appetites sated, we explored the mall a little more, walking into a few stores but not willing to buy anything. The stores here were very similar in both product and price to back home, so the monetary incentive was absent.

 After a while we came to an arcade. Since we still had some time to kill we decided to check it out. As it happened the tokens were 2 for 1 that day, so we bought 200 pesos worth of tokens (for 100 pesos) and started playing. There were some really enjoyable games there, as well as some real disappointments, but the best was definitely the miniature bowling. While we were there Alana called Kaitlyn and let her know they could make the 1020 show so we headed up to the cinema to grab the tickets. Another cool aspect of the theater was that you were able to purchase specific seats within it. We chose 4 seats near the center and were on our merry way. It was about 730 by this time so we still had some time to kill. We found a starbucks and decided to get some caffeine in our system. I'm not sure what it is about malls, but after walking around in one for a few hours it seems to have a lullaby effect on me. I'm not especially tired but I feel the overwhelming urge to lay down and sleep. Caffeinated drinks in tow, we happened upon a sponsored television showing synchronized diving from the games! We sat down, sipped our drinks and enjoyed some very talented divers perform some pretty crazy aerial feats.

Enjoying mini-bowling!
At 9pm the show was over so we played some cards until almost 10 then headed up to the cinemas again. Alana and Isaac weren't far behind so after they showed up we said a quick hello then headed into the theater. This theater was both very alike and very different from other theaters I have been to. Imagine the cinema equivalent of first class on an air plane. Yes there are still seats, aisles and overhead compartments but everything is a little bigger and nicer than what you find in coach, not to mention there are waiters scattered around waiting to take care of your every need. You just want some popcorn and a soft drink? Sure! But perhaps you'd rather have a margarita and some sushi or a full on dinner? They can accommodate all desires. Oh, did I forget to mention the seats were reclinable Lazy Boys??? Seats were set up 2 each, with and end table and light on either side (kind of like a loveseat) and the arm rest in between the 2 could be pushed up to create a more cuddle-friendly experience. All in all, it was nothing less than first class. Moneyball, the movie we saw, was also really great. Based on the true story of the initial application of economics into professional sport it was both interesting and entertaining and I would highly recommend going to see it if you haven't already.

Anyway the movie concluded and we retired back to the house for a nice long sleep. We're planning to head to Ixtapa on the 31st after the closing ceremonies on the 30th so I'll keep you posted on that.


Thursday, 27 October 2011

The last 2 days have been pretty intense! I'll pick up where I left off...

I'm not sure I have the literary composition skills necessary to give Mexican wrestling a just description and unfortunately the last time Kaitlyn was there they had a strict rule against cameras so I neglected to bring it with me. The photo opportunity just wasn't worth the confiscation possibility of my brand new camera.

Anyway we caught a cab outside of Kaitlyn's place and took it down into central Guadalajara. When we had been there earlier in the day Kaitlyn had pointed out where we were within the core and where the unsavoury parts were. As the cab passed into the danger zone the cabby rolled up the windows and fastened his seatbelt. Since we had been downtown for awhile I was definitely disconcerted with this change. I looked over at Kaitlyn and she simply said "I told you..." which may have made her feel better but I only got more uncomfortable.

After what seemed like an eternity of driving cautiously though graffiti covered streets and dark alleys we pulled up to the venue. It was quite distinctive due to the large crowd gathered out front and the multitude of wrestling mask stands where various vendors were selling masks ranging from quite plain to outright ridiculous. Again I apologize for leaving the camera at home because some of these facial coverings were pretty impressive in their craftsmanship.

Kaitlyn's friend Alana met us there as she is living here and working at the university.We lined up to get tickets and after paying I remember thinking that this was more expensive than I thought it would be. Not in a serious way, my student ticket was 80 pesos and Kaitlyn's regular ticket was 110, I'm just used to things (especially in places that looked like this) being really cheap in Mexico so the modest price of the tickets surprised me. It became very clear what had happened just a few minutes later...

I will preface my explanation by pointing out that when Kaitlyn first told me about Lucha Libre, one of the most interesting facets of the experience she mentioned was the class divide within the venue. Cheap seats are located on the higher balcony while the more expensive seats are found on the lower level at ringside, and go back approximately 10 rows. The rich Mexicans and tourists that come to Lucha Libre sit in the expensive seats and the lower class, if they can afford to come, buy the cheap tickets. Anyway the plan was to have an "authentic" Mexico experience so we wanted to buy cheap seats so we could sit with the rowdy folks, but alas after we purchased our tickets, on the way in we found out we had bought the wrong kind. We were gonna have to sit with the rich folks :(

After going back and trying to change our tickets to no avail, we resigned ourselves to a slightly less authentic mexican experience, although after getting 2 coronas each (for 50 pesos total) and some chips doused in hot sauce and lime juice, we were feeling much more like legitimate mexicans. We quickly grabbed our seats to enjoy the show which had already begun!

The first act after we sat down featured a women's tag team match. They weren't anything amazing but the obvious crowd favourite was a very large woman in what appeared to be a black cat suit. After 3 very entertaining rounds, Rotunda's team emerged victorious, much to the delight of the crowd. An individual bout followed, with the loser having to shave his head in what I imagine was the consequence of some wager in weeks prior. More coronas were ordered to carry us through the main event of the evening.

The main event was another tag team match which featured 6 men who were not only much more talented than the wrestlers earlier but with much more ridiculous personas (anyone who has watched professional wrestling will know what I'm talking about).  There was the pretty boy, who was tanned, ripped, and never missed an opportunity to show off his guns. The Hulk. Seriously, this guy had a green spandex suit, spikey black hair and ripped jean shorts that would have made Lou Ferrigno proud. There was also a japanese fighter (at least he looked japanese) who had some sweet acrobatic moves, an animalistic fighter with painted on hair whose signature move seemed to be wiping his armpits and then licking his hands (I didn't get it either), a Rick Flair lookalike with an S&M clothing fetish, and a fairy. Now when I say fairy I don't mean the kind of mystical creature that flies through the enchanted forest at night, I mean a 6 foot tall, overweight, hairy man in a pink spandex tutu. As far as personas go this was by far the most ridiculous and it was capped off by his objective which it seemed was to distract or debilitate his opponent long enough to steal a kiss. It was pretty hilarious which of course made him, above all others, the crowd favourite.

In true crowd pandering fashion, Fairy's team won, and some words were exchanged between Rick Flair and Hulk before the event concluded, no doubt some type of storyline drama to be continued next week. The whole experience was unforgettable though, mostly because the wrestling portion was really only half the entertainment. The other half was completely crowd centered. As I mentioned earlier there was a clear class divide between those who purchased cheap tickets and those who paid extra. The cheap seats were not only located in a higher level, almost like a balcony but shorter, but they were also fenced in as if to keep things even more separated than they already were. This created a clear line in the sand, which divided the stadium into two halves; those with money and those with none, and there was some clear animosity between the halves. Now while I'm partially sure this was all done in good fun, periodically throughout the performance insulting chants would begin on one side of the fence or the other. The chants from the rich side were usually to point out the undesirable financial situation of those on the poor side, for example, "the bus is leaving" or "your mother cleans my house". The chants from the poor side I can't really repeat here, just in case this blog finds its way into the view of children. Suffice it to say the chants from the other side of the fence were much less specific, but just as if not more insulting, and used much more... flowery language.

After the performance concluded we all piled into Alana's truck and drove to La Fiesta de America. The bar used by all the athletes competing at the games. There were buses going and coming back from there almost every night so for athletes done competing, there was never an excuse not to be able to party. We ended up staying there for a few hours, after which Kaitlyn's sister Kari joined us for a few libations before heading home. It was a great night and luckily we were able to sleep in the next morning. I'll tell you all about that day tomorrow as this post has taken up too much of my evening already.


Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Exploring Guadalajara...

Just leaving Valle Real!
After our very disheartening performance against Ecuador consolation beers were definitely in order. We stopped at the bar in the international zone on the way back to sate our thirst. I had been texting Kaitlyn and suggested we get together a bit later for some drinks and a movie, which she emphatically agreed to. She and her host sister were out for dinner so she would text me when they were finished. After the most delectable beer I've had in awhile was finished, we grabbed a quick bite at the cafeteria then headed back to the room. After a quick shower we all went back down for another beer while trying not to bemoan our heinous play earlier that day. Kaitlyn texted and called me while we were down there but I didn't hear/notice my phone so when I did I hurriedly finished my beer, said my goodbyes and headed out to meet them. They had stopped by a gas station to pick up some tequila and grapefruit soda (gotta love the availability of alcohol in Mexico) on the way over so we were all set.  Upon our arrival back at the house, located in a gated community near the Pan American Village called Valle Real, we hunkered down with our drinks and my recently downloaded copy of Horrible Bosses and enjoyed a chill evening of each others company.

Filet hot dog. Mmmm :)
In the morning, with the tournament disappointingly but thankfully over, we decided to get a jump on exploring downtown Guadalajara. Since we had slept in, it was past noon by the time we departed the house and thus we decided that road drinks were a must. We walked across the street to a gas station where a multitude of alcoholic merriment awaited. Seriously, we bought 2 beer and a pre-mixed mojito for less than $3 and if we hadn't just eaten I could also have enjoyed a hot dog wrapped in bacon. Sorry Canada but with gas stations like that I'm beginning to fall for Mexico.

Close to rball as I could find
After flagging a taxi and haggling for a price she was happy with (100 pesos), Kaitlyn and I jumped in, cracked our respective beers and enjoyed a somewhat uneventful taxi ride into the heart of Guadalajara. I wasn't sure what to expect. I knew it would be a big city but it was nothing like the big cities of Canada. There were definitely crowded and cramped portions but there were courtyards, plazas, gazebos and statues of famous Mexican artists and revolutionaries. This was not only the center of commerce for the city but also the center of culture, and it was awesome.

One of the really cool parts of downtown was the Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) decorations. The Day of the Dead is a Mexican holiday to celebrate the remembrance of friends and family members who have died. Occurring on the 1st and 2nd of November (in connection with the Catholic Holidays of All Saints' and All Souls' day) the downtown area has become rife with skeletal mannequins to celebrate not only the holiday but also the Pan Am Games. The skeletons are depicted participating in different sports that are part of the games!

We also walked through the Government Palace or Palacio de Gobierno. Many of the walls (and ceilings) were covered in murals by a famous Mexican artist Kaitlyn told me the name of but which I now forget. (I'll get it from her and update this post for all those who are curious.) Full of symbolism and emotion. Each mural seemed to tell a story of oppression, revolution or hope. Hope was my favourite.
Now that's a Michelada
Anyway after finishing up at the Palace we walked through a few more of the courtyards before stopping to get a bite to eat (and another drink - I was parched!). Kaitlyn was ecstatic because the place we found had a special on Micheladas, 1 liter for 47 pesos (about 4 dollars). For those unfamiliar with Mexican libationary delicacies, the Michelada is somewhat similar to a beer & clam, but with a few Mexican spices added in for good measure. The result is usually reddish-brown, similar in a lot of ways to a caesar, including it's inebriaton inducing effects. They are also Kaitlyn's favourite Mexican drink. Her oversized beverage also allowed me to polish off a couple of beers myself before she could finish, not that I was complaining ;)

After finishing a huge meal (we shared nachos and fajitas) and our refreshments it was past five o' clock but we had a little time left to explore some of the markets downtown and while it was pretty cool to find an authentic Mexican market in the heart of a city like Guadalajara, in most ways it was very similar to the markets I've seen in Puerto Vallarta except for one very important detail. It was underground.

Okay well maybe not completely underground, but you have to walk down half a flight of stairs from street level and everything is covered in white aluminum siding panels. Once you got down to the shop level it was a veritable labyrinth of storefronts, selling everything from fresh fruit and candy to knock off brand name leather jackets. It was quite an experience and I was even able to get some presents for my family while there! Needless to say our first day in Guadalajara was extremely memorable. Tonight is Lucha Libre! Mexican style wrestling is very popular here and totally part of the culture. I'm really looking forward to it and blogging about it later. Cheers.

Monday, 24 October 2011

The Disappointment Continues/Concludes...

So yesterday was unfortunately another rough day for Canada. The women's team fell to Ecuador 2-1 after a shakeup in the lineup that saw Josee sit out due to illness and Jen team up with Brandi to play doubles as well as singles. It wasn't enough to pull out a victory though and thus medals completely eluded the women's racquetball team at this Pan Am Games.

The men didn't fare any better though this round. Also falling to Ecuador 2-1. Positional changes were made to elicit a better result against our would-be opponents, the Americans, in the semi finals. Putting our best doubles team together (Mike and Kris) then myself at the #1 singles and Vinnie at #2. I wasn't there to watch the doubles match as it was almost 4 hours before mine was scheduled (assuming I would even have to play, which given the state of my hip when I woke up was hopefully not going to be necessary). They must have played very poorly though because they fell 11-8 tiebreaker which meant my match would be the difference maker after Vinnie beat his opponent. I was texted about the doubles result shortly after it happened so I had lots of time to prep my hip for the inevitable running battle that would ensue with my opponent. For those of you who don't know, Fernando Rios is the racquetball equivalent of a jackrabbit on crack, with a wicked forehand. I lost to him at the Pan Am Championships in Nicaragua, a match I played very poorly in and was hungry for revenge but if I couldn't move that would be a difficult task. I saw the physio at the Team Canada center hours before I had to leave and she worked out the worst of the soreness, then I made sure I got to the courts a full hour before we were scheduled to begin so that I could get a good long hit to work out the rest of it. Vinnie won fairly easily so we were up.

I came out of the gate strong and playing well. Frankly I think I took him off guard because he seemed on his heels as well, not covering the ball like I thought he would. All that changed when he got the serve back trailing 1-7. He began to chip away at my lead, alternating good serves with brutally long rallies and before long he had tied at 7-7 and began pulling away. I regrouped though and went on another point streak, leading 13-10 before relinquishing the serve once again. I couldn't seem to put points together after that though. He covered the court extremely well and I got frustrated, making errors at late stages of each rally which either gave him the point or an easy shot for it. I would fall 15-13.

The second game started out almost opposite with him jumping out to a lead 7-3. I was getting the serve back but just not scoring so I changed to a drive serve which proved effective. I would get back to 7-6 before he relieved me of my serve and scored a few more points. I switched back to the lob and he while he was just giving me ceiling ball setups I couldn't seem to capitalize and he extended his lead to 12-7. I went back to the drive serve and pulled up to 10-12. He got the serve back and scored a point for 13-10. I got the serve back and drove serve another 3 to tie at 13. He took a timeout to regroup. I felt like I had the momentum and when I went back in to serve I decided to hit a jam drive right into him thinking he wouldn't expect it. Unfortunately I left it short. He flipped to the forehand and ripped the ball right at me but it impossibly flew right between my legs, clipping my shorts on the way by (the ref didn't see it apparently) and flat killing in the middle of the court. He would make no mistakes on the next 2 points, taking them and the match 15-13, 15-13.

As deflated as I was after losing our doubles semifinal to Venezuela earlier, this was worse as the team was counting on me. I had the power to bring us into the semifinals and played just poorly enough to lose. It was hearbreaking. There are a lot of things I could blame my performance on but that's not me. I'm not going to make excuses. I lost and the result was the team lost because of it. It really sucks. But I'm trying to move on from it and now that the tournament is over I will get to see a little more of Guadalajara. Kaitlyn and I have planned to do some exploring downtown. Look for the post tonight or tomorrow with some great pictures. I'm not sure how much reporting I'll do on the rest of the tournament because I'm probably not going to be there today or tomorrow but I will be blogging about my adventures in and around Guadalajara so whoever is interested can keep on reading. Check out for tournament results! I'm out...


Sunday, 23 October 2011

Individual Competition Concludes, Team Competition Begins!

So I've been putting off writing this post for a couple of days now and while I do apologize for the delay I do hope there is some compassion and understanding on the part of those who already know how our semi final match went. For those that don't I'll give you the rundown...

Scoreboard pre-match

We knew the match would be tough and were prepared, following our routine of the previous days; eating, relaxing, getting a quick workout and meal in before leaving for the club. My hip was feeling a little sore but I knew it would go away once I got into the match. Unfortunately it did affect me early on and our team got off to a slow start once again. We battled back and took much of the momentum near the end of the game but they were able to hold us off and take game 1: 15-14.

The second game saw us keep much of the momentum we had taken near the end of the first and propelled us to a large lead right out of the gate. Kris was playing lights out racquetball, very fired up by our tight loss of the opening game and leaving it all out there. It was inspiring. I didn't play nearly as well but I was able to provide solid support by covering balls in the front and finishing the odd set up that came my way. They fought back a little near the end but we simply outplayed them, beating them soundly 15-3 to take the second game and level the match.

In the tiebreaker they made some adjustments, the most crucial was switching sides which rendered the jam serve Kris had hit the majority of the second game much less effective. We switched serve order though so that Kris could serve first and still scored a couple of points to start before being relieved of our first serve possession. They served well to start the tiebreaker and even though we were getting into the rallies they came out on the winning end of the first few and took a small lead.

We got the serve back though and Kris made an adjustment to his serve that brought it back to it's former luster and began scoring points more easily with it. They fought back but we were returning serve well and scoring on ours, which allowed us to retake the lead. At 9-5 we tightened up though, both missing shots we had made earlier on in the tiebreaker and they began to play better, realizing that they had to put it all out there now if they were to have any chance of coming back. They only scored 2 points and we got the serve back at 9-7 but were sided out quickly.

Even the Telcel mascots wanted a seat!  
They tied at 9-9 and feeling the momentum shift their way we got frantic ourselves, taking down their first server. But their second server scored to make it 10-9. Kris stepped up on this serve, being aggressive and hit a great overhead backhand pass down the line. We were still alive. But on our first serve Kris couldn't find the angle that was effective earlier and we were down to our last server. Me. I stepped up, knowing that I needed a great serve and hit one. A great kiss lob to the backhand player that just barely came off the back. I was right up in the front court for the pinch I knew was coming and as it came towards the front wall my heart lifted as it hit the floor first. Skip. 10-10. Now I've hit thousands of kiss lobs since I started playing, it's one of my favourite serves. But any player will tell you that it's different hitting any shot at 10-10 tiebreaker for a berth in the final of a big tournament, let alone an international multisport event. I took 2 deep breaths though and felt calm as I hit the serve. As it came off my racquet, though I could tell the weight was good, the angle was slightly off and I knew it wasn't going to hit the side wall early enough. I stepped up to cover the pinch again but he wouldn't miss again. It rolled straight out in front of me, not literally, but flat enough that there was no chance of me getting the ball. My heart sank, no it fell through the floor as I saw that shot come out. But I was determined not to give up. We still have a chance, just get the serve back. So on their first serve, a solid straight lob down the right side wall, I stepped up to hit an aggressive pinch. I mishit the ball badly, but as luck would have it, the spin created by the mishit caused what could have been a poor down the line pass to curl into the side wall, cracking out for a winner. We were still alive :)

Final Score :(
Kris stepped up again on the serve return, continuing to be aggressive but left his pass a little high, we still got into a rally though, eventually pushing me into the front court. I moved up to cover a pinch I thought was coming but he hit a pass instead. I got my racquet on it but in trying to push the ball back cross court I didn't push hard enough and left it short. I ran up to cover the reverse pinch I'd seen him hit numerous times throughout the match but couldn't get to it in time. It bounced for the second time 2 feet in front of me to give them the point, the game and the match.

So I've been pretty down for the last couple of days.
When you lose a match like that you can't help but replay things in your mind, the way they went down, the numerous things you could have changed to have made the outcome different. Inevitably I get to a place where I tell myself "If someone told you that you would come out of this tournament a Pan Am Games bronze medallist, you would have been happy, so just try to enjoy the fact that you got a medal and not think too harshly about what colour it is." And while this thought process is about as comforting as a t shirt in a Saskatchewan winter, it did take a bit of the sting out. Venezuela would go on to lose in the final to the host nations team and finish with a silver medal.

Mexico would almost sweep the gold medals for racquetball, the only one eluding them being men's singles, where American Rocky Carson would beat Gil Mejia (the Canadian killer as some of you may recall from previous posts) in the final. The only other medal for the Canadian Racquetball Team was also in men's singles as Vincent Gagnon lost in the semi the previous day.

Walking in to receive our medals
The medal ceremony followed the men's doubles final last night and while it was bittersweet, it was still a pretty cool event to be a part of. I have a sinking feeling though that every time I look at that bronze medal I will be remorseful it isn't a different colour...

With our bronze medals
 On a more positive note the Team Competition begins today which is a different format. I'll describe it, and our fist round results in the next post as this one is getting to be a bit long. The women compete this morning and the men in the afternoon/evening. Look for the update later tonight!


Friday, 21 October 2011

Elimination Day 2

Well the 2nd day of elimination rounds didn't go any better than the first for the Canadian Team unfortunately...

In women's doubles, Brandi and Josee won their first round match against Venezuela before falling to the 1st seeded Mexican team of Paola Longoria and Samantha Salas in the quarter finals.

In women's singles both Jen Saunders and Frederique Lambert were thwarted in their attempts wrestle former (and I suppose still current) demons. Jen fell to Chilean Angela Grisar, once ranked in the top 5 on the WPRO (now ranked #9), and always present opponent at international events. Grisar is on the winning end of their match history and is always a threat to upset in the women's draw due to her perennially low seeding (players are seeded by team and Chile overall has a weaker team). Fred suffered defeat at the hands of her Junior World Championship final opponent from Bolivia, Maria Vargas. Maria got the better of Fred in the preliminary round in that tournament but the pair met again in the final with Fred stepping up to be the better player that day. The Pan Am Games first round was not Fred's day however, thus Jen and Fred became the first Canadian Racquetball Team members eliminated from the individual competition.

In men's singles, everyone was rapt with anticipation over the 2nd round matchup between Canadian National Champion Mike Green and recurrent Mexican singles team member Gilberto Mejia. The first game saw Gil jump out to a 4 point lead. Green trying to get his cruise missile drive serve going without success. At 5-9 in the first, Green switched to a lob serve and found more success and closed the point gap. Both players seemed to turn things up another notch but found themselves very evenly matched, Green's impeccable shot making neutralized by Mejia's exquisite court coverage. Still, Green took the lead at 13-12 and looked poised to take the first game until Mejia stole the momentum back and finished off a nail-bitingly close opening game 15-13. The second game saw Green control things much more firmly. Switching to a kiss lob, he took advantage of Mejia's unwillingness (or inability) to be aggressive on the serve return and took a large lead to start. At 5-12, Mejia seemed to find an inner fire that spurred him on to more aggressive and thus more successful play. Green showed his champion spirit however, and pushed back, thwarting what looked like the beginning of a zealous comeback effort by the mettlesome Mexican. It seemed though, that the effort at the end of game 2 had indeed turned the tides on the momentum of the match and Gil was able to keep it going his way, winning the tiebreaker 11-2.

Fortunately for Team Canada both Vincent Gagnon and our doubles team claimed victories so there are still competitors vying for medals. I will write a more detailed post about our doubles match specifically (because it was a gooder!) but for now I'm off to do a light workout before relaxing and preparing for our semifinal match against Venezuela tonight!


Thursday, 20 October 2011

Prelims over, Elimination Rounds here we come!

It was a very up and down day for racquetball's Team Canada yesterday... let's start with the bad news...

In women's doubles Josee Grand-Maitre and Brandi Jacobsen-Prentice lost their second preliminary match to Bolivia. This places them 3rd in their pool and gives them a tough spot in the elimination draw as they will face Mexico in the quarter finals, assuming they improve their play and make it by Venezuela in the first round. Let us hope fortitude and tenacity turn the tides for the Montreal pair.

 Women's doubles team in action against Bolivia.

In men's singles both Canadian players lost. Mike Green to Bolivian Carlos Keller and Vincent Gagnon to Columbian Alejandro Herrera and while losses are never easy and they will now end up on the same half of the elimination draw, there are some silver linings to point out. The first and most obvious is Vince's loss was somewhat meaningless, as Alejandro lost his other preliminary match to Venezuelan Cesar Castro who was then injured in a subsequent doubles match and is unable to continue. This means that Vince still finished first in the pool and will go into the main draw as the second seed. The potential positive of Green's 2nd pool loss and consequent 3rd place finish in his pool is that he will be on the opposite side of the draw from both Rocky Carson and Alvaro Beltran; the two highest ranked IRT players in the draw and in my opinion the two strongest players as well. While he will have a tougher second round match (against 3rd seeded Mexican Gilberto Mejia) it provides an opportunity to have two Canadian players in the semi finals, with a guaranteed player in the final! Needless to say Mike's match with Gil today is of monumental importance for both Mexico and Canada, as having 2 players in the semi finals would provide whichever team that accomplishes the feat a huge point advantage when determining the team standings.

The rest of the team won their matches without any real surprises other than Frederique Lambert's impressive upset win over Samantha Salas of Mexico. The win not only puts Fred in as 3rd seed with a solid draw to the semi finals but puts both Mexican women on the top of the draw and slated to meet in the quarter finals! Jen Saunders also scored an "upset" (Read: not really an upset at all...) win against 5th seeded Jenny Daza of Bolivia and thus takes her spot on the top of the draw. She will face American Cheryl Gudinas in the quarter finals and also have a good chance to make the semis.

Dani and I before the match.
The last match of the day for Team Canada was our men's doubles match against the Argentinian pairing of Daniel Maggi and Shai Manzuri which we won in a fairly straightforward fashion. We solidly controlled play in both games and held the lead for the entire match, with only a slight hiccup midway through the first game which allowed them to close within striking distance. The door on their comeback hopes was ungraciously and expeditiously closed though and we rolled on to win the second game easily. Final score: 15-10, 15-5.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Quick Update

Hey everyone. Just wanted you to know I haven't forgotten about you or the blog, just been a busy couple of days and the timing of our matches and meals/workouts earlier on hasn't been facilitating my ability to provide update posts. I took some good pictures today though and there were some great matches, with the elimination draw seedings being decided as well. I'll be sure to write a nice long post in the morning but I need to get to bed so I can be fresh for our first elimination match tomorrow. GO CANADA!!! :)


Monday, 17 October 2011

Round Robins Day 1

The first day of racquetball competition went fairly well for Team Canada. All players won their first round robin matches somewhat easily, with the exception of one men's singles match. Mike Green (current national champion) lost a close tiebreaker match to Luiz Perez of the Dominican Republic. The next 2 days are preliminary matches however, so no one is eliminated. The matches are played to determine seeding in the elimination draw which will begin on thursday. Our doubles match itself was somewhat easy although a delayed shuttle ride almost caused us to be late for the match! Thus a somewhat rushed warmup caused a slow start in game 1 before finding our rhythm and cruising through the next game and a half.

Tomorrow will be a tougher match, in fact from here on out they will only get more difficult as the days go on. We play the dominican team who lost in 2 close games to the 4th seeded argentinian pair. We are a better team but anything can happen at this altitude, especially with a young, scrappy team like the dominican.

 The court facilities where the matches are played is quite nice, although there is a half flight of stairs up to the court entrance (as if the 5000 ft elevation above sea level wasn't enough already) which presumably provide better viewing, but are much different from courts I'm used to playing on. The spectator seating looks new and fairly comfortable, so I'm sure those watching the matches will be able to enjoy them immensely. That's it for today though, look for more results tomorrow!

Opening Ceremonies Part 3

With the racquetball competition at the games beginning today I thought it prudent to slap my hiney into gear and finish writing about the opening ceremonies so that I can get right into racquetball news going forward. Now where was I...

Following our lap around the stadium floor we were seated just off to the side and watched the rest of the countries enter. Each new entry brought the entire stadium to its feet, screaming in excitement and jubilation. Just when you thought it couldn't get any louder... in came Mexico.

The sound was beyond deafening. It was so loud you could barely tell it was cheering! It was just... noise. Noise that brought your hands to your ears as protection and awestruck wonderment at the sheer volume. It was easily the most exuberant and tumultuous sound I've heard in a sports venue (although from stories I've been told, south american soccer games take the cake, I've just never been to one). The mexican uniform was something else too. In true caballero style they entered in tight pants, belt buckles that would impress Chuck Norris and sombreros that unconsciously prompted a mental playback of "home on the range" which only a concerted and conscious effort could subvert. They also filled the circular track where most countries barely got to the halfway point. I regret to say that in my reverence of the spirited display of patriotism, I neglected to take a photo. I do have a video of the entrance, but the IOC guidelines prohibit me from posting video of the games. Those of you who really want to see it can contact me and I'll email it to you ;)

After the athlete entrances there were some speeches that were inspirational in their message but more importantly, were pleasant in their brevity. After this there were a few circus-style entertainment acts, a circular screen show, 3 musical acts (including Juanes - who I've actually heard of and have some music by!) and an interactive light show that was both interactive and highly impressive. The night concluded with a fireworks display that put everything else to shame. It lasted at least 15 minutes, after which the only thing hanging heavier in the air than the resulting smoke was astonishment. Below are the photos I took during the ceremonies, the quality of which I would not vouch for, but there is a great online article about them in the Vancouver Sun, the link to that article (which contains much better pictures and literary musings than my post) is here:

 The first acrobatic act of the evening. The circular screen above descended and shadows of the acrobats performing the various sports within the games were displayed.

 A kind of robotic dance number. It was fun and impressive but was used more as a lead in to...

The tubes! They were lit up with various colours, each corresponding to hand held lights that were given out to the respective sections within the stadium. Ours was orange thus when the tubes went orange we would hold up our lights as well as the section across from us, highlighting one section within the stadium at a time. It was really cool!

 Fireworks purveyed the show. These are some highlights.

A final number featured acrobats performing a butterfly-styled wire number. This was of course followed by more fireworks...

 And more fireworks...

 And more fireworks...

And more fireworks!

The night then concluded at it had began, with a long walk. This time back to the village. Boxed dinners were available for us at the cafeteria, though by the way some of the athletes were fervently muscling their way through the doors you would have thought there wasn't enough! Since it was well past 11pm by the time we finished gobbling down our meals we retired back to the room for a well deserved siesta. I look forward to reporting on Team Canada's opening day of racquetball competition later on tonight!


Saturday, 15 October 2011

Opening Ceremonies Part 2

Finally some time to post! Where to begin...

The athletes were instructed to be downstairs by 7. There was a briefing of what to expect, a short list of dos and don'ts and then the march began! Just in case you're not completely aware of what several thousand uniformed athletes standing around in a group looks like here you go:

This was the staging area where the countries gathered before beginning our march toward the stadium.

We were told the walk was approximately 20 minutes but everyone I talked to said it was much longer than that. Our best guess as we weren't timing is about 30-35 minutes. We had lots to occupy us on the journey though: raving fans, enough security to storm the Whitehouse, and of course other athletes from Canada with which to converse with. It did seem foreboding for a short time on the walk. It had rained steadily the day before due to the spillover from the coast being hit with a tropical storm and for a little while it looked like the skies might open up again. Sympathetic volunteers were handing out travel sized panchos as we passed them by but luckily the weather held up.

Close to the end of the walk, 5-10 minutes from the stadium.

Upon arrival at the stadium the athletes were funneled into what looked like a service entrance and since the countries entered the stadium one at a time the wait was quite long before we were even able to enter the building much less make our way onto the floor.

Waiting to enter the stadium!

The wait seemed infinitesimal however when weighed against the incredible energy and overwhelming atmosphere created by our entry into the stadium. Not only was every person in the stadium on their feet cheering but you could FEEL their encouragement and fervor in the air. It was as if the entire stadium had become saturated with positive energy and with every breath you were able to draw more of it into you. 
 About to walk into the stadium.

This elicited hope, resilience, anticipation, pride, and a myriad of other emotions. The combination and summation of the cornucopia of emotions created by the impassioned atmosphere was plain to see on the athletes faces and presented in one of 2 ways. The former being an overwhelming awe of the situation resulting in a slack-jawed reverence akin to a 7 year old walking into an enormous candy store. The latter being that same 7 year old coming to the realization that he has enough money to buy whatever he wants in the store: an elation that cannot be contained within a cool visage. Legions of athletes, their shining faces painting a portrait happiness personified. The metaphor of a child on Christmas doesn't even do the situation justice because for countless athletes the odyssey has lasted so much longer than a year. This, for many, is a lifetime dream finally realized.

Canadian athletes taking it in. I'm near the bottom right. (Photo property of the Toronto Star).

That is it for now. I'll wrap up the rest of the ceremonies in a post tomorrow. We have one more practice day before the tournament begins but I will keep the updates coming :)


Friday, 14 October 2011

Opening Ceremonies Part 1

This will unfortunately have to be another short post. While I am feeling a whirlwind of emotions right now the overriding one is fatigue. The type of fatigue that follows an adrenaline-charged 3 hour evening of... actually I'm not going to get into it right now. It's been a long day and I'm far too tired to do the evening justice at this point. I took lots of pictures though so look forward to a rundown of the opening ceremonies tomorrow morning. Until then sleep tight ;)


Guadalajara Day 1: Arrival and Village

Upon our arrival in Gualajara last night I realized I was feeling quite polarized. Excited but exhausted, hopeful but deflated, inspired but just... tired. I felt like a runner who had just completed a marathon; so overjoyed at the completion of my personal odyssey but at the same time completely drained from the journey. I regret to say that this will be an extraordinarily short post because our morning practice session requires that I be ready to go in 29 minutes and at the present time there are somewhat more pressing details (showering, eating, slapping myself awake, etc.) that need to be dealt with. A more lengthy and detailed post will be done later today (hopefully with some pictures!) so stay tuned.


Thursday, 13 October 2011

Travel day to Guadalajara

My ability to procrastinate never ceases to amaze me. After spending most of the morning and afternoon packing and preparing to leave the country I headed to the YMCA to get a final practice session in before leaving this morning. It went well and afterward grabbed a quick meal at my parents house before finishing up packing back home. Long story short Kaitlyn (my fiancee) came over and we watched a movie and chatted for a bit. My procrastinatory effort led to a later night than I was hoping; sleep finally embracig me around 12:30am.

Whoever decided that 6:30am flights were a good idea is hopefully enjoying a lengthly subjugation to oversized suppository testing. Luckily my ability to perform menial tasks (packing and driving to the airport for example) in a zombie-like state has been honed over many years of travel and my talent for sleeping on transportation vehicles is uncanny as well. After a lengthly nap on the first leg of the flight (to Denver) and a delicious smoothie upon landing and clearing customs almost instantly subdued my zombie rage and I am feeling much more like a human being. I'll write another post when we arrive in Guadalajara later tonight but they are loading the next flight so I will sign off for now.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

First Post!!!

So I've been meaning to start a blog for quite awhile but kept putting it off because other things (racquetball, school, sluggishly watching TV, etc.) seemed more important. I realized that if I didn't at least start to develop a habit of going on the computer and writing something down that the efforts with which to remember my upcoming competition would fail on a monumental level. Thus, here we are...

The purpose of this first post is two-fold. First, it will act as an easy way to fill family and friends (read: people who think I'm awesome) in on what I'm doing, where I am and how I generally feel about what is going on. My laziness has made requisite the ability to inform the aforementioned loved ones of my exploits with a single piece of writing, because all that email copying and pasting was getting horribly time consuming. (Just kidding mum and dad!). Second, it will (hopefully) serve as a springboard for me to foray in the blog world, acting as a creatively limitless linguistic canvas on which I will paint a complex, emotional story of  otherwise mundane events which comprise my existence and ultimately serve to feed and grow my ego to levels which up to this point have been unattainable. Many of you who think my ego is already quite unmanageable are the insomniacs in the world of dreamers and have no business reading this blog (seriously it will probably just piss you off, my ability to ramble on and on about myself borders on ingenious).

The primary motivation for starting this blog was to create a medium to chronicle my (and Team Canada's) journey through the 2011 Pan American Championships in Guadalajara, Mexico. I will do my best in the coming weeks to write every day (or so, I'm lazy remember?) about the people, places and experiences that will likely make this an unforgettable event and with any luck a career highlight. I will also sally forth into the world of twitter (account name upcoming) to be able to post smaller events and occurrences as they happen! Wish me luck, and I hope you enjoy reading my musings :)