Sunday, 28 July 2013

World Games 2013 Competition

Apologies for not updating sooner. There was a lot of disappointment in the Team Canada camp (read: Jen and I) after the first round. Both our matches played out in a similar way and with similar results.

Team Canada, post match
Jen was in trouble from the get go, as Christina was moving and shooting well, while putting pressure on Jen with solid serving and forcing Jen to go for more aggressive shots. In contrast, Jen struggled to find her range and with bad luck on all fronts. From bad bounces, unfortunate mishits from her opponent, and no help from the officials she was fighting an uphill battle all match. Christina took the first game handily but to her credit, Jen regrouped and played with more desire in the second but still struggled with her shot making. Things remained quite even until the tail end of the second game when Jen pulled ahead to 14-12. She served for the game a couple of times unsuccessfully before Christina was able to score 2 points to tie at 14 all. Jen confidently took the serve back though and the rally that ensued ended with a mishit skip from Amaya. Unfortunately for Jen the ref saw it differently and the call was held up under appeal, much to the surprise of everyone watching who thought it was a fairly clear skip. A clearly deflated Saunders surrendered the next point to Amaya, who would move onto the quarter finals.

With Alejandro after the match
My match ended up with a similar result albeit a slightly different dynamic. I knew the match would be tough as I'd played Alejandro several times in pro stops over the years and we always seems to have close battles. I was pleasantly surprised to find myself playing solid out of the gate and opening up a lead of 7-2. Alejandro responded, but I was able to retain my lead to 12-6. After a timeout by the Colombian and a few loose points that saw me miss shots I should have made, Alejandro went on a serving spree. There were a few aces in the mix but mostly just funny bounces off the already hard to read glass walls which made the serves nearly impossible to return. I was deflated but not out of the running as I stabilized with him now nearly caught up at 11-13. There were a few changes of serve at this score and even though I had opportunities, for some reason I just couldn't find my focus on my set up opportunities and helplessly watched my lead slip away. He would take the first 15-13. Unfortunately for me he would ride this momentum through the second as well. Relying heavily on inconsistent bounces in the back glass corners that for some twisted reason always seemed to work out in his favour. I struggled with my own shot making as well, completely taken aback by how I had been robbed of the first game and this allowed him to sail through, winning the second easily 15-6.

So it was an unfortunate day for Canada but good for Colombia. We skipped the racquetball club yesterday in favour of checking out some of the other sports! We decided on Sumo (as it was close by) and in-line hockey, as Canada was playing the Czech Republic which we were told would be a competitive game. The sumo was actually very interesting and surprisingly entertaining to watch. I was quite taken aback by how many times c
In-line hockey! GO CANADA!
ompetitors would fall out of the ring and off the raised platform. I think I would hurt myself doing that, let alone if I weighed 300lbs and had another person fall on top of me. We caught the last bit of the women's (some large ladies there...) and all of the men's open preliminaries. This was extremely interesting to watch because there is no weight restriction in the open category. They had every shape and size from small ex-wrestlers to 400lb sumo champions and seeing how size is used as an advantage like that is something you don't often get to see.

After the men's prelims concluded, we caught a taxi to the in-line hockey venue which was about 15 minutes away. With about 40minutes before the game started, we decided to grab some food and drinks at the mall nearby. The helpful volunteers walked with us there and back, pointing out things along the way in case we were interested in sampling any local cuisine or purchasing souvenirs. After a quick bite, it was back to the arena, where the first period had just begun. In-line hockey is an interesting game as well. They play 4 on 4 and there are no blue lines so the game is extremely open and prone to breakaways and odd man rushes. This made for many exciting plays at both ends of the ice but our boys looked solid, carrying a 3-1 lead into the second period. Our passes allowed us access to the VIP seating, and since these weren't as full, we were able to switch ends for the second period, thinking that most of the action would again be in the Czech end. Unfortunately for our boys, this was not the case. The Czechs pressed hard in the second, playing with desperation that for whatever reason the Canadians didn't have, and with less than 2 minutes to play the Czechs (now within one goal at 2-3) pulled their goalie. This confused Jen and I as we had (mistakenly) assumed there would be 3 periods of play. To their credit the Czechs were able to score with just over a minute left and tie the game, but they left their goalie on the bench. The only explanation that Jen and I could come up with was that they needed to win the game outright for seeding purposes. This theory was given credibility when the game ended in a tie and the Czech team showed visible frustration while the Canadians seemed happy to have the tie. All in all, it was an extremely enjoyable way to spend our day and after taking another taxi back to the hotel, retired with cervezas and dinner.

In racquetball news, Christina Amaya played well, upsetting both the 7th and 3rd seeds in the quarter and semi finals to find herself guaranteed a medal! She will play current world champion Paola Longoria for Gold today. There was an upset on the men's side as well, as fourth seeded Gil Mejia took out first seed and current world champion Rocky Carson in a tiebreaker. The second seed, Polo Gutierrez, was also victorious over his american opponent, third seeded Jose Rojas, although it was an extremely tight tiebreaker win. Gutierrez actually trailed 9-5 in the tiebreaker before a skipped setup from Rojas gave him the serve back and he was able to pull out the win 11-9. The finals are set for today and we will be taking them in so I'll report on them later.

A short sumo video for your enjoyment!

Friday, 26 July 2013

World Games 2013 - Opening Ceremonies

Our bus departed the hotel at 5pm, which everyone thought was a little early as the Opening Ceremonies weren't scheduled to start until 8pm, but there was a rumour going around that they were going to feed us beforehand; deception always digests easier in those who want to believe it.

The full bus took us directly to the muster point a short distance from the stadium where we were to march in. This was the first sign of trouble as some of the rumour spreaders mentioned a potential stop at another destination where we would eat. More buses showed up as time passed and after about an hour the area was full of athletes, coaches, other support staff, and volunteers. Flats of water bottles were being circulated and shortly after that, apples and juice. At only 90 minutes prior to the scheduled beginning, this was our second sign that this would be the only sustenance we would receive before marching in.

With this knowledge in hand I defeatedly took and apple and a bottle of fruit punch (even my initial assumption we would receive juice was mistaken) and tried to enjoy them. About an hour before we were scheduled to march in, the volunteers began to mobilize us, separating us alphabetically by country and lining us up 3 abreast in preparation for our entrance. As we exited the segregated muster area, we were greeted by police officers and walls of civilians cheering loudly as each country marched out. It was clear that the passions of the athletes competing in these games would more than be equalled by the passions of the local spectators. Too late I realized it would have been an excellent opportunity to hand out some small tokens of our country or sport to these enamoured fans but alas we had none. Luckily for them, the roller hockey team had been equipped with wrist bands which they joyously shot into the crowd as we passed and, much to the spectators' delight, even ran across the barricaded street to get a few photos.

As we approached the stadium entrance, Jen and I also took the opportunity to get a photo with the riot police, who wore much heavier protective gear which made them look almost robotic. As we passed them and Jen referred to them as "robocops" I realized the moniker was an apt fit.

Our entrance onto the stadium floor was quite similar to the format of the 2011 Pan American Games in Guadalajara, where each country entered alphabetically after the other, with a brief space in between to allow for appropriate individual fan appreciation. As we walked out I was again overwhelmed by the sense of joy and passion of the local community. It was apparent on all the faces I saw as I walked the track that they were extremely happy to host us, and extremely proud of their country's work on securing these games. It was heartwarming, and I found the smiles on these faces contagious as I was unable to stop myself from smiling back, holding the gazes of and waving to as many in the crowd as I could.

After one lap we were seated and we were in the unlucky minority that were seated at the back of the lower level. This meant our view of the top of the stadium (and above - where the fireworks would go off) was completely obstructed. The silver lining was being right near the corridor at the back of the section, which meant we could duck out to the bathroom or simply to walk around if we liked. This became a blessing when about halfway through the ceremonies the hunger pangs Jen and I had been fighting for the last several hours became too much to bear and we ducked out to find food. With our options limited (being in a stadium), we unfortunately had to settle for something less than healthy and I won't go into details about that.

The entertainment was actually quite enjoyable, although we were also in the unenviable position of being seated at the side of the field so much of the performance was extremely difficult to see. A description would not do the performances justice, there were several dance numbers which included fire, acrobatics, and a live brass band! The fireworks topped the night off and while it was thoroughly enjoyable, by the end all we were craving was sleep.

In the anarchy that followed the conclusion of the fireworks, we were gradually sifted, organized and guided by helpful volunteers towards areas where our respective buses would pass. They finally took this opportunity to offer us some "real" food - which consisted of an extremely dry sandwich, another apple, and small bottles of pepsi. While this was far from anything substantial, after several hours of nothing but processed crap from a stadium vendor, it was a godsend. As one might expect though, with all those people there were of course not enough buses for everyone to leave immediately and the mob mentality surfaced, ensuring the loudest and rudest an immediate ride and the rest of us were left waiting for subsequent transportation. We did eventually find another bus with our route and were able to finally relax after boarding. After arriving back at the hotel my only desire was sleep but it had been almost 2 days since my last post so I was able to summon enough guilt and willpower to throw up a quick post before going to bed.

Jen and I both play our first matches later this afternoon! I will update with results tonight.

Thursday, 25 July 2013

World Games 2013 - Part 2

Upon arriving in Panama, my body again felt the need for sustenance and as luck would have it, there was a Subway near my gate to I took the opportunity to have a familiar meal in a somewhat unfamiliar place. While I ate, I began my second movie of the trip; Bullet to the Head. A shoot 'em up with Sylvester Stallone about a hitman whose partner gets killed when they are double-crossed after a job. Stallone's character of course decides to get to the bottom of this while exacting his own brand of vengeance along the way. It was ok for an hour and a half of somewhat senseless violence but overall wouldn't be a movie I recommend. I didn't quite finish it before we had to board so I got on the plane and, my hunger satisfied by subway, promptly fell asleep for the entire flight.

I awoke at 5pm, just before touchdown in Cali and before arriving at the luggage carousel after deplaning, was greeted by volunteers of the host committee that instructed me where to go once I had collected my baggage. Several more volunteers along the way ensured I couldn't get lost even if I tried, so I found the appropriate bus shortly after leaving the terminal and immediately boarded. I must have either been quick to get my luggage, or other flights arrived around the same time, because the bus sat outside the terminal for over half an hour before departing for the accreditation center where we would receive our ID badges to access food, transportation, and venues throughout the week. Since there were about 50 people on the bus, getting the badges took a bit of time, and since there were more volunteers milling about we toured the building for awhile to see what was there. Several volunteers were manning booths offering a plethora of goods. Everything from local candy to hygiene packs (that included tooth paste, deodorant, and soap) were there and all free so of course I took one of everything!

Shortly after this, our bus began boarding which I was thankful for. Regardless of how much sleep I had that day, I still felt as if I was playing catch up and was in serious need of a bed. Unfortunately for me, there were 4 hotels worth of athletes on our bus and as luck would have it, our hotel was the last stop. This meant a 2 hour bus ride to get to a hotel that shouldn't have taken more than 15 minutes. Had I known this I could have had a bit more sleep but alas my anticipation of a bed around the next corner kept my mind from finding sweet slumber. We did eventually arrive at the hotel though and thankfully the checkin process was quick. I got up to my room at 930pm (for those of you keeping track that's more than 4 hours after the plane landed - I was told by other athletes that 4hours was an average time to hotel from the airport which I have to admit is a bit disgusting) and was hungry so instead of going right to bed I ordered some food from the room service menu and finished my Stallone movie. I was in bed before midnight though and would be up for breakfast the next morning at 9am. Plenty of time to get some serious shut eye and start fresh in Cali.

As I finish this post, it's 12:32am and while I'd like to get some of the opening ceremonies and my first day in Cali down I'm completely wiped so it's going to have to wait until tomorrow. Jen and I also play our first matches, both against players from the host country: Colombia! Both will be tough matches (Christina Amaya and Alejandro Herrera are both extremely talented players) but I know that if we play well we will have a good shot to be in the quarters on day 2. Wish us luck, I'll keep you posted :)

World Games 2013 in Cali, Colombia

It is with many emotions running through me that I write this post, although anticipation is definitely in the pole position. We had a hit this morning, followed by lunch and due to an odd choice of scheduling, about an hour wait for the shuttle bus to return. I'll post up some pics of the club a bit later, I wanted to briefly talk about my trip down here which, while fairly uneventful, was longer and more arduous than I'm used to.

It began monday evening, as there was no way to get from Saskatoon to Cali in one day, I would have to overnight somewhere, and I thought, of my options, Toronto was probably the best bet. So instead of the late night frantic packing adventure I'm used to, I was able to have somewhat of a leisurely afternoon (after a hit in the morning) of laundry and packing before heading to the Saskatoon airport at 615pm. A smooth checkin followed by a somewhat lengthly goodbye with Kailtyn and I was onto the plane and destined for Toronto!

You'll recall I mentioned that an overnight was required during my journey and an arrival in Toronto at almost 1am should probably make it obvious where this would occur. So after leisurely making my way to baggage claim and collecting my luggage, I asked the baggage person where a nice spot to chill for a few hours would be. He informed me there was a "lounge" on the departure level (2 floors up) and near aisle "Q". As I made my way there I was curious as to what the cost of the lounge access would be. I had mistakenly assumed this was a Maple Leaf lounge. My arrival at aisle P brought the "lounge" into view and promptly shattered any delusions of luxury I had previously been entertaining. While the area was somewhat closed off from foot traffic (a door was required to travel in and out), that's where the similarities with any other lounge ended. Other than an entrance, high windows barely passing for walls, and the absence of an aircraft gate, the space was no different than any other waiting area in the airport. The one difference (and of particular importance to me) was the absence of arm rests on the chair benches. This meant that one could lay down on them instead of being forced to sit. It was a silver lining at best, but it was all I needed. I promptly curled up with my bags surrounding me, Kaitlyns travel pillow and my hoodie for a blanket and fell asleep.

Now as you might imagine, sleeping on a bed of several chairs, even lightly cushioned chairs, is not an ideal destination for comfortable slumbering. This made for an extremely light sleep, and in an airport (even one as barren of people as this one was in the wee hours of the morning) the semi-constant noises became a bane to the comforts of dreaming. Even so, I was able to piece a few hours together and while my wakened state at 730am when my alarm went off was far from rested, I didn't feel the unbearable urge to gouge my eyes out (as one can feel after an extended period of insomnia). I was a bit worried when I saw the extremely long line at the checkin kiosk, but was relieved when I realized that they were all waiting for boarding passes, which I had received in Saskatoon, so I promptly and happily waded through the retractable barriers of the empty bag check section and was quickly greeted by a checkin agent. I was worried again when the agent greeted me in spanish (as mine is extremely limited) but when I groggily asked him if he spoke english I was again relieved when his answer was "Of course sir! How can I help you?". The checkin went very smoothly, and while getting through security took a bit longer, I was through with plenty of time to grab some breakfast before boarding began. Fortunately, there was a Tim Horton's right beside my gate! Unfortunately for me, there was another extremely long line of people waiting, but with lots of time to kill, I thought I'd take the opportunity. Only after waiting 25mins to get to the front of the line was I told that they were out of eggs for breakfast sandwiches. As this would have been the last Timmy's I had before leaving the country, and it was 845am (how could they have run out of eggs already???) I was more than a little peeved. Fortunately for the foreign woman working the Timmy's counter, I was also extremely tired so I grumpily ordered a coffee, telling her that would be all. She apologetically offered other sandwiches but it was too late, my hopes had been dashed, my heart broken. Before I left completely dejected though, she mentioned the place next door did make breakfast sandwiches so I could try there. I took this opportunity although I was still left disappointed (check my twitter for that - @TLanderyou). In the end I did get a breakfast sandwich and a coffee so it wasn't a complete loss.

The flight to Panama City from Toronto was just under 5 hours, and after the small caffeine buzz provided by my morning beverage, I was able to stay up for the first couple of hours and take in a movie. Paranorman is an animated movie about a child in a small town that can see and talk to dead people. After some events are put in motion that cause zombies to begin terrorizing the town, Norman must use his "gift" to speak with the intruders and solve the mystery of why they are here and more importantly, how to get them back in the ground where they belong. I didn't enjoy the movie, it was extremely odd both in the story it told and the way it told it. But it was somewhat original in many of these aspects so I do have respect for the filmmakers ingenuity and originality. That was as far as my morning coffee would take me though, as I promptly fell asleep and remained that way until touchdown in Panama.

I'll keep the story going later tonight when I post the rest of my journey that includes my flight into Cali and my unusually long journey to the hotel once arriving. I'll also update this post with pictures from that leg of my journey. Stay tuned!