Inside the Richmond Olympic Oval
Yesterday I had the amazing opportunity to watch the women's speed-skating medal event (in the 1500 meters). The race started at 3 p.m., but we arrived at 1:30 to make sure we had time to get through the security line (it's just like the airport-you and your bags go through an X-ray machine.) Once inside, we settled into our seats and quickly made friends with a fellow American who handed us flags to wave and gave us the scoop on the three Team U.S.A. athletes who were competing. There was Kimberly Derrick, a 24-year-old former champion inline skater who switched to ice at age 18; Katherine Reutter, a 22-year-old who took gold in the 1500 meters at the World Cup last year; and competing in the last heat of an 18-pair racing day would be Jennifer Rodriguez, a 33-year-old who was competing in her fourth Winter Games. I hate to play favorites, but I'm going to here: I love Jennifer! I met her a few months ago and I was inspired by her story. She retired after the 2002 Games and didn't skate competitively for two years. Then she decided to train for the 2010 Games-even though she was nearly a decade older than most of her teammates. She said it was super-tough to get back into shape in her thirties (something I can definitely relate to), but eventually she was at the top of the sport's ranks.
Unfortunately, the Americans didn't place, but you wouldn't know it from the screaming that I did. Although the crowd is silent for the start of a race, as soon as the gun goes off it's crazy in that stadium! People are shouting, waving flags, ringing cowbells, and stomping their feet in the stands. And as you can see from the photo below, I was thrilled to be among them.