Greetings from Beijing!

While in the off season, Penn's lightweight rowing head coach Mike Irwin is serving as the U.S. Olympic rowing team's boatman and from 12 time zones away provided with a status update from the rowing venue in Shunyi.

Greetings from the rowing venue in Shunyi!! After two weeks of training and acclimatization in China the racing is well underway and Team USA is hopeful to place a number of boats in the ‘A Finals’ on Saturday and Sunday. The fourteen different Olympic rowing events are divided into two groups that alternate days of competition. We have just completed the repechages for the second half of the field and will go through semi-finals on Wednesday and Thursday. Our women’s 8+, women’s 4x and men’s 8+ have already made it to the weekend finals. Eight of the remaining ten US crews will have the opportunity to move into the medaling final in the upcoming semis.

While there has been endless coverage of the air quality in Beijing, the real challenge for the athletes is the combination of heat and humidity. During the heats on Saturday the temperature was 88 degrees with 87% humidity and a heat index of 108 degrees. You can start sweating just thinking about the temperature. Getting enough water in your system is a daily battle and athletes from numerous countries walk around in special cooling vests as soon as they get off the water. With the venue located about 40 minutes outside the city, the team is staying in a hotel about two miles from the course in order to eliminate travel time. This means we have yet to spend any time in the Olympic Village but a few members of the team did make it out to the Great Wall on their afternoon off last week.

For those of you that had to opportunity to watch the Opening Ceremonies it should not come as a surprise that China is putting every effort into making the Olympics a historic event. Our hosts have been friendly, helpful and are available in waves to assist with anything you might need. There have even been entire sections of Chinese schoolchildren in the grandstands each day to cheer on the rowers. They are all dressed in bright yellow shirts and have noisemakers to create a roar for every race in the last 500 meters. It will be interesting to see how packed the venue gets as the weekend approaches. I will send an update again later in the week.

Photos from the rowing venue in Shunyi:

Tom Paradiso in the stroke seat

Tom Paradiso in the stroke seat.

The rowing venue on a rare clear day.

The rowing venue on a typically hazy day.