Update 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 PennAthletics.com with a status update from the rowing venue in Shunyi.

Competition at the rowing venue is now complete for the 2008 Olympic Games. The US had seven boats make it to the ‘A’ finals over the weekend and brought home three medals. Our men’s eight captured bronze, the women’s single took silver, and the women’s eight – with Susan Francia C’04 in the six-seat – put together a commanding performance to win the gold medal. The eights races were the final two events of the regatta on Sunday and it was an incredibly exciting way to wrap up our time in Shunyi.

The moments after a medal winning race are actually pretty hectic for the athletes. While there is the traditional award ceremony on the dock at the grandstands there are a few other hoops that each boat has to go through before they can relax and celebrate. First, as soon as the shell returns to the boathouse boat it must be taken to the scale to meet the correct minimum weight. While this is something that we have checked ahead of time during the week, an invalid weigh-in will take away the medal. Next, one or more of the athletes will be selected to head to doping control for drug testing. Since most athletes tend to be dehydrated after a hard race this can take awhile. Immediately after that there is the press conference for the media at the rowing course followed by a trip into the media center at the Olympic Village for another press conference and possible studio time with NBC. Our women’s single sculler raced at 3:30p.m. on Saturday afternoon and didn’t make it back to the hotel until almost midnight!

After one final night at our hotel outside the city the team has now moved into the Olympic Village for the duration of the Games. This a chance for the athletes to immerse themselves in the Olympic experience while visiting different competition venues. Tickets for track & field are a hot item. Many people are hoping to catch a glimpse (or a photo) of the recognizable athletes from other sports and countries. Food was the other big topic on the bus ride to the Village earlier today. While it isn’t recommended as the perfect training food the first stop on everyone’s mind was McDonald’s. There is a full blown counter set-up right inside the main dining hall and while you can’t get a milkshake everything else tastes just like it is back home.

I hope you enjoy the short reports from Beijing. It has been an incredible journey and a privilege to work with all the athletes and coaches in the US program. I hope to see many of you at our fall races or our Homecoming event in November.