As you know there are many stories from my time in Rio. So this will just be a train of thought post.
I think my most memorable moment was going to Christ the Redeemer by myself and enjoying the sunset. I could have stayed up there for a very, very long time. It was my first look at Ipanema and the city from afar. It really gave me perspective on my whole trip. I could see it all in one glance. What a prayer to pray from up there. I visited the night of the opening ceremonies, so it wasn’t very crowded at all and there was a pretty neat view of the Maracanã stadium where the ceremonies were held.
Another great moment came when I finally met Janeth Arcain. Through our organizational chart I knew she was working with the committee, but it was more than a week into the trip until I finally mustered up the courage to greet her and ask for a picture. She is an incredible woman. After the women’s gold medal game we spoke about her basketball academy and how it was not for elite athletes, but to build excitement for the game and get kids off of the streets. We were standing outside of the locker room then, and several players from the USA women’s gold medal team came up to her (just like me) to thank her for her work and let her know we grew up watching her. Diana Taurasi also thanked her for the work surrounding the games and said it was the best Olympics she has attended (this is her fourth). After the medal ceremony, some of the volunteers played pickup on the court, and Janeth came in to take some pictures. I tried my hardest to get her on the court but she was too dressed up to shoot! I was so humbled every time I saw her…a dream come true.
So the Olympic Village is crazy with so many professional and successful athletes. When you get there you realize you don’t know as many stars as you thought you did! I’m pretty sure I passed Vlade Divac three or four times before someone finally brought it to my attention it was him. Another funny ‘miss’ during my time in the village came when I was waiting in the transportation bay for my team. I was sitting on the benches and the Austrailan men’s basketball team was also waiting. One of the coaches started chatting me up about the team and my role at the games. He was a really nice guy, who also happened to have an NBA Championship with the Chicago Bulls, Luc Longley. We ended up chatting several times after since we had the same practice schedule. The Australian men’s players were pretty chill and open to talking. I may or may not have done the ‘nay nay’ with Patty Mills.
There were plenty of cool moments like that with athletes in the village. Most volunteers have several selfies with different athletes, but after my experience in India, I wouldn’t dare ask one of them for a photo. I did manage to bump into the USA Final Five gymnastics squad, they smiled and waved for the Snapchat. Leonardo Barbosa was always catching the inter-village bus and even gave his transport card to my coworker Adriana. I was sitting in the information center the first day chatting with the other volunteers when I happened to look up and see Michelle Timms. Of course only Alessandra and I knew who she was and Ale was nice enough to let me join in their photo.
Speaking of Alessandra, she was by far the funniest story. We had to use the bathroom in the players Coke lounge one day. Well in the bathroom there is a condom machine that dispenses free condoms, encouraging athletes to ‘celebrate with a condom.’ Well, the bathroom attendants were playing around with the machine and laughing when Ale decided to see how many condoms she could dispense. She stuffed them in her bag and we went to lunch. To eat lunch in the village you needed a lunch voucher that you receive when you check in for the day. As we walked through the door I went to grab mine out and I prompted Ale to do the same. Well….in the midst of about 500 people eating she pulls her jacket out of her bag which the condoms were sitting on top of! About 20 condoms fell out on the floor in front of everyone. I almost died laughing as she pointed her finger at me saying it was my fault! SO FUNNY! All of the workers were like ‘uh huh’ with the side eye.
One of the biggest themes of this trip was the sheer overload of ‘coincidences’. For all who know me, you know I don’t believe in them, but in God’s divine purpose for the things that happen in my life. All these moments–matching numbers, always being right on time, them serving everything I was craving at lunch–all of these moments were like kisses from God to me. I got kissed all over. Actually, every time I ended up praying for and athlete or asking them for prayer requests they always gave me confirmation on my quiet time in the morning. We prayed with a pole vaulter and she shared her testimony of making it to Rio and the fact that she was using her time in Rio to seek out the treasures God has for her. My exact prayer that morning. When I met with the USA women’s team after the medal game the prayer request was for them to see the fruit of their labor. My exact prayer that morning. When I prayed for strength in the midst of disappointment, I experienced it first-hand. Before I left for this trip my empathy level was very high, now I understand it was to better speak to all the athletes and coaches I would be around during the games.
Of course there are many more stories, some that will be shared and some that won’t, but I hope this gives you great insight into how this trip has been a dream come true and the ultimate inspiration to keep pressing for the goals you set in life.