After running the media gantlet after her race yesterday, Michelle Guerette asked if I could get her a US flag for the medals ceremony. At first the organizers said no flags, and then they said, ok, flags, go ahead, so I bolted down the racecourse to the friends and family area to see if I could nab a flag from the grandstands (with an objecting security person in chase). Some folks at about the 250 meter mark untied their flag and tossed it down to me, and Michelle picked it up at the medals dock. The rule had shifted to flags for the winners only (and would continue to change until everyone had flags up there; it is often the case that the rules become a bit more permissive as the spirit of the ceremonies takes over, happily), so Michelle did not fly the flag on the podium, but it accompanied her for the rest of the day, in family and row2k photos, down to the International Broadcasting Center, and beyond. To the folks who sacrificed their flag, I'm sorry it did not come back to you, but I hope you thought it was worth it for the cause.
A few minutes before the final started, Michelle's coach Charlie Butt received a call from Michelle's training partners in Boston insisting that he narrate the race to them. Charlie did it - and we'll have the photo of them watching the race while on the phone in the Photo of the Day in the next couple days.
Already looking ahead to London? The US women's double wasted no time getting their training for 2012 underway; they placed fifth in their event yesterday afternoon, and were out in the boat again this morning before 11am. They seemed to be going along just fine for a couple people who quite possibly have not slept since they got out of the boat yesterday, as is often the case at the Olympics.
Or maybe they're thinking about the Head of the Charles; Fred Schoch is here, and told me that they should have a good international contingent at this year's race. Fred is getting ready as well, as shown in the photo. If the athletes aren't quite thinking about the head racing season, geezers like Fred and I are doing our best to stay in racing shape (well, in shape for geezers, of course), Fred on the ergs, and your correspondent running the streets of Shunyi town.
Either way, the rowing is half over, and the boat racks are clearing out; see the photo below. Derigging your boat after four, eight, twelve years of training is always an odd and complex experience; I can't even quite characterize it in words, not in this space at least.
Shunyi is an interesting city/suburb of Beijing; the main downtown reminds me of the parts of New York City that are mostly without major high rises; it looks a lot like Canal Street in places, for example. But if you go just a couple blocks from the center, you are in a shantytown that looks more like small cities I visited in Central America - this borders an enclosed complex of townhomes that looks like it could be located behind Market Fair in Princeton.
On a long run a few days ago, in 30 minutes outbound time I went from the city center to a nice riverside park that slowly transitioned into a warehouse district, then into a rustic area of tin roofs and broken sidewalks, and finally into a rural area where I ran right through the middle of a herd of sheep - not spread out over a field, but in a pack such that one of the bigger sheep cut me off and headbutted me in the thigh. If you run the other direction on the same river, you come into a section that is mostly empty of people, but hosts upwards of 50 residential high rises under construction (all building in the area has been suspended while the Games are on). In all it is a fascinating and bustling microcosm of what I suspect much of Beijing and other Chinese cities are like during these boom times for the country.
Finally, Jason Read just wrote to let me know that Google has rowers on their homepage today; while I'm sensitive to copyright issues, I figure the screenshot of Google here doesn't really do any harm.