We’re still one day from Friday night’s Opening Ceremonies at Maracana stadium and yet the soccer tournament is two days deep (the U.S. women won their opening group play match against New Zealand 1-0) and I’ve already logged approximately 30,000 steps on my bracelet that counts your steps. This seemed like a necessary addition to my wardrobe because how would I know how many steps I took each day if I didn’t count them? Apparently it’s important to know.
Questions that occurred to me while watching the tiny red number on my Gear Fit2 click higher throughout the day: Is this accurate? Is it sort of accurate? My legs are short; how does it differentiate between my steps and the steps of, say, 6’8″ U.S. volleyball player David Lee? Why don’t you wear it on your ankle? Will I get credit if I walk on my hands?
I will attempt to answer these and other burning questions during my time here in Rio.
This evening, I took a media shuttle to Olympic Arena to watch women’s gymnastics podium training, a gymnastics-y term for the day before a big meet when teams are able to practice the routines they will compete on that venue’s competition equipment (the beam, vault, floor and bars), which is all typically raised up onto platforms — or “podiums” — to give spectators a better view. Hence the weird term we all remember to know (Google) before every big meet.
Olympic Arena was the first sporting venue I’ve seen since I’ve been in Rio and I’d be lying if I said it was on par with Olympic venues I’ve seen in the past. There was a lot of work still being done around the outside of the building and to the walkways that lead into the various entrances, yet it does not look like a newly constructed structure. There was a lot of dust in the air and many work tents erected around Olympic park, which is much smaller than I expected. My colleague Johnette Howard hit the nail on the head: It looks like a half-finished set on a Hollywood backlot. I might start wearing a hard hat to work.
While watching podium training, two things became clear.
- The U.S. team really is that much better than everyone else. Even though it was practice, the routines the five women on Team USA landed were solid enough to win medals. Watching them perform alongside gymnasts from the rest of the world only highlighted their poise, confidence and dominance. Aly Raisman and Simone Biles landed perfect Amanar vaults, which is so risky that few women besides them have attempted it in competition. The few hundred volunteers and journalists in that building were treated to a show. I noticed several times when the other competitors stopped what they were doing to watch Biles perform her routines. Ladies, I would have done the same.
- Laurie Hernandez, the 16-year-old breakout star from U.S. Trials in San Jose in July, will likely not have the opportunity to compete for a shot in the individual all-around. Were she given that shot by U.S. team coordinator Martha Karolyi, I believe she would not only win one of the two U.S. spots, but likely finish in the top three and go home with a medal. It was heartbreaking to realize she won’t have the shot and we won’t have the opportunity to watch her sizzling floor routine one more time in Rio. Nothing is official Martha submits the lineup for prelims on Saturday, but talking with Laurie, her coach and Gabby Douglas after practice, it’s clear Martha has made up her mind. For more on Hernandez and what the hell I’m talking about right now, check out THIS PIECE I wrote on the subject last night. There’s also a little more explanation from Julie Foudy and me during our nightly video recap for espnW. Then we dueled it out over the best storylines to watch in Rio in a special edition of JFo & AlyRoe HERE.
I am happy to report I’m back at my apartment and it’s only 11 p.m. Time for dinner.