It's been a while since I last wrote and a lot has been happening for me and the rest of the Men's National Team.
To begin with, you can now officially refer to us as the Olympic Team! Our final roster of 13 athletes that will be traveling to London in just a few short weeks was named a week ago. So now we have the final group, and all effort and focus can be dedicated to putting the final touches on the team tactics that will carry us through the Olympic tournament.
In the meantime, we have been very very busy. We hosted the National Teams from Croatia and Hungary here in California for an exhibition match series. We played each team twice, coming away with 2 wins over Hungary and 1 victory against the Croatians. We are fully aware that these teams will be even better in the Olympic Games, but the wins were important steps for us as a team. We beat Hungary for the first time in 10 years, and they have developed into somewhat of a nemesis since we met in the gold medal match of the Beijing Olympics. In 2008, it became very important for our team to feel confident with the idea that we could compete with any team in the world. We accomplished exactly that by hosting exhibition games and coming away with wins I hope that these recent matches have accomplished that same goal for our current team.
Next we were off to the World League Super Finals, held this year in Almaty, Kazakhstan. This is a part of the world that none of us had visited before, and it turned out to be extremely unique. There's an Eastern European feel, yet there are heavy Asian and Muslim influences. Also, the general population speaks Kazakh/Russian, so there's quite an eclectic mix.
The tournament held mixed results for us. In our 6 matches, we lost 3 very close games, coming away with a fourth place finish. We know we must perform better, but we also are happy with the way that we trained extremely hard each morning before the games. Still, playing tired is a skill as well as a reality in our sport, and we must be even smarter and mentally strong in the water when fatigued. One error can lead to a goal that makes the difference between a win and a loss.
After our visit to Kazakhstan, we spent 5 days in Budva, Montenegro, a small town on the Croatian coastline. After a beautiful day of cruising the Adriatic Sea, cliff jumping, and cave diving, it was time to get back to work in the pool. We had 4 very intense days of physical conditioning and scrimmaging with the Montenegrins.
At home, a consistent diet is an important part of what we do, and it should be no different on the road. However, when we travel as a team, we are often at the mercy of the hotel-provided buffet for our meals. Carbohydrates are often plentiful, but quality proteins can sometimes be hard to find. This is where we can help ourselves out by packing some simple foods to bring along for the trip. Trail mix, nutrition bars, beef jerky, and pistachios can make easy take-along snacks. The pistachios can help us make up some of that protein shortage.
Now that we are back in the States with our final 13, it's full steam ahead to London. July 16, our official departure date, it coming up so quick. I'll check in once again before we head across the pond to the big dance!