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By: John Mann : November 19, 2012

I am really glad I survived this week. First, I came down with some sort of throat infection combined with a fever that surged in and out for several days. Also, I had a game in Rome, which my sickness made interesting in several ways. All things aside, I am still in beautiful northern Italy, living my dreams and traveling the world. I can’t complain too much!

I woke up last Monday feeling slightly heavy, lethargic, and just out of sorts. I suspected that some sickness was in the works, I just had no idea what. After A.M. training, which consisted of a dizzying five kilometers of swimming, I surprisingly felt better. Shortly after, I assumed my usual routine of reading US newspapers while I ate my self-prepared lunch (I’m actually starting to learn how to make Italian dishes!). My midday nap, (Standard practice on days were you have 2-3 trainings) I awoke feeling feverish, I knew right then that I was in for a long week. Anytime you get sick it is terrible, but this week would be worse. I was in for a seven hour bus ride to Rome to play a must win rivalry match, that I HAD and wanted to play in.

The soft growl of the diesel bus motor gently woke me from my deep sleep. I slowly pieced my surroundings together and realized that I was on a bus, and I was drenched in sweat. My head began to pulsate, my brow heavy with sweat, I moved like a sloth through my bag. I couldn’t read the bottle, but it felt familiar. I popped the two asprin in my mouth and gulped down as much water as I could before I passed back out. When we arrived in Rome, I went straight to my bed and fell into the position that I would remain for the next 12 hours. I woke to find my roommate, shaking me and telling me it was time to leave, the game was In 3 hours. We had a short video meeting and set off to the pool. The pool was a familiar place. I had trained there in 2009 during World Championships. The configuration of the pool had been changed quite dramatically; the pool was now a hostile, loud, and hot environment. These were three things, which I didn’t necessarily consider ideal for my current situation, especially after being somewhat relieved when I saw the familiar exterior of the pool. The pool was sunken into the ground further than I had remembered. The deck sat five feet above the waters surface. This makes the pool feel strange, and incredibly loud. I did my best to block out all the sounds of my surroundings. Partially because I knew it would keep me focused and partly because the noise aided my head in its pounding. Fortunately warm-up flew by. Unfortunately the game didn’t. I felt so detached, I haven’t felt this way in a game very many times, and I have to admit that I am glad! Water polo is a very difficult sport when you are in your peak physical condition. When you are at any level below that, it can be down right brutal. Your body reminds your mind of every stroke you swim every amount of energy you exert. Your body’s way of communication in this time is through pain. Let’s just say my body and mind where having an endless conversation. After the final whistle, the score was in our favor. I survived, and amazingly scored an important goal in the match. This was only the beginning…

As we walked out of the pool several of my teammates disbanded and headed with their families or friends that they had in Rome. Those of us who didn’t headed back to Genoa, this time in a much smaller fifteen-passenger van. About halfway home, my body had fully relaxed. Relief had set in, and numbed the pain I felt in my body. We pulled into a rest area with restaurants and gas stations and recharged for the four hours we had left on the trip back to Genoa. As we walked back to the van, hands and pockets full of snacks and water, we saw our assistant Coach signaled us to head back inside. Curious I continued to walk to the van to see what had happened. Our assistant Coach had put gasoline in a diesel car. Now, this is a very uncommon thing in the US, we are a nation who operates personal vehicles mostly via gasoline. In Europe diesel is the most common fuel. So there is a little more leeway for a mistake of this nature… kind of. As we waited for the service crew to come and flush out the fuel system of the van, I couldn’t help but smile. I thought to myself, normally this situation would be somewhat frustrating. Smiling, I realized it was nothing compared to the game I just played.

Thanks for reading,

John Mann
USA Olympic Water polo Player