Wednesday marks 100 days until the 2012 Olympic Games and as eager participants qualify for London, they are left with questions about what the experience will hold. Thankfully, two-time Olympian Jennie Finch is here to help.
As a dominant pitcher with the U.S. national softball team, she won a gold medal in 2004 and a silver in 2008. Those experiences in Athens and Beijing are some of Finch's most treasured memories so she was happy to give some advice to first-time Olympians on what to expect and how to get the most out of their journey. First, it will be overwhelming, especially the Olympic Village.
"You are surrounded with the world's greatest athletes," Finch says. "There is so much diversity it was incredible -- young, old, short, tall, different body shapes, so much pride, so many different colors. It was amazing. We spent a lot of time in the dining hall just admiring our surroundings and the athletes."
Speaking of dining, the food choices available to athletes are almost endless. There is a salad bar, sandwich bar and pasta bar at every meal, in addition to Italian, South American and Asian entrees with rotating specials. It's easy to go overboard.
"Stick to your game plan," Finch advises. "Stick with your same diet as before. Bring anything that you may possibly need or want, and just be you."
The time for deviating from your schedule is after you've competed. Finch suggests staying a few days after to explore not only the city but other events. Take time to meet your fellow athletes and learn about their sports, then support them from the stands.
"One of my favorite moments was watching the USA women's soccer team win gold in Athens," she recalls. "We were sitting behind their families. It was so special to watch."
Finch was lucky for her first Olympics because the softball team had some veterans on it that helped her prepare. They knew to arrive early and get acclimated to the time change as quickly as possible. They also reminded her to stay focused on the task at hand.
"It is a once in a lifetime experience, but ultimately you are there to compete and play for your country," she says.
And when it comes to the actual event you've practiced your entire life for, Jennie Finch has one last piece of advice:
"Trust your stuff and enjoy every single moment!"
-- You can follow Adam Watson on Twitter @AdamKWatson.
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