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Bound For Beijing: Between the Posts

UConn senior goalie Stephanie Labbe was recently selected to the Canadian National Soccer team and will be traveling to compete in the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, China.

Journal Entry 7
August 29, 2008

For my last entry I will attempt to wrap up my experience of the Olympics.  I have been back in North America now for four days and I am slowly starting to adjust to the time zone, the food, and the fact that people here understand what I am saying and I don’t have to use hand motions as much.  I have found that I haven’t quite adjusted to being back here because I still use common Mandarin sayings like “nee how” (hello) and “shee-eh shee-eh” (thank you) from habit.  I also found myself trying to speak to someone at the airport, and I spoke very slow and used all these hand motions. He looked at me funny and I knew he was thinking, “I understand you, no need for the slow talking and hand gestures.” 

When I look back at the whole experience of the Olympics I realize just how amazing the whole event was.  I got to witness and be part of one of the world’s largest sports events, and see the world’s best athletes perform and break world records.  I have both witnessed and been a part of glorifying successes and major heartbreaks.  I know how hard the loss for us hit home, and I know that in the next opportunity we get, we will do everything we can to turn that sadness into happiness and celebrations.  I am so honored and grateful to have been given this opportunity and I only hope I get another opportunity to experience another Olympic Summer Games, hopefully in 4 years in London!


Journal Entry 6
August 25, 2008

So this Olympic Journey is slowly coming to an end.  After a hard fought battle between us (Canada) and the USA in the Olympic quarterfinal, eventually the Olympic Gold medal went to the USA.  We fought right to the end, and went into overtime with the States.  Even after a 1.5 hour delay due to rain, and some injuries to our players, we managed to fight our way right until the final whistle.  It was a heartbreaking loss, as we knew how close we were and how much sweat, blood and tears we put into this game and the tournament.  Even though the result didn’t go our way, we did accomplish something Canada has never done before.  This was the first Olympic appearance for the Canadian Women’s Soccer Team, and to make it to the quarterfinals is only the beginning. 

Since the loss we have had a bit more free time to enjoy being part of the Olympics.  We have had time to go and cheer on other Canadian Olympians in their respective sports, and see a bit of Beijing.  We have seen events, gone to markets, and some of us went to the Great Wall.  The games are coming to a close, with the Closing Ceremonies tomorrow.  We will all be participating in them which should be very exciting.  From day one, when we left Canada over a month ago, on July 21, I have taken well over 1300 pictures.  I think when I get back I will have to buy a new computer…just to hold all my pictures!  Unfortunately I can’t post the pictures of me and my new best friends Kobe and Ronaldinho, but I would love to show anyone who asks!  I hope my journals have helped let you in on my experience here in Beijing, although I can’t possibly say everything that is happening, I do hope I have provided a little inside to the 2008 Beijing Olympic Summer Games!



Journal Entry 5
August 14, 2008

Off to Shanghai!!! On Tuesday we played our last group play game against Sweden and lost 2-1.  This sounds bad, but it actually worked out to our advantage. Before the game was played we were already through to the quarter finals no matter what, but who we would play was to be determined based on both our and other results.  With our loss, and the other team results we managed to avoid the powerhouse of Germany, and got a game vs. the United States for our quarterfinals.  Team USA is a long-time rival of ours and we have played them many times.  They are missing a few of their key players due to injury, most notably Abby Wambach.   It should make it a very interesting game!  This quarter final game will be played in Shanghai, and then we are back to Beijing for hopefully the semis and finals!!! 

In the past few days we have been lucky enough to get some tickets to some other events to go and watch.  We have had the privilege to watch badminton where we saw our Canadian singles female, versus the No. 1 ranked female which was pretty cool.  We also saw boxing, beach volleyball, men’s field hockey, women’s weightlifting (where we saw the Chinese girl break 3 world records!!!) and Tennis.  I got to see Roger Federer and Serena Williams play and I was close enough that I think a bead of sweat flew off of Roger onto my arm, or it may have been a bit of rain, but I am pretty sure it was sweat.  

We are getting really excited to be getting close to the finals and the chance at winning an Olympic Medal.  Tomorrow’s game is just one more step towards us achieving our ultimate goal, a gold medal!



Journal Entry 4
August 11, 2008

WOW! Where to start?  The past few days have been very eventful and exciting! We have had our first two games, against Argentina and China; we beat Argentina 2-1, and tied China 1-1.  The games were great, and we have performed very well!  Up next is Sweden who currently has a win and a loss.  It will be very close as to where we finish in our group so this next game will be important.  Last night at the game against China there were approximately 70,000 screaming Chinese fans. The stadium was packed and the fans were screaming and cheering all game.   A little fact that I thought was kind of cool was, in the first game against Argentina, when we scored our first goal; it was the first goal of the whole Olympic Tournament! That was awesome.

So on the morning of the opening ceremonies, we got a phone call saying that even though our team couldn’t walk in the ceremonies because of our game the next day, we would be able to go. So the 4 of us alternates quickly got our things together in an excited panic and got on a shuttle to get over to the athletes village.  We met up with all the other Canadian alternates there and took a shuttle to the Birds Nest Stadium.  We didn’t walk, we got to sit in the stands, and watch the whole thing, which probably turned out better so we could see everything. The thought and hard work that went into it was absolutely amazing. I’m sure many of you watched the ceremonies on TV and could see just what I am talking about.  I had goose bumps the whole time, and couldn’t sit still.  I took well over 250 pictures and would have taken more but my camera died 3 hours in!  We were 25 rows up from the bottom and could see everything perfectly.  When we first arrived at the Birds Nest we walked a type of red carpet where there were thousands of Olympic volunteers on either side of us clapping, cheering and snapping pictures of us all the way to the entrance.  It was quite an experience to say the least, and I will forever remember that walk.  The whole ceremony was an incredible life experience.  I cannot even describe what a feeling it was to be there cheering on our fellow Canadian athletes as they walked by us cheering and waving our Canadian flags.



Journal Entry 3
August 5, 2008

The past few days have been very hectic with the team travelling to Tianjin which is the city where our group will play our games.  The team went there, but us 4 alternates plus a few of the staff stayed here in Beijing.  Tianjin is about a 2.5 hour drive, but China built a new train that takes that trip down to 25 minutes. The train goes 400km/hr, or about 250 mph!.  We took this train there on Sunday afternoon so that we could train with the team on Sunday night and Monday morning.  We then trained back here to Beijing yesterday afternoon.  The security around here is starting to get higher and higher as the opening ceremonies get closer.  Just by looking out our window we can see the amount of traffic has significantly decreased as well as the number of people walking around.  Two nights ago there was a practice fireworks show in the Bird’s Nest stadium, which is where the opening and closing ceremonies will be, as well as the track events and soccer finals.  We were able to watch it from our balcony window, and it was quite beautiful. I can only imagine what it will be like on opening ceremonies night.  Unfortunately we won’t be able to attend the opening ceremonies as the team has a game the next day and the ceremonies don’t usually get out until 1 or 2am.

                Today we went into the athlete village to work out and do some shopping in the Olympic store, and to our surprise we walked into the store and saw Roger Federer!  Many of the “high profile” athletes don’t stay at the village for obvious reasons, so to see him there, even if it was just for a second was awesome.  After that we took a taxi back to our apartment and let me tell you the driving here is crazy.  It is very hard to watch the road as the lines for lanes don’t matter at all, if there are three lanes they find a way to fit 4 or 5 cars across, they don’t use signal lights, and the horn is used more to say move it because I am cutting you off.  I have never heard so many horns being honked in a 5 minute drive, and I have never feared for my life like I do in the vehicles here.  Imagine yourself in a small car, with a large bus on your right and a cement barrier on your left, a car in front and behind you, and the bus starts moving into your lane while honking politely saying “please move out of the way because I’m not looking I’m just coming into this lane.”  That’s how I felt about 5 times today.  

                Everyone is getting very excited as our first game is tomorrow, Aug 6!  We play Argentina tomorrow, then China on the 9th, and finally Sweden on the 12th back here in Beijing.  After that, depending on how we finish in our group, we could be playing in one of 3 different cities based on the quarter final we are in and who we play.  We will be hopping in the train again tomorrow afternoon to go watch the game, so GO CANADA GO!!!! 



Journal Entry 2
July 31, 2008

So we are here in Beijing.  From the second we stepped off the plane we could feel the Olympic vibe!  We were handed our accreditation by our manager on the plane, and we were escorted off the plane to separate security and customs line for Olympians.  We saw many other athletes from a lot of different countries.  There were mascots and signs everywhere…and I mean EVERYWHERE!  There are security guards every 15 steps, so I feel pretty safe.  We had to go through a bunch of accreditation checks and visa checks while going through security.  Once we finally got through the terminal, there were media and people everywhere waiting for athletes to arrive.  Many of us headed straight to Starbucks to grab a coffee since we had been on a plane for 6 hours and were sleep and food deprived to say the least! 

The ride to the Olympic Zone was unbelievable.  Flags, signs, posters, billboards were covered in Olympic things.  I had goose bumps the whole way as we were all taking pictures like crazy tourists.  Once we got closer the security increased by an incredible amount. There are high fences with barbed wire around the whole Olympic site. There are guards every 15 metres just standing around, and there are check points every mile.  Once we got to the athlete village, it was even more.  Cars can’t even drive here, every bus that comes through gets checked and they scan your face as you walk through security into the village. 


The first two days here have been pretty hectic doing accreditation screenings, security screenings, getting outfitted and receiving all our Canada Olympic gear and such.  It’s really quite an experience to walk around and see all the buildings with the flags hanging out the windows so you can tell which building belongs to which country.  But my favorite part of it all is the dining hall.  It's massive and holds about 6 thousand people... so it's about the size of Putnam! HAHA just kidding.  It's buffet style with lots and lots of different choices and since McDonalds is a title sponsor there is a McDonalds in it and it’s free!  Free McDonalds for every athlete for a month, unbelievable!  Well that’s about it for now, we have 2 more days here then the team will be off to Tianjin which is where our group stage is.  Unfortunately we don’t get to stay in the athlete village the whole time because of this, but it will be neat to travel around a little as well! 



Journal Entry 1
July 29, 2008

Hello everyone!  My name is Stephanie Labbe, and I will be letting you in on my experience here at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing.  My experience is a little different as I am an athlete, but I am one of four alternates for the women’s soccer team, which means I am here doing all the training and extra things that the team does, but I am only on the roster for a game if I get switched with someone due to injury or something else that makes them unable to play.  Other than that I get pretty much the same experience with a few minor differences.  One major thing, for this is I do have to stick to strict Olympic rules and I can’t say results of any events I attend or hear about so you have to find that on your own.  I will try to post pictures, but I also have to follow rules on them as well.

In my first week here, we have been in Singapore doing a pre-training camp.  We flew into Singapore July 22, and have been getting acclimatized and used to training and playing in this heat.  From the day we flew in, we knew the heat and humidity would be an issue.  The first two days we did little on the field training, more conditioning and long runs outside just to get the body going and get some of the jet lag out.  Our hotel is right by the beach (which isn’t a nice beach to go swimming in as you can see hundreds of massive tankers in the background!) so our runs were along the sidewalk on the beach.  I’m getting very exciting as the time is getting closer and closer to our first game which is on August 6, 2 days before the opening ceremonies of the games.  Everywhere you go, even here in Singapore there are Olympic logos. Seeing them reminds us of how exciting this opportunity really is.  We played two friendlies against New Zealand and Singapore here.  We performed very well, and definitely gained some confidence heading into Beijing. 

On the last night we had a dinner with the Canadian Swim Team who is also here in Singapore doing a pre-Olympic training camp.  It was very nice as we got to mingle and meet a lot of them before heading into Beijing and into the Athlete Village.  We are off to Beijing tomorrow, and I think I can speak for everyone by saying we can’t wait to get there and feel the whole Olympic experience even more!






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