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Monday, July 16, 2007

Two Thumbs Up!

Two thumbs up for seeing the Canadian team in a press conference with shiny medals around their necks, even if they are trapezoidal instead of round. This is my first Pan Am Games; I'm used to Olympics and WEG where Canada takes on the role of 'just happy to be here', like Guatemala and Argentina at these Pan Ams. Sorry everyone, just being honest here. And two big thumbs up to spending $35 on a taxi instead of three hours on buses to get back here to write and send my work out. It cuts a hole in my busman's holiday pay, but as Mastercard would say: Being home in time to watch the sun's last rays hit Sugar Loaf and Copacabana from your sixth floor balcony? Priceless.

Speaking of sunset, it happens early here, around 5 pm, as this is the depth of winter for the southern hemisphere. It's weird to go from summer daylight in Vancouver to essentially the same temperatures, but with a winter light schedule. It is actually a bit cooler here than it was at home when we left last week. It even looks like it might rain this afternoon, but I would say the weather is pretty close to perfect for any sport.

More thumbs up to not losing our back pack after all. Jan asked a guard outside the gate at the venue if he could pay him to keep the bag for the day. When he received 'no' for an answer, Jan shrugged in resignation and threw the bag into an eye-level fork in a tree right by the metal detector at the gate. And there it sat in full view of the gnarly guard five hours later when we came out. Warm beer and soggy sandwiches have never tasted better. The press conference after team medals was pretty interesting yesterday, if slow paced. All questions and answers had to be translated into English, Spanish (the two official Pan Am languages) and Portuguese. As if that weren't enough, Klaus Balkenhol, as coach of the US team, decided he would answer questions in German. Come on Klaus, you must speak English by now. And what did he have to say? I think he may have been hired as the new US Ambassador. He went on and on and ON (yes I really mean three 'ons') about how wonderful the organization and Brazilians have been. Funny, there was no mention of the fact that the US team threatened to pack up and leave the very night they arrived when Brazilian customs said it would be three days before the tack could be cleared. I guess Klaus didn't want the dressage team to be lumped in with the general image of the Americans, who were heavily booed in the opening ceremonies. I don't know if it hit the news back home but a staffer at the US Olympic team wrote "Welcome to the Congo" on a white board in their office at the Main Press Centre here, and it made it to the front page of Rio's big newspaper, O Globo. At least Canada wasn't booed in the opening ceremonies - the Brazilians sure don't hold back against their enemies. They even booed their own president. But they LOVED Cuba. They cheered harder only for their own team.

Klaus does have a point though. I have found the Brazilians to be absolutely hospitable and friendly (other than the booing). The cab driver yesterday didn't speak English, so he called his wife on the cell and handed the phone to me. I was mystified until I realized that she spoke English and wanted to explain to me that her husband needed to stop and get gas on the way - everyone has been spooked like crazy about violence here, so it was very thoughtful of him to make us aware that he wasn't kidnapping us when he turned off the highway.

I decided not to go on the attack with Mariette in yesterday's conference, because I've done that the last two times she saw my face. It turns out I didn't have to because Ken Braddick (you only have to meet this man once to know he can be counted on to use the hot pokers) asked the question about the six point disparity between Mariette's and Jane's scores for Katherine Poulin-Neff. Ken pointed out in his question that the two judges were seated at B and E. Mistake! Mariette used the fact as an excuse, saying they saw different things, being in different places. Well of course. It's like Robert Redford. There is the good side of his face which he always tries to show the camera, and the bad side. I guess Mariette only saw the bad side of Brilliant Too and Jane saw only the good side.

Mariette then went on to say that she had started out as the low judge on the first morning, and that she had to be consistent with that. "I don't mind being the bad girl," she said. The low judge? Not for the Brazilians she wasn't. And I'm sure Chris Hickey wouldn't call her a bad girl either. She was the low judge only nine times out of 26. Jane Weatherwax was lowest on the score board seven times. But anyhoo, I think the right people ended up with the right medals around their necks. Andrea's test just had a few too many mistakes to have been a gold medal clincher. We'll see what happens with the individuals today and Wednesday.

Monday = our third day to get up at 5 am to get to the site by 9 = the day we met the Cuban journalist. He started out by giving Jan a nice fat cigar. He then asked if I had a hat to give him and could Jan and I please sign it (a moot request since I didn't actually have a hat for him). After a few more minutes of animated chat he asked Jan if when we get to Argentina in two weeks we could buy and send a carburetor for his (ancient) Peugeot that has been sitting unstartable at home in Cuba for the past six months.

When I was in Guatemala in November, their coach (canuck DQ judge Libby McMullen) told one of the riders to get her horse a tail extension for his weedy appendage. Lo and behold, a nice flowing tail followed him around in his test just now. The FEI permits fake tails, though I heard a rumour that you have to bring the 'wig' to the jog for inspection. Check in tomorrow - it's a day off for dressage but I will have news of today, and answers to the important questions 'does Nigri like men better than women?' and 'what did security take from me today?'.

Click here for unofficial Dressage Results.

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