The day started with us getting on a bus and heading into the fencing stadium. This is where the entire US delegation was hanging out before we left for the Opening Ceremonies. It was here where we had the great pleasure and honor of meeting President George W. Bush!! He gave us a great speech, primarily motivating us to bring home the gold and representing the greatest country in the world. After the speech he took the time to take a picture with all the teams. When he took a picture with us he recognized us and told us how proud he was of us. And of course he was happy to know that we were from Texas :)
Then surprisingly, Laura Bush asked to personally meet us! She mentioned that her husband read about us in USA Today and thought it would be great to have us at the White House. She said she invited us but wondered why we didn't go. We felt a little embarrassed that we had to decline the visit, but Jean explained to her that we had an important competition around that time. She understood and stated that we must come after the Games to visit.
We then got in the bus again to head to another waiting area, the stadium where Gymnastics was being held. Unfortunately, we were there for most of the Opening Ceremonies and missed the great shows and fireworks. USA was number 139 out of the 204 countries to march in. After a while we were finally called. I started to get excited. I was taking pictures, shooting video and soaking up the positive energy that was being emitted by everyone. We were lucky enough to be walking next to the "Redeem Team" so we were mingling with LeBron James, Jason Kidd, Chris Paul, Dwight Howard and Daron Williams. We finally arrived to the tunnel. Chanting of "U.S.A., U.S.A.!" began.
I started to hear the rumbling of the massive crowd that awaited us. Chills started to come over my body and a plethora of overwhelming feelings ran through me...strength, unity, pride, courage, validation, happiness. I have arrived!! We have arrived!! I was at the end of the group so I was still in the dark tunnel and could see the light hit the white berets of the gladiators of the USA emerge into this amazing modern day coliseum. As we entered the stadium I was in awe. My eyes wide open trying to take in as much as possible...the lights, the electrifying crowd. A smile covered my face from ear to ear while my ears listened to the thousands of people from around the world cheering and shouting with joy. I have arrived!!
As I walked into the stadium I began to wave to the crowd, blowing kisses and acknowledging the American flags whenever I spotted them. It was great :) We finally stopped and stood in our designated area. The lighting of the torch began. Chinese Olympians of past and present brought the torch in one by one. Then the final torch bearer began to float into the air, ran magically around the stadium and arrived at the cauldron. I was anxiously waiting...and then in happened. The Olympic Torch was lit and the Olympics had officially begun. I stood there looking at the flame, amid thousands of people. However, I felt as if the flame was lit solely for me, I felt as if I was in my own world, just me in that magnificent stadium adoring the flame that represents strength, honor, humanity, greatness and glory. It was just beautiful.
The Games have begun and it is now time for my family and I to do what we came here to do. To display our greatness that has culminated after decades of diligence, blood, sweat, and tears. It is this sacrifice that will yield sweet success.
We have arrived!! Thank you God for this opportunity!