Walter Mencken 9:21 p.m., Oct. 20
Olympic Training Center
When I head for the Olympic Training Center, I have dreams of watching gymnasts fling themselves around on the uneven parallel bars or catching sight of some hulk of a dude sprint in tight shorts while his coach times him with a stop watch.
Doesn’t happen quite that way.
The campus appears deserted when we first arrive, save for a few maintenance guys on golf carts. At the information center, which at the moment is a table stacked with informational papers, we pick up a flier that provides a map and a phone number for a self-guided audio tour. On the backside of the flier is a list of athletes currently in training at the center. Not their names but their sports.
The flier invites us to “stroll down the mile-long Olympic Path to observe our beautiful venues and activities.”
So we do. Although the audio tour proves more trouble than it’s worth (at least with a three-year-old in tow who cares only to examine flowers and pebbles while we stroll), the walk along the palm tree-lined path is beautiful.
John Crawley, the facility's high performance director, helps coaches and teams with their performance plans.
The path passes several training fields and buildings, but from a distance. Offshoot roads that lead from the main path to the buildings all require credentials, or apparently, a teaching license. (We see a couple of school groups down by the training area for track and field.) Although we can hear the music and the clank of weights coming from inside the strength and conditioning building, we can’t see in.
The fields are out in the open, though, and if it weren’t around lunchtime right now, we’d probably get to see some training. Turns out, we’ve barely missed an opportunity to watch the national female rugby team practice. We glimpse the women walking back to the residence halls.
Toward the end of the path, the archery-training area is easily visible, and we watch for a few minutes while an archer shoots.
Though I don’t get to experience the thrill of watching athletes perform, it is more exciting than I’d expected to see the places where they practice and to catch sight of one or two during their downtime. Maybe next time, if we don't come at lunchtime, we’ll see more of them in action.
I think binoculars would be a good idea, too.