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Back Home from Rhodes

Posted by Gale Bernhardt Oct 10, 2007

I'm now back home after the trip to Rhodes, Greece for the ITU World Cup event. I have to say it was a well-managed event. Rhodes stepped up to the plate within the last few weeks and offered to host a World Cup when another city backed out. With the help of ITU World Cup Director of Operations Thanos Nikopoulos, Director of Events and Technical Officals Gergely Markus, and many other ITU staff, support personnel and fabulous volunteers-the event was fantastic. From an outsider's view, you would never know this was a first-year event with a very short preparation time. Hats off to everyone involved in producing the event.

 

Before I get into the results from the race, I want to introduce you to the group that went to Rhodes. Because it is easiest to view a large numbers of photos within the blog in a condensed format, I have attached a document that has a photo of each of the athletes and the staff members as well. If you don't see an attachment at the bottom of the page, double-click on the title for the blog. This opens the blog's page and the attachment should be visible at the bottom.

 

 

Looking at the smiling faces of the athletes makes me feel great about the opportunity to help with this sport development project. For some of the athletes, it was their first opportunity to travel to a World Cup event as part of Team BG. (BG being the sponsor for the program.)

 

 

I have to say I am blown away at the speed at which the athletes bond together as a team, support each other and look to the staff for help and support. They are very polite and thankful for the help they receive. They are quick to say "thank you" and "I appreciate your help" to each staff member. They are easy to like as fellow human beings and as top athletes.

 

 

Thinking back to the first race I supported in Vancouver, Canada in June, I recall thinking to myself, "What can I do to speed up the process of helping these athletes? Is it possible to increase the speed of building trust?"

 

 

It was a passing thought and I ended up behaving as I normally behave when supporting athletes at World Cup events. I try to be helpful, answer questions, find answers to questions I don't have answers for and share my knowledge. In short, I try to do what I can to help them succeed.

 

 

Sometimes, due to language differences and the initial steps of building trust, what I think is a good deed is not perceived that way. On only the second day in Vancouver, I had one of the athletes in tears. Nice, Gale, really nice.

 

 

The condensed story is that some of the athletes travel to the races with minimal equipment. Sometimes the equipment is not optimal, by any stretch of the imagination. Seldom do any of the athletes travel with any spare equipment-such as cassettes.

 

 

After doing a course inspection, I realized the hill in the Vancouver course was really tough. There were a few of the athletes that were running 23's as their easiest gear. We did have access to some cassettes that had 25's and I suggested they consider running 25's. Really encouraged the 25's. Ranted and raved about the 25's.

 

 

The athlete I mentioned was sitting in Dave Coleman's room (mechanic for Vancouver), staring at her bike. I walked into the room and could tell there was a problem. Dave relayed to me that the athlete didn't want to change wheels and cassettes. She wanted to keep her current set-up.

 

 

Right as I was saying, "Oh, man I really think it's best if she'd..."

 

 

I looked at her face and saw small rivers of tears streaming down both cheeks. Dang.

 

 

I told her, "Look, what gears you run is ultimately your choice. I want you to use the 25 because I want you to be able to use your weapon-fast running. I just want you to be successful. I won't be mad at you, no matter which one you use."

 

 

I hoped she understood that I only wanted to help.

 

 

On race morning I asked Dave what she went with and he told me the 25. I didn't know whether to feel good or be worried.

 

 

The women raced first, then the men raced. I thought she had a good race, best I could tell.

 

 

While I was standing on the run course for the men's race, she came jogging along for her cool down run. She ran up to me and said in broken English, "Thank you very much. I have good race. Bike work. Best finish ever. Fastest run by two minutes. Thank you."

 

 

She gave me a hug and trotted off. Then tears welled up for me. It felt great to make a difference.

 

 

At that Vancouver race, there was a wager made, as I mentioned in a previous blog. Since this blog gone a bit long, I'll have to finish in the next blog. I'll let you know about that bet...

 

 

 

 

 

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