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Fireworks light up the stadium and the skyline in Kazan, Russia, site of Universiade 2013, the World University Games.

Fireworks light up the stadium and the skyline in Kazan, Russia, site of Universiade 2013, the World University Games.

Experience of a Lifetime (Again)

Dr. Paul Alvarez, head of the University of La Verne’s Athletic Training Education Program, is representing the United States as a member of Team USA’s medical staff at Universiade, the World University Games, held this month in Kazan, Russia.

  • July 11, 2013

Dr. Paul Alvarez is Director of the Athletic Training Education Program and is Professor of Movement & Sports Science at the University of La Verne. He is currently in Kazan, Russia, serving on the medical staff for Team USA at the Universiade, also known as the World University Games.

Dr. Alvarez keeps a daily journal of his observations while half a world away, and they provide an insider’s view of the games, the people, the politics and the culture he encounters as he works with pride to keep America’s athletes performing their best while representing their country.

What follows is an account of his first week at the Games, which go from July 6-17:

July 2

For those of you who might be unfamiliar with the background – and apologies to those who have heard this story more than once – I am part of the medical staff for Team USA at the Universiade, also known as the World University Games. The Universiade is the largest multisport event in the world after the Olympics, and will feature almost 7,000 participants from approximately 160 countries. After traveling to Belgrade, Serbia, in 2009, and Shenzhen, China, in 2011, I am here in Kazan, Russia, for the 2013 Games. How I got invited to be part of this opportunity in the first place is a long story most of you have heard and I will not go into that here.

One change in things that was disappointing is that our long-time Head of Delegation, Dr. Gary Cunningham, became ill shortly before we were scheduled to depart and was obligated to remain in the U.S. to recover. While the role of Head of Delegation has been passed on to the very capable Craig Jonas, formerly Deputy Head of Delegation in both Belgrade and Shenzhen, we will miss Gary and wish him a speedy recovery.

I flew out of LAX on Friday afternoon and arrived in Moscow at 4 p.m. local time after a 12-hour flight. I had a four-hour layover before the one-hour flight from Moscow to Kazan, which is about 300 miles due west of Moscow. One of the benefits of being part of the Games is the relative ease of traveling through the airports. We were sent bag tags from the organizers to help indentify our checked and carry-on bags. In both Moscow and Kazan, there were numerous friendly volunteers to assist in getting baggage transferred, checking onto our transfer flight, and getting on-ground transportation to get us to the Universiade Village. I arrived at the Kazan Airport about 10 p.m. and was greeted by Diana, one of the Russian university students who had been assigned to the U.S. team as attaches. Since I was traveling by myself, there was a slight delay in getting an official Kazan car to take me from the airport to the Village. Once there, I was met at the gate by Neal Holden, Deputy Head of the Delegation, as well as Hazel Ando and Leroy Heu, athletic training colleagues. Neal had my temporary credential, necessary to get into the gate, which is a normal part of Games security. I finally settled in about 12 midnight Saturday night/Sunday morning, which made for a rather long trip!

The Universiade Village is very impressive. Prior to and after the Games the complex will serve as the largest and most modern student campus for Kazan (Volga Region) Federal University and Volga Region State Academy of Physical Culture, Sports and Tourism. Portions of the campus opened in 2010, while some of the buildings were being finished as we have been moving in! The dorm rooms we are staying are nice, two room suites with a small kitchen/common area and bathroom. The organizers have converted some of the rooms to medical rooms with treatment tables, cabinets, and desks. Other common rooms have been modified to serve as the Delegation Offices, video viewing rooms, and computer lounges for the student-athletes.

In addition to the 30 dorm buildings, there is a central administrative building with meeting rooms, credentialing offices, bank, workout center, information offices for both general information and sports results, and offices for the Universiade administrative officials and staff. Adjacent to the main administration building is the Polyclinic where we can take student-athletes or staff who become ill or injured. The campus also features outdoor recreation areas for basketball and volleyball, as well as a general purpose grass field. For the Games, an enormous tent structure has been set up in a central area to serve as the dining hall. It is hard to really call it a tent, as it is supported with steel girders and features climate control. In the dining hall, Universiade participants can choose from European, Asian, Local, Halal, and Pizza/Pasta menus divided up into their own serving areas. Oh, and there is a McDonald’s . . .

We had our first staff meeting on Sunday morning to begin getting our main office and the athletic training room organized and ready. Following that, Dr. Olson, Leroy, and I visited the Polyclinic. The Games require full medical facility coverage by the host country in the village, and the Kazan Games utilized the existing Kazan Federal University facility and brought in more equipment and some of the top physicians in the country to staff the Polyclinic. While very serious cases will be referred to the local hospital, the Polyclinic is equipped with a pharmacy (free to participants with a prescription), gastroenterologist, neurologist, physical therapists, gynecologists, dentists, all the associated clinical equipment and treatment areas, and testing equipment. Interestingly, we did not meet anyone identified as being a sports medicine specialist, and are reminded that sports medicine is still a new field in many countries. We certainly appreciated the tour of the facility and meeting our colleagues from the Russian medical system.

The Kremlin, shining like a string of jewels against a black Kazan nightscape.Following our tour of the Polyclinic, Dr. Olson and I decided to try out the subway system as a way of getting to the Kazan Kremlin. While many people associate the term “Kremlin” as referring to a specific location in Moscow, “kremlin” actually refers to any citadel in a Russian city. The Kazan Kremlin preserves some of the oldest buildings in Kazan and is reportedly one of only four remaining kremlins in Russia. The Kazan Kremlin was built at the behest of Ivan the Terrible on the ruins of the former castle of Kazan khans. It was declared a World Heritage Site in 2000. While Dr. Olson and I only did a self-guided quick tour, we were impressed by the juxtaposition of faiths evident through the presence of the Qolsharif Mosque and Annunciation Cathedral, as well as the history represented by many of the other buildings. I will have to go back and explore this fascinating place some more.

Yesterday, we had a chance to meet most of our attachés. As mentioned previously in referring to Diana, Russian volunteers (and a couple of Americans living in Russia) are assigned as attachés to all of the delegations, proportioned by the number of teams and athletes from each country. As we are a moderately large delegation with a number of teams, we have 19 attachés plus our Head Attache, Riat (I think I have the spelling right). The attachés are invaluable in communicating with event staff at various venues, giving us tips on places to go and how to act if traveling in the city, and providing us with an up close and personal look at the Russian people. In turn, we hope they get to know more about the American people and our culture. Nowhere was this more crucial than in Belgrade, where the older Serbians remember us as the ones who dropped bombs on them as part of the NATO peacekeeping efforts. However, the young students we had a chance to work with in Serbia, China, and now Russia, are here to learn about us as people and move beyond the past. We seem to have a great group of attachés and look forward to working closely with them in the weeks to come.

Yesterday, more staff arrived, as well as our first student-athletes, from the Badminton team. Things will start to pick up – a lot – in the next few days as teams and student-athletes come in, practices and competitions start, and the inevitable challenges arise. While the U.S. will not field a full team by participating in all of the sports present, those student athletes who do come will be treated to an outstanding event of international stature.

In closing, I’d like to note some minor events that make this the kind of experience all the more worthwhile.

Out running (in my La Verne Soccer shirt from Coach Cres, thank you!), I noticed one of the Russian groundskeepers carefully untangling a French flag from the banister where it had gotten tangled and neatly re-hanging it in its place . . . doing the right thing, even when no one is watching.

This morning, listening to the Mexican women’s futbol (soccer) team serenading one of their teammates with Las Mañanitas in honor of her birthday . . .

Yesterday, the official Welcome Ceremony was held for the Russian Federation team. As I had the opportunity to watch, you could see the pride the student-athletes, coaches, and administrators had in their team, their country, and in hosting the Games. While we take pride in our country, we have to remember that others have equal pride in theirs . . .

More in a day or so.

July 4

Things are really beginning to pick up around here as a number of U.S. athletes have arrived and more are on the way. The men’s and women’s basketball teams have arrived, synchronized swimming, badminton, rowing, and men’s and women’s water polo. The Village is also beginning to fill with student-athletes from around the world. While there is certainly no lack of participants from the larger countries – Great Britain, France, Russia, and Germany – there are many representatives of smaller countries as well – Hong Kong, Sri Lanka, Peru, and Denmark, to name a few.

An obvious concern any time you bring a group of representatives from many countries together is the possibility of disruption for political or personal aims. However, we have been more than assured by not only the Russians, but our U.S. Embassy Security staff in Moscow that the threat level is very low. Furthermore, the Russians are using these games as a “test event” to stress test everything from security to housing to transportation as they prepare for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. To get into the Residence area, you have to pass through two security gates. At both levels, your credentials are electronically coded to allow – or not allow – you into the Administrative area, and then the Residence Area. To get in, you have to scan your credential badge and your image should come up on the video screen monitored by security, so there is a visual check that you are who you claim to be with the credential. Furthermore, the credential must have additional clearances to let you into the Residence Area. All bags must be run through a scanner, and phones and computers turned on and shown to the security officers. Finally, and most importantly, you must have credential clearance to eat in the Dining Hall, where they scan your badge one more time . . . woe to those who lose their credentials!

In addition to the security checkpoints, video cameras are located all over the Village and monitored by the Russian security officers. In the Village, most of the security officers are attired in the same bright polo shirts and pants as the volunteers, except security is in green and general volunteers are in red. At the external gates, there are also uniformed police and military security. Additionally, there are security officers in each building along with volunteers 24/7. Finally, it is known that a large number of undercover officers are present throughout the Village. Rather than being intimidating, the presence of security is reassuring and the officers are friendly and very professional in their efforts.

Kazan Breakfast

Speaking of the Dining Hall . . . we understand that the caterers who provided food service to the London Olympics are the same ones who are providing excellent meals to us every day in the Dining Hall. The Hall itself is a massive “tent” (in name only), which can seat 2500 people at a time. It is actually four long tents side by side that have all of the seating, bathrooms, kitchens, and, of course, the food service lines necessary to feed this small city of people.

As previously noted, the food options include Asian, Hallal, a Salad Bar, European (including a separate pizza and pasta service), McDonald’s, and local. The local food area is quite popular, not just with the Russian team but with others seeking a dining adventure. Several items are traditional Tatar foods, including Öçpoçmaq (a triangular shaped “pie” that is stuffed with beef and potatoes), Bäkkän (a crescent shaped “pie” that is stuffed with cabbage), various kinds of smoked fish, and Çäkçäk – looks like Rice Krispie treats but is made from a kind of thick noodle and baked with honey. While it looks like it should be terribly sweet, it is actually fairly light compared to American treats. Even more common fruit pies have very little sugar compared to American pies, but one can certainly overdo the delicious food without too much trouble! Another morning favorite is coffee, which is provided by full-service machines that grind the beans fresh and can turn out coffee Amerciana, cappuccino, or espresso.

Currently, the Hall is open from 5am to 2am, but during Ramadan (which starts on the 9th), it will be open 24 hours a day. For those not familiar with the Muslim observation of Ramadan, devotees cannot eat from sunrise to sunset each day. This is a bit of a challenge here, as the somewhat northern latitude of Kazan has the sun rising at about 4am and setting about 10pm, thus leaving a fairly narrow window of time for eating if the organizers did not accommodate their religious practice by being open all the time. Needless to say, for those seeking a midnight “snack”, there are plenty of options!

I made another trek through the older part of Kazan over the greater part of an afternoon and evening. One of the places I went by was Kazan Federal University, where writer Leo Tolstoy spent a few years and Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov (Lenin) was a graduate. A statue of the young Lenin is prominently placed facing the main building, and bears a resemblance to Leonardo DiCaprio . . . I also visited the St. Peter and St. Paul Cathedral (build in 1722), and happened to enter as the Russian Orthodox service was being conducted. I suppose they are used to tourists coming and going, as several people did exactly that in the 20 minutes I spent watching and listening. It was a very serene and almost unreal experience to be there as the celebrant conducted the service. From there, I headed to another Russian Orthodox Church, the Kazan Monastery of the Theotokos, where the original icon of the Virgin Mary was found. Finally, I headed once again to the Kazan Kremlin where I was somewhat surprised to find out that one can enter the Qolşärif Mosque even as a non-believer. While the Mosque was built on the site of one of the original mosques of the khanate of Kazan, the current structure is modern and extremely beautiful. The attached photo shows only a portion of the main sanctuary, but hopefully conveys the scope and majesty of the structure.

One of the duties we have is to conduct orientations with the incoming athletes within a day of their arrival. We not only try to cover the “dos and don’t’s”, but also encourage the student athletes to mingle with representatives of other countries and have a good time around their sports practices and competitions. The staff is encouraged to introduce themselves and explain our roles, and how we assist the student athletes in their efforts. I am pleased to announce that I am from the University of La Verne in Southern California, although I do get puzzled looks from the student athletes and their coaches, most of whom come from the large Division I schools. The one exception is NCAA Division III Springfield College, who is representing us in Men’s Volleyball after other “big-time” programs declined the invitation to attend.

I would encourage you all to check the out the Team USA website at http://www.wugusa.com/summer-games/. (yes, it was down for a couple of days due to a hacking intrusion, but it’s up again now). One of the cool features is that Steve Kelley, USA Team Columnist who wrote for a number of years for the Seattle Times, is here with us and doing a great job of covering some of the many “other” stories of the Games.

American flag raised.

As today is the Fourth of July, there have been many observances of our Independence Day by the organizers and individuals. Our Welcoming Ceremony was held this morning (more in my next post), and it was very inspiring. The organizers specifically scheduled us for today in recognition of the holiday. Also, we were sent a very large Çäkçäk cake with a representation of the American flag on it, also from the organizers. But most moving has been the acknowledgements from a number of the Russian volunteers, who have greeted us all day with “May I wish you a Happy Independence Day!” Again, the sense that the world is not such a big place is never stronger than here and now.

That’s all for now . . .

July 5

As noted in my last posting, yesterday was the Fourth of July and was quite a busy day. Welcoming Ceremonies are held every day with designated countries being treated to a cultural dance exhibition that is superbly choreographed, a welcome from the Village Mayor or Vice-Mayor, an exchange of gifts between the Head of Delegation and the Mayor, and raising of the flag. In our case, we had our own ceremony, and Craig Jonas received a quite stylish embroidered cap and decorative plate from the Mayor. Our flag has now joined a growing canopy of national flags that are presented in the Flag Alley.

In the afternoon, our team physicians moderated a short conference on tendonopathies with the medical staffs from several countries that allowed participants to use diagnostic ultrasound on a variety of injuries. Australia, Mexico, Switzerland, Egypt, and Japan all had representatives, and it was a good opportunity to interact with our professional colleague from other countries.

Our Team USA party was held at the Courtyard Marriott in their rooftop garden. Unfortunately, due to closing up the office and medical clinic, some of us were late and missed the highlight, which was fireworks over the Kazan Kremlin. However, Craig Jonas videotaped it and you can enjoy a replay at

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r2bBP4_dYU0&feature=youtube_gdata_player

We all did enjoy a lovely party, well-attended by representatives from a number of countries, with good food, good drink, and lively entertainment by a great band that played a number of American classic rock songs.

Partway through the party, I took the opportunity to take some photos of the Kazan Kremlin at night.

Funny note of the day – during a staff meeting, we were discussing the fact that the American men’s basketball team was playing a high-level local Russian club team in a scrimmage. Nels put our lead attaché, Riat, from Kazan on the spot by kiddingly asking him if he would be supporting the American team or the Russian team. Riat pondered this for a moment and then replied, “I am supporting a good game!” He may have a future in international politics . . . !

Finally, we are very excited for the Opening Ceremonies! We hope that you will take opportunity of the chance to watch!

Monday, July 8

The magnificent lighting and theatrical effects come to life during Opening Ceremonies.

It is really not possible to convey the incredible magnitude of the Opening Ceremonies . . . walking into the stadium with 40,000 people, the President of Russia, media coverage, and the realization that we are all representing our country.

The Russian Media has posted the entire ceremony on YouTube:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=he8qwEFDmW8

which does a good job of showing the whole show, including the entrance of the American team. However, my wife, Jenn, was able to watch the ceremony on ESPN3, which used their own cameras and probably featured the American Team a bit more; she was able to capture the attached screen shot of me . . . I suppose I look a little stunned. In Serbia, we did not have a formal entrance into the Arena; in China, the glare of the lights were such that we could barely see the audience until we were halfway into the arena. Here, the full force of Russian enthusiasm was focused on each delegation as they entered the stadium and we felt it.

One quick note about the stadium . . . Kazan Arena will be a football stadium (soccer to us) after the Games, and the main field for the World Cup in a few years. The stage structure in the middle, which weighs over 750 tons, will be removed after the Closing Ceremony. What will not be removed is the enormous video screen on the outside of the south end of the venue – it takes up the entire wall of the stadium and is technologically amazing.

Steve Kelley wrote another excellent column on what it felt like for him to be marching in the athletes’ parade; I had similar feelings. You can read all of Steve’s columns as well as get the latest updates on Team USA at

http://www.wugusa.com/summer-games/

The stadium at Kazan, awash in blue, during Opening Ceremonies.

The only downside of the Ceremony was that it did not start until 9:30 p.m. local time and did not end until almost 2 a.m. By the time we got back to the Village and to our rooms, it was almost 3:30 a.m. and we still had to get up and be back on duty at 8 a.m.! Needless to say, we were all dragging just a bit, but would not have missed it for the world.

Special stories to share:

We were somewhat limited on seats at the arena, and had a tough time talking the organizers into allowing all of our student-athletes to at least march in the Opening Ceremonies. Many had competitions the next day, and we knew even by them leaving early (and it was perfectly acceptable to do so, the organizers had an easy way for the participants to detour and leave after circling the stadium), the experience of marching into the stadium would be unforgettable. As it was, we filled our assigned buses at the Village and left myself, our Head of Delegation Craig Jonas, Deputy Head of Delegation Neal Holden, Transportation Coordinator Dan Calandro, two of our coaches and a somewhat frantic Head Attaché Riat (who I imagine had visions of what would happen if he failed to get the Head of Delegation of the USA to the Opening Ceremonies!) along with Diana, another USA attaché, looking for seats on another bus. As it happened, we ended up on the bus with a very welcoming Zimbabwe delegation, who sang traditional songs all the way to the Kazan Arena. Furthermore, the leader knew how to make friends, as he began a song about “Beautiful Zimbabwe”, changed the words to acknowledge “Beautiful Botswana” (who also had a few representatives on the bus), then “Beautiful America” for us, and finally acknowledged “Beautiful Russian” (not Russia), as he pointed to his delegation’s female attaché, who blushed in complete embarrassment but gracefully accepted the compliment. What started as a minor inconvenience became another lasting memory of these Games.

I was watching some of the fencing competition and a close match when I noticed their team attaché, so wrapped up in emotional support of “her team” that she clutched a fencing mask in anxiousness until the match ended. Unfortunately, the U.S. athlete did not prevail, but again, we remember that little things such as the support of our Russian hosts, one by one, is what makes these “Games” so meaningful.

The organizers have a fleet of buses, of which most, if not all, are brand-new, to shuttle athletes and officials from the Village to the venues and Opening and Closing Ceremonies. I noticed one of the drivers had attached religious icons to the dashboard near the instrument panel, something that probably would not have been acceptable in the Soviet era.

Tonight, I was heading back to our building when I noticed a quite burly athlete from Poland walking by himself in front of me with a small bouquet of flowers in his right hand. It seemed somewhat incongruous, until I noticed that in his left hand, he held a box and what appeared to be a gold medal. Evidently, he was coming from a medal ceremony and the bouquet was part of the presentation. Their dorm is right next to ours, and so I was privileged to witness him walking up to the entrance of their building just as some of his countrymen were coming out. They obviously had not heard about his accomplishment, but were quick to embrace him, grabbed their phones to take photos of him, and then called others to come celebrate his achievement. For many, these Games represent the pinnacle of their athletic careers and we are privileged to witness them.

July 11, 2013

Halfway through our stay here in Russia . . .

After the Opening Ceremonies, things have settled into something approximating a “routine.” Athletes are competing, the Delegation Office is a beehive of activity, the Athletic Training Room is seeing patients on a pretty regular basis, and . . . oops, a sudden thunderstorm followed by a downpour threw some of the outdoor sports schedules off and made for a soggy afternoon. The Dining Hall briefly flooded and part of the International Building roof must have leaked because a number of ceiling tiles on the third floor collapsed. No one hurt, and after the rain slowed, the organizers got most everything cleaned up within a matter of hours and back on schedule. Today is supposed to be cloudy but with no rain in the forecast.

The Delegation Office is open from 8 a.m.-10 p.m. and often later as coaches, athletes, and staff come in to address issues, update us on events, and get caught up on everything from lost luggage to box lunches for competitions to travel arrangements. Hazel Ando has run the office in all three of the Universiades I have had the privilege of attending, and is also partly responsible for my being here in the first place. Along with Christina and Dorothy and Linda and Sarah and just about everyone else who has a spare minute, Hazel makes sure we are all on our toes and informed of what is going on. We all had our lives flash before our eyes when Hazel fell during the walk to the stadium during the Opening Ceremonies and dislocated her shoulder. Thankfully, Shana was able to reduce it pretty quickly and Hazel has been able to carry on . . . I think Nels would have been ready to pack us up and go home if Hazel had not!

Dr. Paul Alvarez, director of the University of La Verne's Athletic Training Education Program, is a member of Team USA's medical staff for the World University Games for the third time.

Everyone pitches in and works willingly at a variety of tasks, and this is the result of a carefully chosen leadership team that began in Serbia with Gary Cunningham and Craig Jonas; was greatly enhanced by the addition of the Basketball Travelers International (BTI) group with Nels Hawkinson and Neal Holden; and now has an additional Deputy Head of Delegation in Delise O’Meally, who is the Director of Governance and International Affairs at NCAA and was herself a Universiade participant as a tennis player representing Jamaica. Although Gary (Cunningham) was not able to be here with us, the rest are ably serving as Head of Delegation and Deputy Heads of Delegation, which means they get paid the big bucks . . . just kidding! We are all volunteers who are doing this because we are excited to be here and representing our country. But it helps to have good leadership from people who work hard and are not afraid to “get their hands dirty.”

I went to watch the Judo competition, quite a number of athletes from many countries. Unfortunately, USA Judo decided to send only three males to compete in individual weight classes and did not even send a coach. However, they competed to the best of their ability and Nathan Kearney won his first match in the 60 kg division by ippon (judo equivalent of a knockout in boxing, usually won by a hard throw) before being eliminated in the second round. The other two competitors did not fare so well, but at least represented us.

While watching the judo warmups, one of the female contestants was warming up with a teammate and got her in a hold on the ground from which she could not escape. The “winner” proceeded to further her “win” by tickling her teammate . . . the sound of hysterical laughter is not the sort of thing one normally hears in warm-ups for a combative sport, but seemed to be appreciated by the other competitors all the same as evidenced by the smiles.

Since the U.S. does not field a “football” (soccer to U.S. fans) team, I went to watch Brazil play Canada in the last round of pool play. While entering through the security checkpoint, I had my bag scanned and the security officer sternly told me “open the bag.” A senior officer immediately interjected and said, “No, no, say PLEASE open the bag,” and the first officer immediately apologized. I thanked him for just doing his job. It has to be tough, as I am sure many people are not pleasant, and all they are doing is trying to keep us safe ­– which often requires a professional demeanor bordering on sternness.

The soccer match was well-played. Canada dominated ball control the first half but could not put the ball away. Then Brazil got a beautiful long ball out of the backfield that dropped perfectly in front of one of their forwards as he broke for the net. One on one with the keeper, he was able to score. For most of the rest of the match, the Canadians continued to control the ball, but were unable to score until they received a penalty kick to tie the score. They then went on to survive several shots on goal by Brazil in the closing minutes and held on for the tie, which left both teams pretty happy. In the stands, the Brazilians were teaching some of the Russian fans the samba . . . international cultural exchanges at its finest!

While at times we have experienced challenges in getting what we and our student-athletes need, our Russian hosts have for the most part been courteous and helpful. In fact, at the Information Center in the Main International Center, I experienced more issues with other delegations being rude than the volunteer staff (I won’t mention any names, but their initials are DPRK). I am sure that the volunteers have to deal with challenges that are “not in the book,” and do so with a positive attitude, and attempt to solve problems.

Steve Kelley continues to write great columns, which get to the heart of these Games and our student athletes. One of his more recent ones celebrates the presence of NCAA Division III Springfield College as the United States team in men’s volleyball, chosen when more high-profile programs were unable to attend. As someone who works at the Division III level, I am somewhat partial to his point of view:

http://www.wugusa.com/usa-mens-volleyball-team-winners-while-losing-to-russians/

Speaking of Division III University of La Verne . . . I have, as I did in Shenzhen, hung a University of La Verne flag from my dorm window. Additionally, I brought an American flag that I received when I attended a Casa Colina event, and it hangs in our athletic training room and our other Assistant Athletic Trainer, Michael Hoang, carried it in the Opening Ceremonies.

Medical note: I was having some trouble with my eyes – kind of dry and irritated – so I visited the Polyclinic on site. In the process of checking things out, they conducted an eye exam, which I thought was going to be quite a challenge when they showed me the equivalent of the Snellen Eye chart – except the letters were in Cyrillic script! Fortunately, they instead assessed me with projected numbers, which were not a problem. Eventually, they decided I had dry-eye, gave me some eye drops (no charge), and all is well.

Finally, this is a big “shout out” to my family, especially my wife, Jenn. Today is our 21st anniversary and here I am, half a world away (as I was in 2009 in Belgrade). Hazel reminds me that when Leroy first asked me to join the team in 2009 for the Belgrade Universiade, my first response was, “I need to check with my wife” (good answer!). I appreciate her love and support in allowing me to follow my dream of being part of an international sporting event as an athletic trainer, as well as looking after the boys – no small task!

Love you, Jenn!

 

 

Related posts:

  1. HMO, Team USA
  2. A World of Experience
  3. Paul Alvarez’s Universiade blog
  4. Lifetime Achievement
  5. Diamonds In The Rough

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