As the athletes of the 21st Winter Olympiad prepare for the sporting moments of their lives, one thing’s for sure: They all need to eat. After winning two gold medals in the Beijing Olympics for swimming, I know firsthand what the athletes of Team USA are about to experience as they fuel their bodies to win gold in Vancouver.
Over the years, I’d heard stories of the mounds of food, huge seating areas, desserts in droves and strangely, McDonald’s. So when I approached the dining hall of the Olympic village in Beijing for the first time, my heart began to pound harder and faster in anticipation. It was if I were witnessing the parting of the Red Sea when the hall’s sliding doors opened. Eyes wide, I was in awe of the rainbow of color and commotion. One foot in front of the
other, I walked into this massive structure that seemed as big as two football fields.
Surrounding me were all the colors of the rainbow. At the Olympics, each country’s perfectly tuned athletes are draped in clothes that feature the colors and insignias of their homeland. Forget deciphering where you were based solely on the language. There were too many to have any idea what you were listening to.
Fellow University of Texas swimmer and three-time Olympian Ian Crocker told me that when you first arrive in the Olympic village, you’ll walk around completely on a high for the first couple days. He was right \u2026 at least on an emotional level.
But my purpose in Beijing jolted me back to reality like I’d been grabbed by an internal force with the power of Goliath. It told me, “Hey, buddy, you’re here to take care of business, and you can’t afford to expend this much emotional energy on the simple act of eating.” Through my nose I inhaled a deep breath of surprisingly clean Beijing air, and as the carbon dioxide left my mouth, so did the excitement. Now my mind-set was right: I came to Beijing to win gold medals no time for people-watching.
I began my search for the food my body required for maximum performance. The difficulty was where to begin. I turned on cruise control and began to peruse the massive dining hall. Cruise control? Think again. This was no open highway, but rather a New York City street during rush-hour traffic, much like the athletes in Vancouver will face in their own dining halls.
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