Ogonna Nnamani: Pan Am Diary

Oct. 7, 2003

I was blessed this summer with the wonderful opportunity of representingthe United States Volleyball Team at the XVII Pan American Games in SantoDomingo, Dominican Republic. Like the Olympic games, the Pan American Gamesare held every four years. However, unlike the Olympics, the Pan AmericanGames only include athletes from the Caribbean, North, Central, and SouthAmerica.

After two months of vigorous training at the Olympic TrainingCenter at Colorado Springs, Colorado, I was selected as a member of thetraveling team. The members of our traveling team were individuals whoexemplified hard work, athleticism, and skill. Our coaching staff washighlighted by our very own Denise Corlett who brought an amazing amount ofinternational experience and knowledge of the game to the table.

A week after our team was selected, we were on our way to the DominicanRepublic. We traveled to Tampa, Florida for processing. In Tampa, we wereissued a plethora of gear including outfits for the opening, awards, andclosing ceremonies. It felt like Christmas in July! It was also in Tampawhere the Stanford reunions began! It started out with seeing JoshChildress (basketball) in the gear issuing room, spotting Jackie Frank,Brenda Villa and Ellen Estes (Water Polo) in the lobby, and hanging outwith Danny Putnam (baseball) in the cafeteria. It was so exciting to meetup with all of these phenomenal athletes, from across the country, in oneday.

The next day we all boarded a private charter plane for the DominicanRepublic. Once the plane door opened upon arrival, we all felt a gush ofhot and humid air. From there, we knew that we have arrived! In SantoDomingo, the average temperature was around 85 degrees Fahrenheit alongwith 83 percent humidity. After going through customs, we all hopped on abus to the Pan American Village located in the outskirts of Santo Domingo.The Pan American Village was absolutely incredible. The village housed5,000 athletes and 2,000 technical directors. Thirty-five thousand visitorsstopped by the Pan American Village as well. Each country was housed inseparate sections of the village, however all delegations convened at thedining hall, post office, telephone booths, and transportation areas. I canhonestly say that I have never used the phrase 'Non comprende' as manytimes as I did in the Dominican.

The day after travel, we had practice at our venue. When we entered thegymnasium, I felt like I was at a sauna. It was so hot! Unfortunately, airconditioning was nowhere in sight. Our practices went well, and we reallyenjoyed preparing for competition. After our first day of practice, we allwent back and showered, even though that did not seem to help because wewere constantly sweating, and got ready for the opening ceremonies in theCentro Villa. Opening ceremonies were amazing! It was the greatest feelingto march out with the United States Delegation and wave to sold out crowdof cheering people. The opening ceremonies were highlighted by PedroMartinez hitting a flamed baseball into the torch pit, at this very specialmoment, the 2003 Pan American games were underway!

A few days later our venue began. It was a highly competitive venue. ThePan American region has some of the strongest volleyball teams in theworld. We survived a week of pool play, and went on to the medal round bydefeating Venezuela. During our downtime (after matches and practices) wewould attend different venues and hang out in the village with otherathletes. I really enjoyed hanging out and chatting with Jessica Mendoza(softball), Tony Azcevedo (water polo), Peter Marshall (swimming), KristinHeaston (our weightraining coach at Stanford), Laura Davis (swimming), DanaKirk (swimming), Kristen Caverly (swimming) and numerous of otherincredible athletes from a multitude of sports.

Our next match was against defending Gold medalist Cuba. We were unable tokeep up with them, and faced the defeat. However we were still in the medalhunt and Brazil was in our way of that goal---the bronze. We came into thematch well prepared, and the match ran smoothly and we were able to beatBrazil in 4 sets for the Bronze medal in front of a sell out crowd.

The gold medal match featured the formidable Cubans and the hometown heroines -the Dominicans. It was a hard fought match, highlighted by pepper spray andtear gas (which postponed the match for an hour), and sheer athleticism.The Dominicans were able to upset the Cubans in five grueling sets for thevictory. It was an honor to be on the medal stand that evening, standingwith some of the best volleyball players in the world. Right afterreceiving our Bronze medals, we hopped on a bus to the airport to catch the1:30 am charter flight to Miami, Florida.

Looking retrospectively, all I can say about the trip is WOW! What an adventurous trip! It was one of thegreatest athletic experiences that I have ever had but I could not wait toget back to Stanford and start the volleyball season with my amazingteammates and coaches.

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