Postcards from Athens: August 20-24

Former Yale track star Kate O'Neill '03 is one of 11 Bulldogs in Athens for the 2004 Olympics. O'Neill will compete in the 10K on August 27, and is keeping an on-line journal for yalebulldogs.com to document her experience. August 20th Today I took the day off from running in order to rest my legs for next week's race. Because we had more free time than usual, my sister (Laura '03) and I decided to sight see for a few hours. We took a bus to the Palace of Knossos -- home of the legendary King Minos, the Labyrinth with its Minotaur, and the winged escape of Daedalus and Icarus. Afterward, we visted the Iraklion Archaeological Museum. The Museum houses frescoes and other objects that were removed from Knossos by early archaeologists. It also had a special exhibit on sports in Ancient Greece. I do not think that I would have enjoyed any of the sports that the exhibit described! One of them was called bull leaping. A contestant would run toward a bull, reach for the bull's horns as he approached its head, grab the horns, and then flip himself over the length of the bull's back! I think I will stick to distance running! When we returned to the hotel, we met up with our coach, Mark Young '68. He had arrived in Crete a few hours earlier. I feel very lucky that he has made the trip out here to help me train and offer last-minute advice. After dinner, the three of us watched the Olympic coverage with all of the athletes who are still on Crete. Tonight was the the first night of the running events. We watched part of the women's heptathlon, the first round of the women's 800 meter, the men's 10K, and the first round of the women's 5K. Watching the first running events somehow made my participation in the Olympics seem more "real" to me. Until then, my race just seemed like a distant dream. It was more like a fantasy than reality. August 22nd I did my last long interval workout today. Laura and I began running on the track at 6pm, just as the women's marathon was beginning. (We wanted to watch it, but workouts come first!) While we warmed up, Mark and the team doctor found a television in an office at the track. After we finished warming up, Mark was able to give us an update on the race, but it was still too early to make any conclusions. When we arrived at the hotel after the workout, the marathon was just ending. We asked the first person we saw for the results. She told us that the three medalists were Mizuki Noguchi of Japan, Catherine Ndereba of Ethiopia and Elfenesh Alemu of Ethiopia. A minute later, someone else told us that these results were incorrect. Deena Drossin of the USA had actually won the bronze by passing Alemu with last than half a mile left in the race. We were amazed! She had moved up several spots since we had left the track 20 minutes earlier. We later learned that she had run the second half the race 38 seconds faster than any of her competitors! Her bronze is only the third medal by an American distance woman. Deena is an extremely dedicated and hard-working athlete. Seeing her accomplish such a feat is an inspiration. August 24th I left Crete today with Elva Dryer (my teammate in the 10K), a high jumper, and two race walkers. The only athletes left on Crete now are the men in the marathon. We have all been leaving on different days, depending on our race schedules. I was sad to leave Crete, but also excited to return to the excitement of the Olympic Village! Only three more days until the women's 10K...

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