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Postcards From the Pool: Short Course Worlds Blog #1

12/11/2012

By Matt Whewell//USA Swimming PR & Digital Communications Coordinator

USA Swimming’s Matt Whewell is with the U.S. Short Course World Championship Team in Istanbul, Turkey. Matt is the media liaison for the team and will be blogging about his experience throughout the duration of the competition.

We’re back at it again. This time it’s from Istanbul, Turkey for the 11th FINA Swimming World Championships (25m). Hopefully over the next five days I can give you a behind-the-scenes look into what goes on at a major international meet. Please feel free to tweet us so we can get your feedback.

The team left the U.S. on December 7 and arrived early the next day due to the 20-plus hour travel and time change. I left Colorado Springs on December 9 and arrived around 10 a.m. local time on December 10.

My trip started off on a great note (well, not exactly). I first got a two hour delay at the Colorado Springs airport, which led to a full sprint from Gate B88 to Gate B36 in the Denver airport in order to make my connection. Thankfully, the flight from Denver to Newark was the start of some smooth sailing. After getting the chance to do some media guide work on the plane and watching a bunch of movies, I landed in Istanbul.

I went through Passport Control, got my bags and then searched for a FINA Welcoming Desk. I found it just outside of baggage claim. The person at the desk helped me with my bags and took me to the FINA Transportation desk. This is where it got pretty cool.

When I’m traveling as part of the Team USA, even though I’m not an athlete or coach and am a press liaison, I never expect to get special treatment. After going through some back-and-forth questioning, two police officers came up and stood by me. It kind of freaked me out but once given the word, they walked me out to a van and got in their police car. I asked myself, “Am I really getting a police escort to my hotel?” I think they must have gotten me confused for Michael Phelps.

After getting to the hotel, I checked in and waited for the team to arrive from morning practice. I knew they had an adventure planned at 1 p.m. and I didn’t want to miss it. The adventure was a tour of Istanbul’s Old City. Our tour guide, Atik, was very thorough with the history of the city as we drove to visit Topkapi Palace, the Sultanahmet Mosque (Blue Mosque), and a nearby bazaar. It was pretty cool and some pictures can be seen on USA Swimming’s Facebook page.

After the tour, we headed back to the hotel to rest up for the last day of pre-competition practice. I hadn’t slept since leaving America so I was a bit tired. After grabbing a bite to eat, I went up to the room and within minutes of hitting the pillow I was out.

It was Tuesday morning when I woke up from my sleeping coma. After getting ready, I wandered down to the breakfast area so I could get on the shuttle by 8:30 a.m. I hadn’t gone to the pool yet so this was my first trip.

After battling rush hour traffic, we arrived at the pool. I followed the team into the venue since they knew where to go. Once they got in the water, I decided to do some investigative work and locate all the areas that I may need to go: warm-up pool, press workroom, massage area and my work office - the Mixed Zone (MZ).

After hitting the MZ, I ran into a couple media folk that had expressed interest in a few swimmers. It was nice to catch up with them for a bit since the last time I saw them was in London. A few minutes later, I went to keep my eye on Conor Dwyer, Becca Mann and Anthony Ervin. Each finished their practice and followed me down to the mixed zone. I gave them a quick tour and run through of how they’ll do things after they swim and then watched them as they did a couple of interviews.

Once practice was over, we all boarded the bus and headed back to the hotel. I had a couple hours to rest up and get some emails done that had come in overnight since we’re seven hours ahead of the folk on the east coast and nine hours ahead of the people back in the office.

At 4:30 p.m., we had a team meeting. The meeting began with our team manager, Brandon Drawz, who shared important information with the team and was followed up by our National Team Director, Frank Busch, who give a riveting speech about what makes ‘you’ proud and how we can come together as a team and make our country proud. It felt a bit like the Herb Brooks speech from “Miracle On Ice”.

Then we were off to the pool again.

We arrived at the pool and I immediately followed Brandon through a walk-through of the path swimmers will take during competition. We went through the many ready rooms, walked up to the deck, exited the deck and went to the mixed zone, talked about how things will happen in that area, then returned to the starting point near the lockers. Now it was practice time.

As the team practiced, I decided to walk around the venue and take pictures. Check out USA Swimming’s Facebook page for that album. It was a quick practice so the majority of the team swam in the morning.

After grabbing a bite to eat with some team members, I headed to my room to do some work. I posted the venue pictures, put the final touches on the media guide, got a timeline for the evening sessions and then decided to report my first two days with the team (which you are reading now).

With the five-day competition beginning tomorrow, great things are ahead for Team USA. We have a lot of experience on this squad and the leadership is some of the best I’ve seen. I’m looking forward to reporting each night of the great things we do. Stay tuned…