This week, I will be blogging from the 2010 World Championships in Chengdu China. Wondering where Chengdu is? Look pretty much on the opposite side of the globe from the United States, and that will put you fairly close!
As a disclaimer, I just traveled over 26 hours and 8500 miles so my writing may not be 100% up to snuff today!
The trip over here started on Sunday morning. With about 26 hours of travel, I made the decision to invest in a hotwire hotel room next to the Denver airport (we have to fly out of Denver because of the guns) which turned out to be a good call. My 7am wakeup allowed me the most possible sleep before my 8:20am flight. And with the length of the trip and the short adjustment before competing (we will be here less than 36 hours before the competition), every bit of sleep counts.
Aside from some problems with seat assignments, things went relatively peacefully for the first 18 hours of travel to Beijing. We knew ahead of time that there might be problems because we had only a two hour layover and our flight to Chengdu was on a separate ticket. The problems started almost immediately when we landed. Even though our bags had been ticketed all the way to Chengdu, we had to find them in the Beijing airport and recheck them. Normally this would not be a problem, but the Chinese have a little thing about guns… even air guns.
Four out of our five bags made it through the x-ray machine without a problem, but they saw the gun in the fifth bag. Since all of our equipment bags look the same, it did not take the security folks long to realize that there were probably more where that one came from. This created the scene that I call the “dead alien” scenario. A bunch of security personnel standing around looking at competition guns like they are dead aliens. Lots of poking, lots of prodding, lots of picking them up and questioning what they are. And lots of lost time. It became apparent that we were going to miss our flight if they did not release us soon, but the Chinese don’t have much of a sense of urgency about things like this. So in a final desperate attempt to make the flight, we left Janusz (coach) with all the guns and dashed off to our connection to Chengdu. The gamble paid off and we barely made our connection. Surprisingly, so did our luggage. After about 26 hours of travel, we landed in Chengdu and quickly made it back to the hotel.
This morning, we caught the only bus to the competition venue to get in a short run and swim. I was excited to see the venue here as I have heard a lot about it. A while ago, a friend told me that China had invested around $20M US dollars into the location. I had seen some pictures and a video online before I came here, and they failed to do it justice. (I will try to post my own video tomorrow). When we arrived at the venue, it was truly breathtaking. This brand new facility was built just for pentathlon and is a world-leader in quality facilities. The swimming and fencing are in one large room. There are actually three 50M pools in the building, one of which is covered with the fencing strips. Next to the swimming/fencing building is the equestrian/combined center. Also on site are stables and a media center. An athlete hotel (about 10 stories tall) will be constructed in the next build-out. After taking it all in, I asked someone if it really cost $20M to build and found out I was way off. As it turns out, it is closer to an $80-100M facility.
The rest of today will be filled with repacking our bags for the competition tomorrow and checking to make sure that we have everything. Tomorrow is the men’s qualification round. The top 36 men tomorrow will advance to the finals on Friday. Women compete in qualification on Thursday and finals on Saturday. We compete in relays on Sunday and Monday with our flight home Tuesday and Wednesday. I will try to update my blog every day while I am here, but if you want up to the minute results, you can find them at www.cardsys.hu.