USOEC, Austria, Czech Republic report 2009
The United States Olympic Education Center (USOEC) freestyle resident athlete program participated in two training camps in Europe during Northern Michigan University’s winter break from December 11-22, 2009. The first training camp was held in Gotzis, Austria at the Ringsport training center and the second camp was held in Prague, Czech Republic (Czech). This is the second year the USOEC freestyle team, a USA Wrestling resident athlete program, participated in the Austrian Christmas Trainingscamp and the first year the team trained in Czech led by Coach Shannyn J. Gillespie and Coach Tony DeAnda.
In the past, daily journals and articles have been written in broader terms about the international trips I attend. This year, I’ve decided to create more of a picture, literally, so you can feel like you were there and experience the images we felt. For a more intimate look at these experiences, please view the videos enclosed in this blog for training drills & pictures captured with a digital video camera and a still picture camera…below is a written summary of events of the trips to Europe and the training camps.
To begin, 16 athletes and coaches were supposed to meet in Atlanta, GA to board a flight planned for Zurich, Switzerland…this did not happen. So instead of everyone meeting up in Atlanta, one group (6 people) was delayed and never made it to Georgia while the largest group (10 people) to fly to Switzerland arrived on schedule with no plane problems nor delays. Coach Tony phoned Coach Shannyn and explained his group of 6 would fly an alternate route and he emailed Bruno Hartmann, our host and National Team Coach of Austrian’s women wrestlers, his new flight plan.
To end, 7 athletes and one coach left at around 3:00 am for the hour drive to the airport in Switzerland to board flights back to the States for earlier flights and to supervise navigation to flights. Just as chance dictates, 3 USOEC resident athletes flights were canceled and had to be re-booked immediately.
Apparently, there was a snow storm that encompassed most of Europe and some folks had been stranded at airports in Switzerland, Amsterdam, England, and many other European nations for 2 days. Luckily, we were able to get Erin, Anneliese, and Andrea on new flights and on their way back home for the holiday season. Traveling abroad is always an adventure due to the nature of uncontrollable events like plane troubles, weather, connecting flights and this trip proved this point.
This year, 3 high school athletes (Brittany, MI; Casey, WI; & Kim, PA) from around the USA also trained in Europe with the USOEC team to gain invaluable experiences and memories for a life time. The USOEC program is changing the program status to train only high school residents that live in the area, thus, the reason why high schoolers were given this opportunity.
At the Austrian Christmas Trainingscamp 2009, there were 38 athletes from 9 countries: USA, Austria, Germany, Norway, Sweden, Italy, Russia, Czech Republic, & Switzerland. The range of ages was 14-26 which meant there were cadet, junior, and senior age group wrestlers present. Just like last year, there were Sr. European and Jr. World medallists in attendance and 4 Sr. National Team coaches as well.
A world with out Internet is scary unless you never really use the Internet. Well, most of the athletes that traveled on this trip were welcomed to very sparse conditions for getting on line and checking ‘Facebook’, emails, and anything on the world wide web. Most of the athletes went through Internet withdrawal and survived till we traveled to Czech which, amazingly, had a restaurant (we ate there 3 times per day) which was Wi-Fi ready.
What many of the athletes did (when we were not training) was take a lot of pictures in Historic Prague, shop at the Christmasmarkets in Austria, and socialize with the many different nations of wrestlers in attendance. This is good to take a break from the web and actually learn a little about other nations, other people and yourself…
In the various video interviews volunteered by athletes, I learned this camp was much more intensive than last year’s version. Veterans from Austrian Christmas Trainingscamp 2008 mentioned there definitely was a lot more wrestling this year. I noticed this too and also that we wrestled live nearly every session except for the first day and the ‘holiday’. Holidays, in this context, are known as the half days, recovery days, or rest days.
By the time we traveled to Czech, the athletes were tired and really in need of some other type of training stimulus. So, the Czech coach, Ludek, and the Austrian resident coach, Vitaliy, scaled down the live wrestling and focused on very intensive games like tackle basketball and full contact rugby mixed in with one technique per session. This seemed to work on the eighth and ninth days of training so I followed their lead. On the last day we were to train, I asked the team if they would rather train or eat breakfast and drive back 8 hours to Austria and you can guess what this tired and deserving group selected.
As mentioned earlier, this was the second year the USOEC freestylers traveled to Europe for training and many things were learned by both the coaches and the athletes. For a more in depth multi-media portrayal of this journey, please scroll to the bottom of this page.
In that digital media, you may be able to grasp the magnitude of the training centers’ and the facilities as a whole. The Austrian training center has approximately 2.5 wrestling mats and is also equipped with exercise equipment plus several different types of training stations that include: weights, ropes to climb, and circuit training apparatuses. The Czech wrestling room was 4 mats long and also had similar training implements listed above plus a basketball hoop or rim set up for cross training right in the wrestling gym; Austria also had a hoop set up at the Ringsport training center.
Having coaches (wrestlers too) from many different nations at the same camp is one of the main reasons international training camps are special. You or I can learn a lot if we choose to and I chose to learn a lot.
Here are some of the things gleaned from the European coaches corp:
- Austrian club coach (Russian native): Arsen said wrestling is very popular in the Republic of Dagestan (Russia) with roughly 3000 boys (amount of Jr. National participants) training in freestyle wrestling; discipline among athletes is less than before the break up the Soviet Union.
- Austrian resident coach (Ukrainian native): Vitaliy explained input from all coaches is critical to success of international training camps; Azerbaijan has a lot of oil and may be a big influence on FILA
- Swedish national coaches: Fari (Iranian native) has coached many of Sweden’s elite younger athletes for 7 years and now coaches as National team coach and Klippan club coach
- German national coach (formerly the German men’s national coach): Michael demonstrated several neck exercises all of which are captured on video
- Czech national coach: Ludek showed a variety of warm ups and line drills also captured via video & photos
- Austrian national coach: Bruno expressed his concern for what he felt was a lack of equality for men’s and women’s conditions for wrestling in Austria
From Vitaliy, I also learned that driving in Russia is dangerous due to the small lane assignments. He went on to explain that the driving speed limit in Austria and Germany is not really enforced like it is is Switzerland and also that the lights on the cars must be left on while driving in Switzerland for safety reasons. Because of the sickness of a driver, I drove back 8 hours from Czech following Vitaliy at speeds ranging from 120 – 170 kilometers per hour or 75 – 105 mph.
It was really cold in Czech and the athletes, perhaps, were under dressed during the walking tour through the medieval streets of Historic Prague. This adventure to many picturesque sights outside was spectacular and freezing. At one point, I stopped taking pictures because my hands no longer had feeling. Many of the athletes cameras actually stopped working due to the cold air. Historic Prague reminded me of viewing Washington, DC in my youth due to the masses of people outside taking pictures and viewing buildings that seemed as old as time.
After viewing St. Nicolas Church, the Charles Bridge and the Prague Castle at Historic Prague, led by 4 coaches, we were ultimately split up indirectly and probably because of the cold weather. Nonetheless, 2 coaches were with 11 athletes who eventually took cabs to the Czech training center and 2 coaches with 5 athletes took the reverse original route to return and this is where the story gets interesting.
Just like in most major cities in the U.S., the cab drivers tend to charge more than they should to make an immorally large profit off of patrons. To make a long story short, the Czech cab drivers over charged the cold athletes while driving them back to the training center. Ultimately, the money was retrieved (probably because the athletes took pictures of the license plates – good job ladies!!!) from the bad cab drivers and some of the cash was dispersed back to the athletes prior to departing back to the States.
Because I grew up and lived in Chicagoland, I’ve learned to negotiate all drives via cabs prior to leaving the spot or location of pick up and now many of the athletes have learned this too. I suspect many of the athletes, who drove in the cabs, rarely if ever drove in cabs.
The last night in Austria, we actually went on another sight seeing venture. This time, of course, the weather was much warmer (probably by 15 degrees) and the athletes were able to purchase last minute gifts for themselves, friends, or family. Also on the last night, Bruno treated us to Hungarian goulash. Amazingly, the meal was great and many of the traveling wrestlers also agreed.
Europe has changed a lot and now there are McDonald’s and Burger King’s nearly everywhere. We ate at several of these fast food places while traveling to and from Czech and at the airport in Amsterdam too. Also, there are many different types of coffee places which sell espressos and, just like in the States, they also have Starbucks…one of my favorites.
The beginning of this trip, the middle, and the end all dealt with travel issues. Well, Brittany and I actually had to stay over night in Milwaukee due to the late landing of our flight from Amsterdam. On our way to the States, Brittany, Casey, and Patricia were able to connect to the Internet in Amsterdam to explain we might miss our flight in the States and probably about much of their trips.
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