Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Hit The Ground Running

(FISA Olympic Continental Qualification Regatta For Asia
Shanghai Water Sports Complex
April 25-27, 2008)

Off to Shanghai: I was pleasantly surprised that I breezed through check-in and immigration. I was quite prepared for a repeat experience of that trip last December where delays after delays happened. And where I traveled all alone, sans my accreditation card, feeling lost and confused amidst the SEA Games confusion.

I still couldn’t quite forget that missing accreditation. For whatever reason, they seemed to have lost all the documents that our national federation’s president previously submitted. I arrived in Bangkok with no accreditation card waiting for me. I had to stay long at the SEA Games information center at the airport while they tried to figure out what to do with me. I had to travel alone with a sleepy driver at past 2:00am to Patayya. I had to wait quite a while again for them to assign me my room at the hotel (because not one staff was at the hotel reception when I arrived). I was lost, sleepy, tired, and totally confused as to how messed up everything seemed to be.

I’m still technically a newbie in this international umpiring role. For years, I was an athlete. I traveled as a part of a team. I got used to everything being arranged for us already.

My FISA Umpire license, I guess, officially closed that chapter of my life and opened a new one. For one, James, Mark and I wouldn’t be doing umpiring duties all together. This means, there’ll be a lot of traveling…alone. And more importantly, it also often means hitting the ground running.

I think that it was in my last umpiring stint that it really dawned on me that an athlete’s life is by far the “easiest” during competitions. Because as an athlete, there’s really not much else to do but focus on the game and give 100% to that few minutes in which a year’s worth of preparation boils down to. Apart from that, an athlete’s mind has to be free of distractions. Everyone takes care of the athlete. No detail is so small just to ensure that each athlete competes in the best possible conditions.

So, with that “traumatic” experience still fresh in memory, I was fully prepared for the worst in Shanghai. This is probably why I was thrilled that my trip seemed to be seamlessly easy. From the check-in at NAIA (now I have my travel tax exemption ready), to the flight itself, everything was a breeze. This time, the flight was not delayed, there were no changes in the assigned boarding gate (we were not asked to transfer from one gate to another), and I arrived in Shanghai 30 minutes earlier than schedule.

I think it was midnight when I finally cleared immigration there (again, everything was quick and smooth). I was a bit worried no one would be there to pick me up (I was already thinking of Plan A down to Z). As soon as I emerged from the arrival, I saw the guy holding the big sign which says “FISA Olympic Continental Qualification Regatta Jury Members”. I breathed a huge sigh of relief and with a big smile approached the guy. As it turned out, I have two escorts, the driver and the representative from the organizing committee, who speaks English quite fluently. And that really made me happy.

My final destination is supposedly 1.5 hours away from Shanghai. We reached the hotel only about an hour after leaving the airport. Talk about flying on wheels. I was sleepy, a bit tired and ready to wait it out at the lobby. But to my surprise (again), Nick (our official liaison officer) was there waiting for me. I got my kit, with my accreditation ID, plus everything else. He took care of check-in and escorted me to my room. It was already 1:45am and I was thinking I’ll finally be able to get a good sleep when Nick told me I have to be finished with breakfast and ready at the lobby by 7:45 as all the umpires who have already checked-in will have a jury meeting at the venue plus other technical check-ups to do. Whew. I was suddenly worried I’d sleep through the alarm.

At exactly 7:40am Koji-san (Japan), Azuma-san (Japan), Tat Yeo (Singapore), Smita (India) and I were already on the bus. All dressed in FISA Umpire’s uniforms. All ready way before the scheduled time of pick-up from the hotel. All prepared to do what needs to be done.

Mike Tanner (FISA Events Commission Chair), Guylaine Bernier (FISA Umpiring Commission Continental Representative for North America), Nicholas Ee (FISA Umpiring Comission Continental Representative for Asia), Dr. Peter Kokas (FISA Medical Commission) and the other three Chinese FISA Umpires were already there.

The whole morning was for Jury meeting, orientation of the venue, and checking the minutest details for the next day’s technical rehearsal.

Once again, I couldn’t help but think that FISA Umpires have OC tendencies.

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