I’d drive 5 hours to see Carly Patterson…
In fact I just did!

Courage is resistance to fear,
mastery of fear
– not absence of fear

Mark Twain

October 7. Thursday.

5 hours in a car sounds like a lot, but if you are on your way to see Olympic Champion gymnastics it is a small price to pay. We left our place at about 6am hoping to beat the traffic and motored along the 407 making it almost to Niagara Falls before either of us were really awake. To my horror (or misdirection) I missed the Triscuit factory once we crossed the border and ended up doing a little loop around some very ugly neighbourhood in Niagara Falls USA to get back on track. The traffic started to get thicker as we approached Buffalo, but we found out it was actually due to an accident rather than rush hour and within moments we were heading across I90 towards our first stop at the Service Station. We passed through the tolls and the familiar countryside of rural New York passed by with alarming speed. We crossed over into Pennsylvania and after what seemed like an eternity (PA always passes slowly for some reason) we reached the Ohio border and set our sights on the home of the Browns.

Our hotel was located very close to the highway and was actually joined to a shopping mall which in turn was linked to the Gund Arena via a pedestrian tunnel meaning we could get there and back without having to go outside past the peddlers and crowds waiting at the bus terminal. We decided that first we would check out the facilities, having noted that they were claiming to have a pool and workout facilities but as it turned out, both were fairly disappointing which led us to decide that the Cleveland Renaissance would not receive a repeat visit from us. Back in our room we relaxed for a while then decided to head out and get a coffee and a snack at the coffee shop across the street which turned out to be more of a head high counter from where they dispensed cups so you could get your own urn brewed coffee… Tim Horton’s is was not, nor indeed the Dunkin’ Donuts equivalent for which I was hoping. We wandered up and down Ontario Street for a few minutes in an effort to get our bearings and to locate the Gund Arena from the outside which we were able to do after several wrong turns. The weather was nice, however we elected to spend most of the afternoon cruising the mall and having some lunch at the Japanese restaurant in the food court. We found an Abercrombie and Fitch and both discovered that their clothing was not favourable to either of our body types and that the reason so many people wear their stuff is still relatively a mystery.

Evening came quickly and with plenty of time to spare we set off for the arena. Once there, we managed to sneak in the camera without a problem but then discovered that Nicole had forgotten to bring her glasses… So with 45 minutes to go, we scampered back to the hotel, retrieved the glasses then hunted down the nice guy who let us leave only to have the camera discovered… Typically as it turns out in Ohio good naturedness, he told us we would not be allowed to use it, but let us go ahead with it anyway. The seats, as I had hoped, were front row center, in fact if we had been any closer we would have been in the show. We were so close in fact that Dominique Moceanu had seats 2 rows back from ours!

The show itself was just spectacular and if anyone has a chance to go see it I would highly recommend it. Even though I have been around gymnastics and high level athletes for a long time, some of the things these young women were doing were nothing short of astounding. There were both artistic and rhythmic gymnasts, male and female, and also trampoline Olympic Champions. Of course, Carly Patterson was there much to the delight of the screaming girls in the crowd, and even though the Hamm brothers were not there, Jason Gatson’s arms made up for it. There was much floor work, some bars and beam and some incredible work from the guys with two hanging panels of material which they used like a mixture of rings and something out of Cirque Du Soleil. There was also a touching tribute to three wonderful Special Olympics gymnasts whose determination and obvious enjoyment was a real treat. I have to say for me the highlight was seeing Carly Patterson do her Olympic floor routine since it was such a dramatic sight in Greece. Seeing her up close like that is probably the closest I will get to seeing the Olympics themselves and it left an indelible impression in my memory.

It was late by the time we got back to the hotel and knowing that we were going to be leaving at 6am there was only one thing that we could do – order pizza!!!