Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Olympic Wrap Up

It is hard to believe that the Olympics are over! Most of us family and friends headed home a week ago Sunday, 2/28. Our men’s curling team came home on 3/1 so that they could participate in the Closing Ceremonies. After a year of preparation and planning, the two weeks of the Olympics flew by.

While the competitive results were not what we had hoped for, we are proud of our guys and how they represented the U.S. Not many athletes have the opportunity to represent their country in the Olympic Games. We are grateful and proud that our family members had such an opportunity.

As you can imagine, there has been a roller coaster of emotions throughout the two weeks at the Games and even upon our return home. The high of being at the Olympics, the low of watching our guys lose in such close games, the joy of seeing them win, the excitement to share with family and friends…it was all there. Upon returning home, we are grateful for the support of the curling community and fans, and encouraged by the growth in popularity of the game we love.

We have all been enriched by this experience. We’ve gained new friends, grown to appreciate even more our families and friends, and have a deeper understanding of what the Olympics are all about. Meeting athletes and families from different sports and countries was an unexpected gift. To share in their Olympic experience was incredible!

Thank you to the city of Vancouver, the Olympic Committee, the thousands of volunteers, and the people on the trains, buses, and street corners who were so hospitable and welcoming. We were overwhelmed by your kindness and support of the Games, the athletes, and families.

A special thank you to Proctor and Gamble for sponsoring the Family Home and the Thanks Mom Program. None of us could have anticipated what a special gift the P & G Home was and what an important part it would play in our time in Vancouver. It was truly amazing. Please support P & G product lines as they supported our U.S. Olympic athletes. Next time you shop, look for these brands: Tide, Safeguard, Pampers, Ariel, Always, Tampax, Whisper, Pantene, Mach3, Bounty, Dawn, Gain, Pringles, Charmin, Downy, Cascade, lams, Crest, Oral-B, Actonel, Duracell, Olay, Head & Shoulders, Wella, Gillette, Braun, and Fusion or the P & G distribution label.

And finally, thank you all for your support this year and throughout our time at the Olympics, it truly was the experience of a lifetime! Glad you came along with us!

Carrie Benton

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Tourists for the Day - Submitted by Carrie

Many of the families and friends spent today touring the city of Vancouver and Whistler. It was nice to have an entire day to explore at our leisure.

Those who spent the day in Vancouver shopped, had lunch, and shopped some more. Those who visited Whistler took the long bus ride up the mountain and enjoyed great scenery. Whistler is quite expensive, so not as much shopping there as in the city!

At the end of the day, several members of our curling “family” ended up at the USA House which is a venue exclusively for Olympians past and present. Each Olympian is allowed 4 guest passes per day. Again, similar to the P & G house, the hospitality there was incredible with full bar and food service all day. Among the sponsors of the USA House are AT&T, Hilton, Coca Cola, Nike, and McDonalds. The entire team ended up meeting at the USA House after the busy day and were able to meet several Olympians.

Some members of the Curling Team were able to attend the USA vs. Switzerland hockey game. Very fun time! Other members chose to take in the curling tiebreaker game between Great Britain and Sweden in which Sweden defeated the defending World Champions to knock them out of the medal round.

Another busy day in Vancouver…just taking it all in!


Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Day After - Submitted by Carrie

Our Olympic Curling competition ended yesterday with two more losses. The guys are down, but grateful for this incredible experience. With the competition over for them, we will now be able to spend some time with them. Time with family and friends has been very limited for the athletes. We’ve seen the guys twice in over a week.

Each of the families has been spending time exploring the city. Of course we’ve all visited the Olympic Torch. The other places we’ve visited include Stanley Park, Granville Island, and the Vancouver Aquarium. Of course we’ve shopped for official Olympic souvenirs at any given opportunity as well with the USA Store and Hudson Bay Company store receiving nice chunks of our tourist cash!

While we are no longer in competition, it is fun to watch all of the different athletes competing in various sports. We’ve met so many people from all over the world. Today at lunch we met the parents of two of the Swedish women curlers. We also ran into a contingent of athletes from Poland at the Aquarium. The Vancouver Aquarium, by the way, is a fabulous place to visit!

Of course we’ve met many notable U.S. athletes as well. It is neat to share in the excitement of their families as they prepare for their events. It really brings the personal side of competition to life when you meet the wives, husbands, sons, daughters, and parents of these athletes. Everyone is so filled with pride for the accomplishment of a family member being on the U.S. Olympic Team. No matter the results of the competition, all of these athletes are winners!


Monday, February 22, 2010

A Busy Sunday - Submitted by Carrie

While we had just one curling game today, our day was full of surprises and fun times. We had a tight game against Great Britain this afternoon. Our lineup was changed a bit again today as we had John Benton resting and Chris Plys taking the Lead position. We’re excited that things have worked out so that Chris has been able to play in a few games. What a great team effort. Unfortunately for our guys, the game didn’t turn out as we had hoped. We needed a steal in the tenth end to tie, but the skip from Great Britain made a perfect draw to win the game.

We have all been enjoying the Olympic experience. One activity that is quite popular is pin trading. There are many people who have pins to trade or give away. VISA for example has pins at every store. If you make a purchase using your VISA card, you receive a pin. There are official Vancouver pins representing every sport that are sold at each venue, or on the giant pin wall at the Hudson Bay Company store. Many sports also have their own pins. We have our Team USA 2010 Curling pins that people have been after. They will trade almost any of their pins to get one. We have a hot commodity! We’re almost out of pins as we also hand them out to the young U.S. fans that attend the curling games.

We’ve been fortunate to be able to spend quite a bit of time in the Proctor and Gamble Family Home. We’ve met current and former Olympians who have been gracious about having photos taken and signing autographs. Tonight the P & G Home was energized by the U.S.A. Hockey win over Canada. Several of the players came in after the game to visit with family and were greeted by applause from all of us in the house. Very cool! Again, support Proctor and Gamble products; what they are doing for our Olympic athletes and families is truly special.


Sunday, February 21, 2010

Two In A Row - Submitted by Carrie

Another big win for Team USA today! We played well today with another different line up configuration. Everyone is contributing in a true team effort and we’re so proud of all of them!

All of the next group of family and friends have arrived. We had a great time at the curling game this morning. The newcomers in the group enjoyed the atmosphere of the curling venue. From the opening video that displays scenes from the Olympics, to the supportive chants of U.S. fans all over the venue, to the bagpipes piping the teams out to their respective sheets of ice, the experience brings home the fact that we are at the Olympics! Curling in a packed venue of 6,000 screaming fans is not something we experience in the U.S.

The city is really buzzing now as people stream in for weekend events. While every place we go is congested and lines are long, it is fun to meet people from all over the world. The city has done a fantastic job of hosting the Olympics by utilizing volunteers from all over the world including the U.S. There are over 3000 police personnel from all over Canada keeping us safe.

Vernon Davis, San Francisco 49ers All Pro tight end arrived on Friday! He met with the men’s and women’s teams having been previously named the U.S. Curling Team Honorary Captain. Both the men’s and women’s teams have won two games in a row since his arrival. Mr. Davis was very personable and tolerant of all the fans who wanted his autograph and picture. What a great guy!

Big game tomorrow! Go USA!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

A Big Win! - Submitted by Carrie

Our guys played a strong game today to come up with a nail biting win! Tied up again in the tenth end, but this time it ended there with Team USA in the win column! We’re proud of all the guys on our team, and win or lose feel they are representing our country well.

It was a busy day in our household as the first week’s guests are leaving and the new guests are arriving tonight and tomorrow! A whole new batch of people to explore the beautiful city of Vancouver and experience the Olympics.

I met some great folks from NBC today at the curling game. As many of you know, I tend to pace a lot during curling games. On one of my trips around the arena I sat down for a bottled water and began to chat with some gentlemen who are here working for NBC. They were very nice guys who were excited to be seeing curling for the first time. They gave me two tickets to the ice dancing competition tonight! Friend Kim and niece Cailin went to the ice skating venue and were thrilled with their awesome seats. Thanks NBC!

We have two members of our group will be going up to Whistler tomorrow to watch the Bobsleigh competition. Athletes and families often times have access to tickets for events if available. They don’t know what tickets are available or how many until the day before, so it can get complicated with schedules. It worked out that Kim and Lori can go to Whistler after our 9:00 a.m. game. The rest of our group will likely explore the city, check out the Olympic sites, and visit the P & G Home for the first time.

Keep those positive thoughts coming out this way. We appreciate your support very much.


Friday, February 19, 2010

Things Olympic - Submitted by Carrie

Hard to write tonight. Another tough extra end loss today. It seems that the "curling gods" are not on our side so far. We are proud of our guys and how they are handling this difficult and unexpected situation. They are truly inspirational to all of us here watching them as they are not quitting. They are looking forward to the next game with an expectation of winning it. Go USA!

We had an opportunity to explore the city a bit more today. Spent some time at the P & G Home, did some shopping, and went to see the Olympic Flame! It was incredible to see the flame and the Olympic rings at night. Really brings home the feeling of the Olympic Games. Wins and losses are part of it, but it is so much bigger than that. To represent your country in international competition like this is truly an honor.

During our shopping trip we stopped by a small jewelry shop where we met the artist who designed the Olympic Medals for the Vancouver Games. I purchased a jewelry piece she designed with similar design elements to the medals. It was interesting to hear her describe the creative perspective behind the design concept of the medals.

In addition to the small shops, we also visited the Hudson Bay Company store in downtown Vancouver. It took 30 minutes to get into the store. Once inside it was a jungle of people, merchandise, and more lines! Again though, people were friendly and helpful and the experience was actually quite fun.

It continues to amaze us just how much we are enjoying meeting new people from around Canada and the world! There is a camaraderie among the fans that is really neat. While there is competition, we are all supportive of each other and excited to meet one another.


Thursday, February 18, 2010

Go Team USA! Submitted by Carrie

We began today relaxing and exploring our neighborhood. We were glad to find a shopping mall within walking distance (just a few blocks!). We don’t have a rental car as everyone is discouraged from renting cars because you can’t drive to/park at any of the venues.

One of the primary stores carrying official Olympic merchandise is the Hudson Bay Company. Their downtown store has had lines two blocks long to get in! We found a “Bay” store in the mall by our house and were able to purchase a few fun souvenirs. We still intend to stand in line at the “big store” but on another day.

We headed off to the venue at noon for our 2:00 p.m. draw. Another capacity crowd was in attendance despite the fact that Canada didn’t play in this draw. The crowds have been amazing and we’ve met many new friends. What an incredible experience!

We have been handing out our team pins to people we meet from the U.S.A. and to folks who have befriended us during our games. In addition to the U.S.A. fans, we’ve given pins to two priests from Great Britain who are curling fans, lots of Canadians who have been so kind to us, and some fun fans from China who sat by us the other night. Everyone seems pleased and excited to get one of our pins! It brings a whole different kind of energy to game day!

The game didn’t start off too well today as the guys struggled a bit, but we sure made a comeback by scoring an important deuce and then further capitalizing on opportunities to take the lead in the late ends. We held the lead going into the tenth end, but a win was not meant to be again today as we lost in another extra end game.

Our guys are doing well and maintaining their confidence. It was great to be able to spend time with them after the game. The entire team came to the Proctor & Gamble Home for dinner with all of us family and friends. It was nice to relax with them and visit with them for the first time since our arrival. I’ll say yet again that it is hard to believe what Proctor & Gamble is doing for the athletes and families.

We met hockey legend John Mayasich at the Proctor & Gamble Home! What an honor! We are hoping some of his Olympic magic rubs off on us – Silver in 1956 and Gold in 1960 for the U.S. Olympic Hockey Team!

Keep the good thoughts and messages coming. We all appreciate your support very much! On to victory tomorrow morning! Go Team USA!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

First Day of Olympic Competition - Update by Carrie

While the wins didn’t come today, the first day of competition was very exciting! We were ready to cheer our team on in their first two games of the Olympics.

The morning began early…suggested arrival to venue was two hours before the game which meant 7:00 am. We fudged a little and got there at 7:30. It was good to get there early as by 8:00 it was taking 45 minutes to get through the security check points and into the venue. If you got there after 8:00 you missed the first few ends. We actually enjoyed getting there early and meeting up with more family and friends. Highlight among the family was Patrick Plys (Chris’ Dad) with his face and head painted Red, White, and Blue! The rest of us sported face stickers, U.S.A. flags and plenty of patriotic bling!

Our first game was against Germany. Andy Kapp and crew have been around International competition for a while. We’ve heard they are favored for a bronze in this competition. Andy had an awesome game at skip and took advantage of every opportunity by making some great shots. It’s always fun to watch good shot making in curling, even if it isn’t by your own team.

After the game we made our way down to the Proctor and Gamble USA Home where we enjoyed another nice lunch and met up with the rest of our curling family and friends. We hung out in the internet café and connected with the folks back home via facebook and email. Again, what an awesome facility that Proctor and Gamble sponsors for us. So nice to have somewhere to relax between games.

We headed out early to the 7:00 p.m. draw against Norway as we heard that there was to be an official opening ceremony of sorts at the curling venue. We were able to see most of the ceremony which included both the men’s and women’s teams from all of the countries competing here in Vancouver.

The game against Norway was well-played by both teams. A very fun game to watch. While we would have liked to come away with the win, it was nice to see our guys play well and have fun with the game they all enjoy so much. The arena was incredible with chants going through the crowd for all teams at various points throughout the night. And people say curling isn’t exciting! Wish everyone could have seen the games we saw tonight and felt the excitement in the arena. Amazing!

Go U.S.A.!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Family & Friends Arrive in Vancouver

After months of preparing, family and friends of the U.S. Olympic Men’s Curling Team are arriving in Vancouver just in time for the first draw of the competition on Tuesday, 2/16. I am Carrie Benton, wife of John Benton who plays Lead on Team U.S.A. I will be posting a daily blog, and from time to time will have other family members and friends submit to the blog as well. We’ll try to give you an idea of what we as family members and friends are experiencing here at the Olympics.

I arrived in Vancouver on Sunday with our two family friends Kim Leppanen and Lori Klingelhoets. Our trip started off with a packed airport and slow lines at Minneapolis St. Paul Airport, but employees were helpful and full of excitement when we told them of our reason for travel! Our plane included many folks traveling to the Olympics.

We arrived to find the Vancouver airport decked out in Olympic fare, so the excitement started to build. We were finally in Vancouver! Media were everywhere and crowds had gathered. We were pretty sure they weren’t there to greet us…we just happened to arrive moments before the Canadian Men’s Olympic Hockey Team!

The welcome we’ve received has been wonderful. Everyone at the airport was very helpful. There were volunteers every few feet it seemed! They helped us navigate our way through customs and the airport and out to the Canada Line train that took us to our rented home. We, like many Olympic families, have rented a home in Vancouver. Our home is lovely!

We explored Vancouver a bit today. We found the Proctor and Gamble Team USA Family Home which is a venue where U.S. athletes and their family and friends can meet up to have lunch or dinner, watch the Olympics in viewing lounges, enjoy a massage, use the internet café, hang out or even do your laundry! We met Theresa Miller, mother of the U.S. Men’s Hockey Team goaltender Ryan Miller and were able to applaud Bryon Wilson, who won the bronze medal in Freestyle Skiing-Men’s Moguls, when he arrived at the P & G House. It’s going to be great to meet other Olympic athletes, families, and friends! What an awesome gesture of support by Proctor and Gamble. Be sure to use their products!

We found the U.S. Olympic Store which sells all of the U.S. Olympic clothing you’ve been seeing on television. We saw the Official Olympic Store, but the line to get into the store was a city block long! We’ll head to that store early some morning before the lines get too bad. We want to see the large Quatchi mascot they have in that store!

We ended our day by checking out the curling venue. There were passes available for family members to watch the closed practice session. It was neat to see the venue before we actually begin play. There were other family and media in attendance, and Princess Anne even stopped by!

We’ve navigated our way around the city fairly well using the Canada Line Train system along with a lot of walking. We’re resting up tonight anticipating our early morning tomorrow. Spectators are encouraged to get to their sport’s venue up to two hours before game time as all venues have security check points to go through. With a 9:00 a.m. game scheduled, we’re in for an early morning.