Who: 18 military women soccer players (11 Air Force, 3 Army, 3 Navy, 1 Marine (who is now a Reservist: me)), 2 retired military male coaches (Army and Air Force each), 1 male Army doctor, and 1 male Navy trainerWhat: 5th Conseil International du Sport Militaire (CISM) Military World Games (MWG)Where: Rio de Janeiro, BrazilWhen: 13-25 July 2011Why: Friendship Through SportHow: Aboard a KC-10 USAF plane flown by 2 team members, Mandi and Wendy  http://www.defense.gov/news/newsarticle.aspx?id=64712
Although atypical in traveling type and style, my recent journey to Rio was just as wonderful as any other I’ve taken, and certainly unique in its own right. Whilst traveling in a group, especially a military group, one should not expect to be in control of your own time.  Military members are oft heard mumbling, “Hurry up and wait” in many a situation, and this trip was no exception. Leaving for flights requires arriving four hours early, loitering at the gate for buses an hour before they leave, gathering for meals before then walking to the chow hall together, etc. Meeting times and waiting times abound when the group dynamic reigns supreme!  Well, I must say, it certainly could have been worse, though.  Heck, it was worse in India at the 4th MWG where one logistical nightmare after another unfolded almost daily. Also, when compared to how I manage my time while I travel, whereby I squeeze every possible excursion into every second of the day, you just can’t expect to precisely manage your personal time in this type of setting.  However, a bit of waiting around is no burden when one considers what a wonderful blessing it is to be part of such an event. 
Ok, time to loosen up a little and give some fun details of the days in Rio. . .
13 July 2011: Immediately upon arriving, I deduced that this World Games had flair. J  A small, live band covered Barry Manilow’s famous “Copacabana” as we filtered in, followed by “The Girl From Ipanema.”  Welcome signs, numerous volunteers, and fresh Brazilian coffee embraced us.  We had arrived J  With only minimal wait time, we loaded our bags and ourselves on the two large charter buses outside, and after a 2 ½ hour police-escorted bus ride, we reached our home for the next two weeks: the Green Village.

Green Village, Rio de Janeiro Brazil

Male and female football teams, track and field teams, military pentathletes, modern pentathletes, and equestrian participants lived at the Green Village. That meant my old friend, Raymond, a Dutch pentathlete, would be living in the Village somewhere.  Hooray! J  I made a mental note to keep an eye out for him, but he managed to beat me to the punch the next day when he found the Team USA soccer girls waiting by the gate to leave for practice and surprised me as I walked up.  It was great to see him! From that point onward, we were able to hang out quite a bit throughout the week since we were neighbors in the village; what a treat.  The first couple of days were filled predominately by greetings, briefings, explanations of the facilities, team meals, down time (lots of chats with “the little sister I never had,” BrittP), and practices. One of the days before practice, I went on a great run with CiAnna and Katie Kelly (aka: “KK”), two of the younger girls on the team, and apartment-mates in Brazil.  (The 18 players were split into three apartments on the same floor.)  I’m glad they invited me along for one of their daily jaunts because it provided one of those moments for me where it really sunk in that I was there in Brazil for the World Games, running through foreign streets, with my teammates, really in the moment and overwhelmed by gratitude for having the opportunity to participate in it; mentally, physically, and spiritually, I felt ready.  Anyway, as for getting to practices, that of course required bus rides (more waiting around on the front and back end of every departure), but most everything else we did was within the immediate confines of the Green Village, thus walkable to include the chow hall a mere 50 yards away.  The food was legit this year!  Normally the food at these events is equivalent to cafeteria fare back home: bland, uncreative, mystery mush.  Brazil did it up right, though! Yes, there were a few daily repeats (black beans and rice, of course), but they managed to offer a different, authentically Brazilian main course every day.  The standard chicken they served daily was pretty scrumpdidiliumptious, though, so I mostly ate that and tons of veggies.  And the icing on the cake – they handed out post cards every morning with a different cultural lesson/picture, and the placemats on the trays highlighted a different region of Brazil each day.  The dork in me thought that was awesome! J  


16 July: Opening Ceremonies. Pete, President, Pele, and pop stars oh my! Although we’d been there for a few days, this was the official start to the 5th MWG.  (Which also meant that the chow hall would now be open 24-7.  Hooray! haha)  Again, compared to India’s Opening Ceremonies in 2007, this event was incredibly well run.  They even had bags of snacks and drinks to hand out to all of the athletes, which is a great idea considering the whole series of events pretty much takes up the entire afternoon/evening.  Another highlight for the day: Pete arrived!  He caught a redeye flight from Ohio the night before and made it to the Green Village in the late morning shortly before we returned from a practice.  So it was really great that he was able to board the team bus with us, enjoy the motorcade and helicopter escort to the Olympic Stadium, and then he and Luke (Beth’s boyfriend) took off to link up with Raegan’s mom and grandmother while the athletes and coaches had to head toward the team staging area.  The ceremony was really neat!  We did the standard parade style presentation around the track, country by country, then all the athletes/coaches were seated in the stadium across from the spectators and the show began.  It lasted a couple hours and they had everything from children’s dance routines, to Brazilian pop star performances, to a speech by the Brazilian President (Dilma Rousseff), and (as a soccer player I have to say this was the climax of the ceremony) Pele lit the Olympic torch.  Amazing!!

Pele about to light the Olympic torch

17 July:  a large group consisting of Team USA and various other countries’ athletes gathered at the CISM Club to watch the Women’s World Cup Final between the USA and Japan.  The USA loss was heartbreaking, but man did it motivate me to play!  Of note, the Canadians cheered against us the whole game.  Not classy.

starters of the USA vs Germany game

18 July:  Before our game, I had a 10 minute window between meeting times to run across the street to (try to) catch Raymond’s obstacle course run.  I got there right as he finished! 🙁  but found his coach in the crowd and heard Raymond got a 5 second PR. I gave him a congratulations, then had to run back to catch the bus with my team.  Game day #1 – USA vs Germany.  If we won this game, we’d be guaranteed to advance out of our bracket.  Unfortunately, we lost 2-4 in a closer game than the score indicates.  Germany got at least one questionable goal where we thought the girl was off-sides, but wasn’t; other than that, it was a well fought game.  I played right back most of the match, then center mid the last 20 minutes or so.  I actually really enjoyed right back even though this is the only team on which I ever play that position (haha!).  Personally, I was happy with my performance; not in a cocky way, but in a I-know-I-left-it-all-out-there-on-the-field sort of way.   19 July: I think this is the day I managed to catch Raymond’s swim obstacle course race. Well, I almost missed seeing him actually race once again.  I got there RIGHT as he started!  The only reason I made it is because I caught a ride from some Brazilian police b/c I was running to get there and they asked me if I needed help. Hahah.  

20 July: USA vs the Netherlands at Copacabana Military Base at the base of Sugarloaf Mountain. 

The setting: ideal.  The team: ready.  The motivation: tangible. The need: to win by two goals to progress beyond our bracket.  With a blow of a whistle the match began, and two minutes later we scored our first goal! Amy sent in an awesome corner kick and Wendy snagged a sweet header to rocket it into the back of the net!! 🙂  If ever there was a chance to win a game by two points this was it!!…..right?  Well, we won 1-0.  Am I kidding?  Nope. We never scored the rest of the game and, therefore, did not advance to the semi-finals. (http://ireport.cnn.com/docs/DOC-641642?ref=email)     To say I felt disappointed would be an understatement. This felt like just another year where we didn’t live up to our potential.  Granted, we’d played well, and could be proud of that; but it just plain sucks to not advance to the semis once again. Again, I was pleased with my own effort insofaras I knew I gave it all I had.  I played center mid the whole game, which I enjoyed, but didn’t really get a chance to get too involved with offense since I spent a majority of my time marking one of their key players.  Anyway, after a long cool down feeling devastated inside, I went into the locker room to gather up my gear.  Our assistant coach, Dale, joked before the game that if we won, we should all run and jump into the ocean afterwards.  Since that game was held at one of the most picturesque settings you can imagine with a beautiful beach 100 yards away, and since we did win, I couldn’t resist treating myself to a dip.  A group of us still in the locker room at that time decided we’d go for it; so, we went to the beach, stripped down to sports bras and undies (with a bit of a crowd, no less! ;-p), and jumped into the water following the game as a celebration of our win…. a bittersweet one, but a win nonetheless.

Mandi, Wendy, me, Rhett, Randee post-game dip

 Then, before departing the base, our “team mom,” Sharla, somehow acquired a case of beer via her Sharla-magic ways 😉 for the bus ride back to the Green Village.  The spirit of “friendship through sport” was free flowing once again. 😉  For me, that afternoon and evening was probably the most fun social time I had at the Games.  After two beers, a fun bus ride, quick showers and a light dinner at the chow hall, we were free to enjoy the evening. The CISM Club had a live band, beer, and all the other athletes seemed to really be out and about for the first time.  I enjoyed the company of my soccer teammates, hung out with the USA track&field guys and girls a little, traded some t-shirts with a French footballer and a Belgian pole vaulter, and just enjoyed the whole atmosphere in the Village.  21 July: the one real, full sightseeing day I partook in.  After hours of bus ride madness, we got to Sugarloaf Mountain (Pão de Açúcar).  Pete and I separated from the rest of the team to do our own thing for a little while.  People recommended walking to the first summit of the mountain for a bit of added adventure instead of just going straight up on the cable car thing.  Well, somehow we missed the turn off to go up the mountain the safe way and ended up in the professional rock climbing area of the mountain! Hahaha.  We actually made it pretty far up and around the mountain before we finally had to turn back. That whole vertical wall of rock will kind of do that to a person in running shoes! Hahah.  But we got a good laugh out of it, good exercise, and good chatting.  We returned to the base of the mountain and bought cable car tickets to go up that way.  At the first peak, we enjoyed some fresh coconut water straight from the coconuts, and at peak two, got some good jumping photos (b/c we all know how much I love those J).  A taxi ride a couple hours later took us back to Copacabana where we enjoyed a nice dinner on the beach, then walked around the beautiful military base/fort there for a bit before catching a double decker bus back to the Green Village.

22 July: USA vs Canada.  Although we won 4-1, I feel like this was our worst game.  The field was bad and it drizzled most of the game, so the ball just seemed kind of out of control the whole time.  Plus, we play Canada every year in the “consolation” match and it feels a little lame.  At least we beat them soundly this year.  FYI, the Netherlands ended up taking third place overall; we finished fifth. Pete made it to this game, too, so that was of course great to have his support.  And he did a great job filming the games :)The remaining days were pretty low key.  The weather was completely dreary one of them, and the other kind of free day we had, I didn’t feel like dealing with all the bus nonsense just to walk around a crowded dirty city all day.  Had there been something more non-city oriented, I would’ve done that. Also, I spent pretty much all day on the 23rd watching the Military Pentathlon Obstacle Relay races with Raymond.  All the pentathletes are so friendly!  They all know one other from years of meets; even though they compete against one another, they still cheer each other on.  On the 24th I woke up and felt a little sick, but went for a nice jog with Erin because the weather was great again and I felt like I needed to get moving.  Then, the sickness hit me full bore. So, I ended up missing the Closing Ceremonies that night because I got some version of “the plague” that was running rampant amongst my teammates and other Green Village people that past week. I considered myself lucky that it took that long to hit me, but it still was no fun to deal with. That night, CISM put on a full scale carnival style fair with traditional Brazilian BBQ and desserts, free drinks, and Brazilian dancers.  I was only out socializing a little bit since I felt so sick, but it was nice to make some last minute t-shirt/gear trades (fyi – got some awesome Irish stuff this year!! 🙂 ) and chat with loads of people from all over the world.All in all, this was my favorite year playing CISM soccer.  The team, the environment, the trip were all the best yet! J  Thank you CISM, teammates, coaches, Pete, old friends, and new friends for the wonderful experience.
Check out this article about the Games http://athleticbusiness.com/articles/article.aspx?articleid=3778&zoneid=11

Just for fun – check out this interview clip from last year. Please excuse the haircut and hat! Hahah.  Also, they posted the wrong name; I’m not Michelle.www.afneurope.net/Home/ArticleDisplayDD/tabid/649/aid/13653/Default.aspx