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Brett Hawke's Olympic Blog - Last Day of Swimming

July 20, 2012

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Auburn head swimming coach Brett Hawke was in London for the 2012 Olympic Games as the coach for the Bahamas. He documented his Olympic journey as he and Arianna Vanderpool-Wallace made history!

Saturday, Aug. 4 / Arianna Makes History
How does the story end? With history being made that's how!

Arianna swam her way into the Bahamas history books by becoming the first swimmer in history to make it through to an Olympic final. Tonight, on the last night of swimming, Arianna put all those years of sacrifice and hard work on display when she proudly finished 8th in the final of the 50m freestyle. Tonight was her toughest test as she came up against seasoned veterans who have been competing at this level for many years. She did everybody proud with the way she battled through the rounds.

Her parents were in the front row to watch their daughter perform at the peak of her current potential, they must have been going crazy watching!

And with that we conclude the Olympic swimming competition for us, the Bahamas and Auburn university.

Today also marked the end for the greatest Olympic athlete of all-time, Michael Phelps! I personally shook his hand and told him I will miss him. What an outstanding athlete, the likes of which we may never see again!

Thank you to everybody! I'm now on my way to Spain for a few days off with my wife!

Wednesday, Aug. 1 / RACE DAY
Let me start by saying how proud I am of Arianna. Not just for her performance today, but for the entire preparation. It's extremely tough to come to an environment like the Olympics, as the lone representative of your nation, and take on the superpowers of swimming like the USA, Australia and China.

Arianna came out this morning and set the world on fire, setting a new PR of 53.7 and becoming the first Bahamian in swimming to advance to the semifinal rounds of the Olympic games. A massive achievement! They say that only 20 percent of athletes actually do their best time at the Olympics, so she is beating the odds all over the place.

Coming back at night and missing the final by two places is disappointing. Not because I didn't think she gave it everything she had, only because she came so close. I know she is good enough to be in that final, but now we will have to wait two more days for another chance. There is a fine line in athletic performance between amazing and gut wrenching, as we are seeing in every race at the Olympic pool in 2012. However, we are here competing and giving our level best to represent all the people around the world who will never get the chance to experience an Olympic games. Arianna will not stop fighting because she knows how much it means to so many people!

Thank you ALL for your love and support. We can hear you screaming through the TV!

Monday, July 30 / Sightseeing
Swimming at the London Olympics is in full swing! There has been some crazy racing going on at night, wow! The last time I have been that stunned was when the Americans beat the French in 2008. This time it was the French who turned the tables last night. What an exciting race. Somebody gave me a great quote today " you can't sell the fur before you kill the bear!" I love it!

This morning Arianna did a full dress rehearsal again for her race in two days. This time it was in the Olympic pool. She is looking fast in the pool, and sounding fast out of it. Quick tongued and full of energy. This horse is ready to gallop!

We spent the day sight seeing (Arianna stayed in the village), and we got around to some of the big ones. Actually, Big Ben was on our list of stops. First up was tower bridge with the Olympic rings hanging from the top. Very photogenic bridge! Then we went to tower castle that was built some time in the 1300's. They executed some 130 odd people there in its time and was the home of many kings of England. 

We then hit Big Ben and the London eye before settling in to some nice French food at a bakery we found. Lionel couldn't walk past it without  his mouth watering, so I did what any friend would do and stopped for some French baked goods. Very nice!

In the afternoon we got a workout in at the village gym before heading back to the pool for finals. Another crazy night!

1 more day of waiting till we get a chance of our own!

Saturday, July 28 / First Day of Swimming
Ok, I know I skipped a day, but you all watched it on TV just like I did.

Unfortunately for the opening ceremony there are already so many people in the stadium that they limit the amount of tickets for support staff, so naturally I moved aside for those people who were born and bred in the Bahamas. Anyway, this is my fourth Olympics and I didn't really need to be at another opening ceremony.

Today however was jam-packed! The swimming began finally, and what an exciting first day. After an easy swim this morning for Arianna we decided to head back early to the village and catch the end of the swimming before lunch. It just so happened that the Queen of England wanted to visit the athlete dining hall at the same time that we got back to the village. It was crazy! People jumping on tables and crowds of athletes swarming her like bees! I managed to get off a few photos, even though she stands at around 5 feet only. That was the excitement for the morning.

We went back in the afternoon for a longer swim before the madness of the first night of finals kicked off. Crazy first event! Lochte and Phelps look like they are going to go after each other all week. Strange when you see them eat lunch together everyday, but I guess that's what makes them great teammates, they leave it in the pool.

Lots of AU swimmers going in the morning so I'll call that a night!

Thursday, July 26 / DAY 9
Today was just a fun Day to be an Olympian! From start to finish (it's 11:44 p.m.) everything about today was great. So many things to list it's really hard to capture the essence of the day. The athletic side was great, Arianna had another strong practice. But the day kicked off with the flag raising ceremony for the Bahamas team. This is where you dress in your colors and are formally welcomed to the Olympic village. Then we all took a photo under the Olympic rings in the village square.

Lionel Moreau, my college roommate and Auburn alum, joined the team to help Arianna with her preparations. So today she received her first massage. Lionel knows how to work the mess out of any tight, stiff body. It's not your usual candles and flute music type of thing, he digs in deep to get her feeling loose and ready to race.

In the afternoon we had another function at Bahamas house, this time with the governor general of the Bahamas. Another great event with lots of smiles and great food. I had the rice and peas with ox tail. I also met a man, Richard Moir, who told me he reads my blog so I thought I would give a shout out!

Out front the boys on the team ran into Bill Gates who just happened to be walking by with his wife, no bodyguards! I tried to take a photo with my iPhone but he quickly took off when he saw the apple sign on my phone!

Back in the village for a late night snack and I ran into Kobe, Lebron, and the rest of he U.S. basketball team (dream team?). Cool guys without bodyguards either, so awesome to see! They were taking photos and eating McDonald's just like the other athletes.

Busy day, but nothing like tomorrow with the opening ceremony!!!

War Eagle!

Wednesday, July 25 / DAY 8
We started at the crack of dawn this morning in anticipation of a long day. Arianna and I met at 6:30 a.m. for our last weights workout of the preparation. We usually do our last lift one week out of race day, this way her body can be fully rested without losing her maximum strength. I have never seen Arianna in better shape. You know you are doing pretty good when other Olympic athletes stop and stare at you as you walk past them, and Arianna has definitely turned a few heads!

Next stop was the Olympic training venue. Photos or words don't really do this place justice, you have to see it to believe it. Three Olympic size pools under one roof all side by side. Along with two other short course pools next to them. Just an amazing sight to see. And this morning Arianna and I had the whole place to ourselves. I guess everybody else was sleeping in. Anyway she looked as fast as I've ever seen her swim. This is starting to sound like she is ready!

In the afternoon we had a function at the Bahamas house in downtown London, for one of the Bahamas Olympic committee's major sponsors. It was a really nice event, even if we did have to cancel afternoon practice for it.

Time for bed, goodnight!

Tuesday, July 24 / DAY 7
Well put today down as one of those days. On one hand it was a dream come true for any athlete or coach. The day you arrive in the village, words can't describe the feeling of heading into an Olympics for the first time. The build up as you travel towards your dreams is so exciting, and I know Arianna had a smile from ear to ear! But on the other hand it was a day where if something could go wrong it generally did. God has an amazing way of testing us sometimes...let me explain.

First off it was one of the hottest days in years for England, not a cloud in the sky. And because it's never really hot in London, there is no air conditioning anywhere, and that can be a problem when moving pounds of luggage from bus, through security, back on bus, through more security, and then into your room. Working up a sweat!

We then decided, to cool down, we would head straight to the Olympic pool, but when we got there they told us it was closed for synchronized swimming. Are you kidding me? Olympic pool closed at the Olympics? The temperature just went up a little!

Ok, move on. So then just as we get back to the village to change buses for the training pool venue, Arianna tells me she must have left her phone on the bus. Slight panic! To her credit she remained very calm as we searched every bus that circled back around the village, but no phone.

So we walk but to our rooms and she txt's me to tell me she found the phone in the bottom of her bag. Thank you!

After a quick Bahamas team meeting we went back to the pool and we were all smiles. No more drama. See, even when things aren't going your way the world has a funny way of working itself out!

Arianna agreed to leave her phone in her room from now on.

For the rest of the day it was great catching up with friends and all the other Auburn athletes here at the Olympics.

I finished off the day reading Psalm 23.

Monday, July 23 // DAY 6
Today was our last day at the Bahamas Olympic training camp in Crawley, England. After our regular morning weights workout and swim, we headed back to the venue for media day and autograph session with the locals. They turned out in numbers as well to see the track athletes go through a workout. Around 500 men, women and children were there to see some of the best athletes in the world, and take a photo.

Arianna spent about 30 min talking to kids and signing autographs for them. She also had time to get a photo with former high jump world champion, Donald Thomas. Such a really nice way to send the team off to London tomorrow. The locals were very friendly and had many great questions to ask of the athletes.

It was another beautiful day, with not a cloud in the sky all day. I hope this lasts for the next two weeks.

We did have a double (workout) to do today, so Arianna was back in the pool in the afternoon. The purpose of this workout was to get the heart pumping a little, so we did some descending efforts just to give a little redness in the face. This lets the body know it still needs to be ready for action when called on in a week or so.

Off to bed in anticipation of a big day tomorrow! Olympic village here we come!

Sunday, July 22 / DAY 5
Today was Sunday, so it really is meant to be a day off for rest, and that's what we did (primarily). We stayed up playing monopoly with team Bahamas till midnight. I's late, but when you put a group of athletes together and call it a "friendly" then eventually it's going to get competitive. Arianna had crossed over GO 3 times before I turned the first corner, and she didn't look back, giving all of us a good lesson in buying property!

We decided to sleep in Sunday, but we both got up at 7:30 a.m. for breakfast. Ok...yes then we went back to bed. I can't help but fall into the same habits as Arianna. If she eats, I eat. If she sleeps, I sleep. I feel really connected to my athletes when I think like they think. I know it's weird but it works for me.

For lunch we decided to get out, so we tracked down a little town around 15 minutes away and had a Sunday roast (picture supplied). Man it reminds me of growing up in Australia!

In the afternoon we went back to the pool for a dip and sauna, just for a recovery and to keep the body fresh.

It was a beautiful day in London with the peaking temperature of 28 degrees Celsius (around 75 degrees fahrenheit). It's said to be the same for the whole of next week!

Saturday, July 21 // DAY 4
I thought I would start this entry by talking about some differences in the food.

After practice this morning we headed off to a pub for lunch. In England it's called "the local", meaning there is a pub on every corner, and they all serve great comfort food. Today Arianna chose the Welsh dragon, which was a spicy sausage on a sandwich. Very yummy by all accounts! I chose the liver and bacon, over mash potatoes, peas and gravy. A very traditional English meal. It was delicious!

After that we stopped off at the store for some chocolates. The hard working ladies back at the office in Auburn were asking for some Cadbury dairy milk (world famous!), so I delivered! This one's for you Dody, Beverley and Deb.

It wasn't all about eating today, we still had a big workout to do this afternoon. Arianna did a full dress rehearsal for the games. She executed her pre-race warmup, went through some mental imagery, put on her race suit and did a broken 100m race.

Everything was the same as it would be for her race in 10 days (except for the competition) we videoed her swim just to put some added pressure on it, and she knocked it out of he park! We may be small (in number) but we are coming big!

I think the confidence I see in Donald Thomas, an ex-Auburn track athlete and fellow member of team Bahamas, is really rubbing off on Arianna. Donald looks so confident right now and his energy is infectious. I'm glad we are in camp with the rest of team Bahamas!

Friday, July 20 // DAY 3
Today started out just like the last few days- breakfast 6:30 a.m., then onto practice at 8. Arianna was feeling a little flat still this morning so we took our time stretching and loosening up before an easy 2500m in the pool. Nothing special just drills and skills to help get her "feel" for the water back.

We then decided to take a day trip into London to get our thoughts off performance. We had in mind just getting off the train at London bridge, but a nice chap (say that with a British accent) told us we were better off heading into downtown where Buckingham palace is, so we took his advice.

It just so happened that we arrived at the precise time of the changing of the guard which takes place at 11:30 each day. Something of a spectacle really, more like a halftime production with marching and yelling, with trumpets and horns, they really turn it on for the crowd.

After that we decided to head up to Churchill's underground war room from World War 2. Here you could walk through his bunker, which has been left exactly the way it was when he battled Hitler and brought a nation back from the brink of destruction. Amazing experience!

Then, on Arianna's request, we took a black cab to the theater to watch the new Batman movie, which is excellent!

We did however hear the news of the tragedy in Colorado and that really gave us heavy hearts for the rest of the day. We are praying for all the families affected.

Thursday, July 19 / DAY 2 IN LONDON
Well we woke up to sunshine today in Sussex which was a pleasant surprise. Breakfast was at 6:30 and we headed to the weight room at 8 a.m. I am trying to get Arianna onto her competition schedule as fast as possible so most of our work will be done in the mid morning and later in the afternoon.

She only has 4 gym workouts left so each one must count now. All of her strength has been gained, now all we are doing is maintaining. It's still funny to watch the expression on people's faces when Arianna is doing pull-ups. Because she is at maximum strength and it isn't hard for her to hit 15-20 pull-ups quite comfortably, and that gets everybody staring!

The pool workout followed, which consisted of burning the legs a little this morning. After a long flight it's normal to feel heavy in the legs for a few days, so giving them a little burn makes them come around quicker. By this I mean we did a strong kick set in the pool, I don't actually set her on fire...

The rest of the day consisted of resting, then a little shopping, and back for another pool workout around 6 p.m. Two pool workouts today should be enough to ensure a good night's sleep!

Tomorrow we take a trip into downtown London to watch the new Batman movie on IMAX, and Arianna is dying to take a black cab (photo to come).

Tuesday, July 17 / Wednesday, July 18 // TRAVEL DAY
Arianna (Vanderpool-Wallace) and I (team Bahamas!) started the day off in Atlanta. We boarded British Airways flight 226 at 9:30 p.m. Being the athlete in this partnership, Arianna decided to ditch me and upgrade to business class, for the small price of a $900 upgrade fee. Money well spent!

We landed in London around 11 a.m., and spent 45 min. in a taxi traveling to our pre-Olympic camp in Sussex. We met up with a few other members of the Bahamas track team, who are attending the same camp, for lunch and then headed into the training pool for our first workout. No time to rest, we had work to do!

The first session went well, with Arianna swimming a few thousand meters of light swimming with a few speed drills mixed in. The first workout after a long flight just needs to be light, and this one did the trick.

Now it's just fighting off the jet-lag to stay awake. The worst thing is waking up at 3a.m. on the first night!

Goodnight! War Eagle!



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