I know it has been some time since I last was able to blog and update you all. The amount of free time is definitely limited now that we are over in Bulgaria, making it difficult for me to update everyone as often as I would like to.
Since I have last blogged, I enjoyed my first international flight to Europe. Since I have to return to Indiana for preseason on an earlier flight, I didn’t get to fly over with all the team, but just two other teammates who need to return earlier for various reasons. The first leg was 7 hours on Air France so our layover was in Paris for about 5 hours. Just enough time to try a French croissant, catch up on zzzzzz’s (this was 5am to 10am Paris time) and do a little bit of souvenir shopping. Although it is not the Paris experience I wish to experience someday, I can now officially say I have been to Paris!
The second leg of the flight was on Air Bulgaria, a much smaller plane and a much shorter flight. It was about 3-4 hours long and Payton (my teammate and a newbie like me) and I were asleep nearly the entire way. It was on this flight was where my deaflympics international experience really began. We flew in with parents of other USA athletes, a USA beach athlete, as well as athletes from Brazil, South Africa and a few other countries. This is where the uniqueness of this experience started to hit me. Never have I experienced before so many different cultures coming together in friendly (but fierce) competition and it is truly amazing!
As we arrived in Sofia, the three players on the separate flight were surprised to see our teammates going through customs nearly right in front of us. They had trouble with their flight out of Washington D.C, had a 6 hour delay, and instead of a layover in Moscow they now had a layover in London. With a bit of luck, we all managed to arrive on time and it one piece. After 10+ hours of flying and traveling we made it to Team USA’s very nice hotel in Sofia at around 4pm in the afternoon. To adjust to the time change, the team wasn’t allowed to nap but had a light training session consisting of jogging and stretching to get loose and get rid of the jet lag. This proved to be very helpful for me and I really haven’t seemed to have much problems with jet lag thus far.
The second day in Sofia, Wednesday, was spent adjusting to the time, food, and playing venue. We had a morning practice that would introduce us to the court and let us get adjusting to the lighting, court surface, etc. Unlike many gyms, international courts allow plenty of surrounding space for things like serving and chasing down stray balls during live play. After a morning practice, we got to rest before a team meeting in the afternoon and meals interspersed throughout. All of the volleyball teams’ breakfasts and dinners are held in the hotel banquet hall and we are usually joined by USA athletes, coaches, and personnel which makes dining a unique and enlightening experience. Meeting athletes and people from everywhere in the USA, each representing different sports is a very enjoyable part to every meal. Lastly on Wednesday we had a final meeting before heading to bed for that night.
Thursday was the day we had been preparing for for a long while. We had a short 45 minute walkthrough/practice that morning, a team lunch and before I knew it we were heading to the gym ready to take on Canada in what was my first international competition. The big arena is unfortunately being used for the men’s indoor competition; however, women’s volleyball still has a very nice facility in the Training Hall which looks to be a volleyball only gym off to the side of the main arena. Women’s medal rounds will be held in the big arena so I look forward to that opportunity. The game before USA vs. Canada was Germany vs. Belarus, which went into 5 sets, with Belarus pulling of a very close win over the Germans. Neither of these countries are in our pool but it is nice to scout out what type of competition we are up against this year. Once the match ended, we took the court for an even 30 minutes of warmups. Before I knew it, we were taking the court for the match. I had some major butterflies at first, but a few points into it and after I earned USA the first kill of the match I started to relax and play volleyball like I know how. Here’s a link to a very nice write-up by the USA Deaf Sports Media team on our win against Canada.
Other results for volleyball and every other sports, as well as a medal count can be found on usdeafsports.org.
That’s all the major news from my first few days in Sofia and at the Deaflympics. Look for my next blog to include my thoughts on the opening ceremony tomorrow and results from our match against a tough Russian team. Thanks for your patience as I keep you updated. As always, GO USA and GO DAWGS!!!!
Kelly Kyle #10