Latest posts by Zeb Welborn (see all)
Having never been to Cardiff before I didn’t have any preconceptions of the city, stadia or the people but sure enough we were greeted with open arms. Cardiff was a beautiful town and we had the good fortune of staying at a hotel in the middle of the city, directly across from the high street. It was so nice to be able to wakeup in the morning and walk to the local Starbucks and get a lovely coffee in the morning. A barista asked us to sign some coffee cups, he was dedicating a shelf to all the Olympians that were visiting and to be fair he had quite a few from various nations. He also asked for our twitter handles so he and his co-workers could follow us – pretty cool! We also had an interesting dinner while in town, when we were in Middlesborough with the Men’s team someone spoke with Craig Bellamy. Being Welsh he knew quite a lot of good places to eat in Cardiff so he recommended an Italian restaurant, naturally we assumed it would be a treat but it turned out to be a little bit of a nightmare. A few of us ordered the seabass and it was quite different then what we expected, it certainly sounded delicious on the menu but when it was delivered it was literally a fileted fish, complete with eyes, head, and tail. It was stuffed with lemon and a few herbs sprinkled here and there. Sorry Craig but it was not my bag, they must really like you!
In preparation for our matches we did a lot of training but as the matches drew nearer we allotted more rest and recovery time. Players do a lot of different things to aid their recovery: ice baths, massages, walks, jogs, bike rides etc. but how do we stay entertained? Usually we find various ways to entertain ourselves or each other but one night in particular we felt like going to the cinema. We did the usual, we rounded up the team in the lobby and asked who would be interested in going but this time the manager on duty at the hotel overheard us and said, “I know the manager at the Cinema, let me give him a call.” We waited a few minutes and he came back to us with times for the films. A majority of us wanted to see “The Dark Knight” so we walked over and we were greeted and escorted to a theater. We sat there for about 15 minutes and the theater wasn’t filling up at all, we thought it was a bit strange but didn’t take much notice. A few people walked in a few minutes later and sat down mid-level but an usher quickly scurried in a asked them to follow him to another showing! WHAT?! Hang on a second. Were we having a private screening? We couldn’t resist tweeting about it.
The build up to the first match was great; not only were we full of enthusiasm, the whole city was buzzing with excitement too. Unfortunately we didn’t get to go to the opening ceremony but we did get to watch it together in our private viewing room (hotel meeting room) dressed in our snazzy opening ceremony outfits! We went down to dinner in our “spacesuits” and some of the girls paraded around the lobby, dining area and bar to rousing applause: the team made quite a scene. The following day we had the opportunity to visit Millennium Stadium and walk the pitch, it was a beautiful ground, the grass was immaculate. Unfortunately due to Olympic regulations, teams were not permitted to train at the stadium in the group stages so we had to go back to our training ground and get on with business as usual.
The following day was match day, Team GB v New Zealand. The most awesome thing about match day, especially on a massive stage like the Olympics, is the energy. As soon as the team woke up we could feel the energy and excitement exuding from every single person in the squad. It carried on all throughout the day: to Millennium Stadium, where we were escorted the last few kilometers by Police on horseback through a crowd of supporters, to the changing room and on to the pitch as we began the warm up. People were chanting our names, chanting Team GB and making up songs. The match hadn’t even started yet! It was definitely a feeling we will never forget. New Zealand were a very dangerous team, they were very fit and physical. They put us under some immense pressure at times, especially in the first half. The occasion may have got the better of us but in the end we came together as a team and secured our first three points and Team GB’s first official victory.