It’s been incredible to be back competing with a club this year. The “family” atmosphere and support is something I haven’t experienced since I moved from Calgary back in 2012.
They tell us that as the National Team, we inspire the younger generation, but the same can be said about those that our hoping to make the team one day. Seeing these athletes love swimming, pushing through pain, believing in their teammates and being beyond happy for every member of their club…. it’s inspiring for us to see that too!
It shows us that there is more to this sport than just competing against others. We cheer each other on, whether they are from the same club or not and we are excited by our teammates success, whether we swam the routine or not.
I watched this week as Juniors cried tears of joy and found myself crying with them. I am so proud of each and every member of this club and can say that I saw so much improvement from the beginning of the year until now. I also had the privilege of coaching some of the Juniors this year and seeing where they came from, knowing how hard we worked together and sharing their National experience with them is something that I will cherish as well! I’m so happy for them, I feel my heart might explode!
It has really been an incredible week filled with SO many emotions! I’m so proud of everyone and I can’t wait to be back with them this summer to compete in California!
To the girls – enjoy the break and I’ll see you soon xoxo
We are on our way to Kyoto where we will be visiting temples, learning how to meditate and then meeting our Host Family, where we will be staying for the evening.
We left our hotel in Tokyo bright and early to make our way to the Shinkansen. (Bullet Train)…. We arrived, with no tickets as we are a special group and had plenty of time to wander. As our guide and a small group of the team stayed with the luggage on the platform, a few of us went to get Starbucks. It was right outside the gate – no problem right? WRONG.
The line was medium sized, but we had time (or so we thought) so we stayed and waited for our turn. All of us now had our drinks in hand while the last member of our group had ordered something special….. The nice barista started packaging it very professionally as we tried to tell her that we had to go catch the train.
5 minutes to departure….. a text message reads, ” Hurry.”
2 minutes later…… another that read, “RUN”.
We sprinted, passing the gates as a security guard stared at us, yelling for our tickets. We ran so fast up stairs and around corners, just barely making it onto the train, slipping through the doors just a minute before it left.
PHEW… We made it… barely. The Shinkansen took us a few hours south west and into Kyoto where we then had a lovely lunch at a place that (surprisingly) Jackie and I had eaten at 4 years ago!
We then went directly to a small temple to learn the art of Zazen. We were given instructions in advance, but when we arrived and sat on the straw floor, our Zazen Master shared the history behind the temple and how to be fully immersed in the act of Zazen Meditation.
Sit with your legs folded over one another with your bum on the small cushion and your legs on the straw floor
Place your hands in a circle position – your thumbs touching (LIGHTLY) with your left hands fingers inside the right hand
Focus on a spot on the floor with your eyes 1/2 closed (as to not fall asleep or let your mind wander)
Stay in this position, breathing – counting IN: 1 ,2 , 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 and OUT: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10. – repeat this for 15 minutes x 2
What I realized from this exercise was that during the 1st session I was completely able to lose track of time. I saw the floor in front of me pulse in and out. Within, what seemed like 5 minutes, the session had ended with the sound of a chime.I felt calm, but also unaware if it had worked.
The next session, however, I was unable to focus. As is customary in Zazen Meditation, the Master walks around with a stick. When you bow to him – showing him that you have lost your focus and need his help – he gives you 4 massive, winding, smacks on our back. It is SO loud that at first I started to laugh and actually felt more distracted than I had before! I noticed as well that the time had passed way slower and my eyes were wandering…. I too had to get hit with the stick multiple times to refocus.
I guess it all takes practice. Maybe 15 minutes was enough for me on the first day, I don’t know for sure, but I know that it was an interesting experience, one that I will try to simulate again here in Canada. I definitely connect my Zen mindset post Japan to the meditation experience….. I have since, unfortunately, lost my Zen…….. but am currently trying to reconnect with the peace I felt in Japan.
Day 3 continues with my next stop being the “Homestay Experience” so I will cut off this post and continue it another day! Thanks for reading, I absolutely loved my time in Japan and just writing it out of my journal to share with you makes me re-live those moments!
“As yesterday was a very busy day visiting and having presentations, day 2 was more chill and had a lot relating to the athletes of this trip! We went to visit the National Sports Centre and the Nippon sport science university!
What an incredible facility! The University itself has created 1/4 of Japanese Olympians and their system is one that seems World renound. One thing in particular that created a lot of interest is that their students actually are able to write a report about their training, experience etc (for credit) while they are away for huge competitions. This gives them, what I believe to be, more support as they are busy with their competitions. In Canadian Universities we are asked to finish work that is done in the normal class; missed classes drop marks and missed exams can be a big problem for us as some professors are not very accommodating. But in Japan, it shows that they really support the efforts of their elite athletes as they strive to bring home Olympic medals, in addition a lot of these “Student Athletes” are able to finish their degrees prior to finishing their athletic career. A privilege I think all athletes want!
Their sports clubs are also like non other! They have rooms for almost any sport including, but not limited to Japanese Archery, Fencing, Volleyball,
The National Sports Centre is also in a league of its own…. When we arrived we thought “wow how the heck do they have the athletes to fill this place” but they really do…. It is a giant facility, which to our surprise they will be expanding for the 2020 Olympics to accommodate more athletes. They have a running track, a canoe/kayak simulator, a synchro pool, a swimming pool, the largest Judo room, wrestling room, fencing, a table tennis room, a handball room, boxing gym, multiple workout gyms and so much more. We couldn’t even see the entire facility in our time there and were also not allowed to take any pictures. They provide everything the athletes need whether that is dinner or rooms to sleep, everything is well prepared and also provides the athletes with the necessary means to do recovery programs, anti doping and more.
Needless to say, it was an interesting day for the athlete group of the Kakehashi project!!”