WELCOME to a new and improved blog site provided by….. me….. Claudia Holzner!
As I have promised in the past, it was time to re-vamp and re-style this blog for more than just synchro information, but also travel, life, and as of most recently, adulting….. Which is a tough adjustment I must say.
For those who don’t know… Adulting = to do grown up things and hold responsibilities such as, a 9-5 job, a mortgage/rent, a car payment, or anything else that makes one think of grown ups.
So here goes! A new year, not quite yet a new me, but definitely a new outlook on life and continuing to learn to love it.
I now declare this blog LIVE and will be using this new domain as my primary in replacement of “Aquae Vitae” — Though it treated me well, life has been far less accommodating and therefore I have decided to change my ways and leave what was comfortable behind!
I hope you enjoy this new site, as I have enjoyed creating it! It will provide you with posts about this past year/summer, as well as 2018 and moving forward as I look towards 2020 and beyond!
NOW! Navigating this new site is important!!
Above you will find the HOME page, BLOG page where you will find all of my posts, ABOUT page (as well as my Athlete Bio) and CONTACT page. You can send me an email with questions, suggestions, pictures etc and I will do my best to email you back!
On the right, you will see the SEARCH button, FOLLOW button (to follow this soon to be awesome blog), and MY SOCIAL MEDIA where you can follow my journey on Instagram and Twitter.
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!!”
I must admit to you all that I have never competed at a qualifier before. The last time I was in competition with a club was 2012 and Qualifiers hadn’t been invented yet…. This sounds like a sentence I would say that started with “…. Back in my day…” hahaha
Never the less, I am very excited to be here! I have had a great experience going back to a club atmosphere this year; the joy and the energy they bring to the pool every day makes training very fun so I have no doubt that the competition will be any different!!
On Sunday, I was greeted by the pool I first trained at many many many years ago when I was just eight years old. Bring on the flash backs because I couldn’t stop thinking about those first few years I spent learning, making friends and starting what turned out to be my career on the national team. So many memories….. including my floatable noseclip….. for those who remember me back then, they know that more of my time was spent chasing that noseclip than actually swimming the routine.
We also took a trip to Banff. There’s nothing like watching other people experience Banff for the 1st time. The realization of the beauty in nature, the shear size of the mountains and watching these girls literally bouncing off the walls with excitement is so fun. It makes me miss the days when I could just take the car and spend the day hiking, skiing and enjoying the fresh air. We also had a bit of an iPhone X photo session because dayummmmm they take great pictures!!!
Now back to the competition!! We will be competing many events over the next few days! Tomorrow I will be competing in the Tech Solo event, Wednesday: Tech Duet and Tech Team and Friday: Free Duet. HERE is all the information you need for the competition!
Excited to see everyone at the pool and to be back in my hometown competing!
As jet lag had set in with great intensity, I did not sleep much of my 1st evening in Tokyo, forcing myself to stay in bed waiting to fall asleep again I eventually caved and went out for a walk. My walk took me around the corner to the 711 where I was greeted with some veryyyyyyy interesting foods…… spaghetti in a bun, pre-made hot dogs, corn buns, hot coffee in a can and more…… Of course after that breakfast in the hotel had soup, rice, fish and other fun things!
After finishing my can of coffee (lol) We headed to the ministry of Foreign Affaires (our 1st stop on the trip) and listened to intriguing presentations about Japan, their economy, their struggles, their stance on weapons and their history with the United States. Surprising to me, a lot of the Japanese constitution rides on America and what they want out of Japan…. And since Japan is a country with very little natural resources, they really need these ties with other countries to import goods!
We then had a presentation about the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. We talked about how they will make the games safe, how they will make transportation smooth for athletes and spectators alike, how to combat their summer heat as the Games are during the hottest weeks of the summer, the “beyond2020” program, their food, and the “Host Town” initiative. It is are sure to be a great Olympic Games!
Next we went to the Imperial Palace where we learnt that they still, in fact, have an Emperor and Empress that live in the palace. It only opens to the public on two days of the year which is when people can finally see the grounds. It is a beautiful, big, place surrounded by a mot and what looks like grown up bonzai trees! hahaha
We then went to check out a gym where we would be able to train. As fate would have it, Tessa and Scott were in the process of doing their performance! A record breaking one at that! We stopped everything (as we will continue to do the rest of the trip) to watch the TV and Peyongchang as CANADA always shares the love, from any country we are in!
Next we took on JICE, which is the organization who made it possible for my group to be on this amazing trip! They organize all of the exchange programs and interestingly enough, we are the first Canadian athletes to be part of this project!
The Kakehashi project has these objectives:
To promote mutual trust and understanding among the people of Japan and Canada to build a basis for future friendship and cooperation.
To promote a global understanding of Japan’s economy, society, history, diverse culture, politics and foreign policy.
To convey information on Japanese characteristics through communication devices including social media.
We visited their open concept offices, met employees and their president.
After a LONG day of meetings and exploring, we finally sat down for dinner. Tempura and Sashimi!
As of Day 1, we know that Japan is all about cleanliness (not a single garbage can and no litter), has incredible programs in place for 2020, and has very high tech toilets lol
The opportunity to come to Tokyo and just spend a week travelling, seeing the culture and experiencing what we experienced is nothing short of extraordinary…. and of course, the role of my time in Japan was to promote and share what we learnt so I will soon be sharing my diary entries from each day I spent there!
But for now……. cue the ugly crying because I’ve met some pretty great humans and I don’t want to leave my Japanese bubble!
I left Canada to meet 7 strangers and travel with them for a week in Japan and honestly, I couldn’t have asked for a better group of people to be with. It just seemed like we clicked, right from the beginning and as the week went on we became closer with every passing day.
I had a blast! Sharing stories, travelling, getting to know each other and making memories! (KAMPAI!!!) I also learnt so much about each person, their sport, their personalities and whatever other randomness that we happened to blurt out along the way! Nothing brings people together like travelling in a foreign country 😉
In my synchro world, I don’t often have the chance to meet other athletes…. Yes, in passing, but I am always in the pool focusing on my own sport, away from the public eye. Without this opportunity to go to Japan, most of us probably would never have met each other and interacted the way we did. I have been with the same people on trips for a long time and I love them, but to room with different people and to really talk to one another without having to hold anything back and without the stress of competition…. yeah wow, it’s a breath of fresh air.
All of these athletes have different stories and different experiences. Experiences that we ALL understand and relate to, which helped create such a strong connection amongst the 9 of us. Sport, especially high performance sport, is demanding. Knowing that you are not alone and that other sports have gone through similar situations is inspiring and eye opening.
Connecting with these people I met just one week ago and to feel like I’ve made great friendships is something that I will thank JICE for! Not only did I have the opportunity to make connections in Japan, I made friendships within Canada as well.
I’m really going to miss these awesome people and I cant wait to (first of all) stay in touch and to see all of their beautiful faces again soon, even if that means I’m driving to Toronto for a weekend! Love you guys xx
Well it’s official, after one day of competition, we are in Japan. A few months ago, Jackie and I recieved confirmation that we would be participating in the Kakehashi Project. (Kakehashi means “bridge for tomorrow”) This project is to create friendships between Canada and Japan as well as learn about Japan’s economy, society, history, culture, politics, diplomatic relations and of course the Olympics in Tokyo in 2020. Sharing what we learned to fellow Canadians and friends around the world!
We will be in Japan for about 8 days with 7 other athletes from Canada! They represent synchronized/artistic swimming, archery, sailing, canoe, skateboarding, taiquando, gymnastics and fencing. The group will be attending lectures, talking to university students, experiencing the culture of Japan and finding ways to share our experiences with the rest of Canada (and the World) upon our return.
We will also will be travelling to Kyoto, where we will be staying with a Japanese family and surely visiting some of their famous temples and, as we just found out, we will also be learning the art of meditation, as it is very important for athletes to know how to concentrate properly!
It is sure to be a busy, yet exciting trip for us! I look forward to sharing the trip with you and documenting all of the interesting experiences we will have these next few days!