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PAN AM GAMES ATHLETE JOURNAL (Updated July 26): Strong performance for Greco-Roman team in Rio



Last night, we finished up the competition for Greco. The tournament ran pretty smoothly and quickly. There were two mats that were used in the arena for the three different weight classes that were wrestled. Everybody wrestled well, and we were able to get three medals: a gold, a silver, and a bronze. It was a very positive experience for our team because everybody competed was able to earn a medal. It is a great time to be wrestling too because it helps us to fine-tune some things to get ready for the World Championships in September. We are home for about a week from this trip, and then we are off to Romania to compete in one more competition before the Worlds. I think all of us are looking to build some more momentum to be well-prepared to win medals at the World Championships.

In my final match, I wrestled the Brazilian. I think that I might have wrestled him several years ago at the last Pan Am games in Santo Domingo, but I am really not sure if it was the same guy. Anyway, it was a pretty good experience. I was impressed by how supportive Brazil is of its athletes. There were plenty of fans there, and every one of them was cheering for the Brazilian wrestler. Even though I beat him in the finals, the fans cheered for him after our match. I think that they were happy to be able to have one of their athletes representing them in the finals.

After the tournament was over, we went and ate at a Brazilian steakhouse called Porcao. It is pronounced "poor cow" and I thought that the play on words was kind of funny considering how much everybody ate. There were a bunch of servers with assorted meats on skewers that they took around from table to table. You can eat as much as you want, and it seemed like everybody did. We had a great time there, being together as a team and as friends and celebrated our success. All in all, it has been great trip. It was a very good experience despite the slow start that we had beginning the trip.

Well, this is my last entry for now. I hope that everyone at home will continue to follow how the rest of our athletes are doing. Just as a side note, if anybody is interested in keeping up with what is going on with my wrestling carreer, you can go to www.justinruiz.com. The website is still in the process of getting put together, but the site will have a blog that I will update on a regular basis - especially when I am on trips, granting that I have internet access. I am trying to get the site done as soon as possible, but I think that within this next month everything will be up and running. I hope everyone back home is well. Take care.

Tuesday, July 24

I just finished weighing in. It was nice because we actually weighed in about 10 minutes earlier than we were scheduled to, which was very nice. I do not remember many times when that has happened ever, but I am definitely not complaining about it. Lindsey Durlacher, T.C. Dantzler and I cut our weight this morning at the Transamerica Hotel. The sauna that I wrote about the other day is at the hotel, but I was glad that the sauna wasn't as hot today as it was the other day. I woke up this morning about 2.5 kilos overweight, and it took me about an hour to get the weight off, alternating between exercise and the sauna. Altogether, I ended up losing about 6 or more kilos for this competition, which is actually pretty heavy for me. For most of the year I have been weighing between 98-100 kilos.

So now all of our team has gotten through some of the processes that usually are not the most exciting things to do (plane travel, airports, bus rides, weight cutting, etc.). However, tomorrow is when the fun begins. I am sure that the guys that are competing today are having a good time. They wrestled well this morning, and I think that they will carry that momentum through tonight. I am excited about competing tomorrow. There are so many different things that wrestlers have to go through just to be prepared to wrestle in a match, but when you do finally get on the mat and compete it is all worth it. There are some fierce competitors in every weight class, but I think that overall our team will do very well.

Well, I know that this is probably the shortest entry to date, but I am tired and ready to get some more fluids and food in me. I hope that everyone back home is doing well. We will do our best to represent our sport and our country well. Take care.

Monday, July 23

There has been so much happening these last few days that I donīt even know where to start. We finally made it to Rio de Janeiro after some complications in the airport. We were on our way here on Friday night, and we had been flying for several hours when the pilot announced, "We have some bad news." I don`t think that I have ever been on an airplane and felt as uncomfortable as in that moment. In this day and age, it is never good to hear the pilot say, "We have some bad news." However, he continued to say, "We are having trouble communicating with the airport in Sao Paulo so we are going to be landing in Washington D.C in another 45 minutes."

We had already been in the air for four or five hours so it was a little strange that they waited to break us the news 45 minutes from D.C., but the information that there was a communication problem was a lot better than any of the other problems than I had imagined. I am very grateful for that.

After the plane landed in D.C. in the very early morning hours on Saturday, there was plenty of confusion and questions with not a whole lot of answers. The situation had thrown everybody off schedule as far as weight cutting, and that is a blow that most wrestlers don't like dealt to them. The team was already down a little bit because we found out our full team wouldn`t be competing, and then we were jetlagged, tired, and hungry without making any progress toward our final destination of Rio.

Fortunately, we all went to a hotel and relaxed, worked out, collected our thoughts, and got some more information. After that time we were ready to go again. We ended up getting on another flight later that night and made our way down to Rio safe and sound on Sunday around noon. We were met at the airport, passed through customs, and got our baggage pretty quickly. I would say that everything went very smoothly, especially considering how many athletes had to go through customs and get their bags.

Everyone piled on a bus and we were on our way to the Pan Am village. The countryside here is amazing. The water looked great, and there are forests of mature green trees on top of mountains that seem to just sprout out of nowhere. I haven't really seen mountains like the ones that are here anywhere else in the world. There are some mountains that look like giant rocks with no vegetation on them at all except for the tops, and on the tops of the rocks there are forests.

There are soccer fields all over the place. The main road that we took to get to the village was literally lined up with soccer fields. Very impressive.

The Pan Am village is very nice. All of the people involved with getting these games together have done an outstanding job. All of the athlete residence buildings are new with plenty of space, clean drinking water, warm water, and bathroom facilities. These things may not seem to be that big of a deal, but trust me there are places in the world where plumbing is a big problem.

They have landscaped the village to look outstanding. There are several swimming pools in the main courtyard and there are fountains and green grass. This is one of nicest places that I have seen that are dedicated to sport. They have a huge cafeteria, high speed internet access, sports medicine, modern training facilities, everything. The committee has done a great job getting things together.

I still haven't seen everything there is to see here in the village. The first group of Greco athletes weigh in today, and I don`t weigh in until tomorrow so I will be checking things out and taking pictures.

Brad Vering and I found a sauna last night that I think some of the guys are going to use today. This sauna is at a hotel off the complex, but there is a shuttle that runs to the hotel where it is at. The sauna is one of the hottest saunas I have ever been in. They have some extremely hot saunas in Russia and eastern Europe, but I think that this one can definitely hold its own. It is actually a little too hot for me. In all honesty, I am more of a recreational use sauna guy so I will find one a little less scorching to cut my weight tomorrow.

I am hoping to make some more time to write a couple of more journal entries while I am down here, but I am not sure how scheduling will work out. However, I will do my best to keep everyone back home informed on what is going on down here. For my part, all is well and I hope that you are too. Take care.

Thursday, July 19

Today has been a long day. We flew out of Colorado Springs this morning to Denver, and then from Denver to Washington/Dulles. The flights weren't bad and everything went smoothly. The flight tomorrow is supposed to be a lot longer than the two flights today. One of the people here doing the processing said that it is a 10-hour flight down to Rio.

Traveling with a group of guys like this is always a good time. Everyone always seems to have plenty of stories to tell, and we all get along pretty well. One of the topics of the day was Michael Vick and the dogfighting scandal. We have been debating whether or not he is going to be doing any jail time. Personally, I don't know enough about the issue to really say what is going to happen one way or the other. However, one time I did see a documentary called "Off The Chain." It was about dogfighting and how pitbulls have gotten a bad rap because of some irresponsible owners. I have three dogs myself, they are not pits, but I don't think that anybody should have dogs fight.

After we made it to George Mason University, where we are staying tonight, we grabbed something to eat and hit the sauna for a little bit. It was nice to sweat a little bit and relax. Traveling always takes a little bit out you. I didn't hit the sauna too hard. Tonight, I was six kilos (about 12.5 pounds) overweight. I usually don't like to hit the sauna too hard until the day of weigh-ins. Some people tend to dehydrate themselves a few days before weigh-ins, but that doesn't really work for me. Right now, I just sauna to stretch, relax, and feel good.

It is getting late so I am going to start winding things down for the night. Last night, I finally figured out how to get movies from my computer onto my iPod. I have had the software to do it for about a year, and I never really figured out how to work it. Now that I finally have it figured out, I need to get some movies on my iPod so I have something to entertain me on tomorrow's flight. I also need to give my wife a call and let her know how everything is going. So until tomorrow take care.

Wednesday, July 18

So I am getting ready to go to Brazil tomorrow. The day before I go on trips like these is always so hectic. Today has been pretty busy. I met with the sports psychologist this morning to go over some final mental preparations, and after that I got in a little workout. At this point of our training we are just tapering to feel good for the Pan Ams. So right now everyone will pretty much just focus on getting their weight down and resting. Anyway, after my workout I went to the recovery center for a massage, and then I ran some errands. I still need to pack tonight so most of the evening will be spent doing laundry and packing my suitcase. I am sure that there is an easier way to do things when it comes to things like getting ready for a trip, like not waiting until the last minute to get everything together, but up until this point in time I have made it a habit to do it like this. It works for me.

This trip is actually coming a little later in the month than what was originally on our schedule. We were supposed to compete a week earlier than we are, but somewhere along the line the wrestling schedule was changed. I guess it has its ups and downs. On the positive side the U.S. delegations and teams have had enough time to figure everything out down there so they can give us some tips on the day-to-day stuff. On the negative side, we have several foreign teams in town for training camp that we won't be able to train with much. The changes in the schedule came too late to change the dates of training camp. The few days that we did have to train with the foreign guys were great. Slovenia, Croatia, Finland, and Norway are all here, and I think that the German team just got into town last night.

I am looking forward to going to Brazil. It is a country that I have never been to before. I actually have several friends who served church missions in Brazil, and they have told me a little bit about it. It would be fun to get out and see some of the sites down there, but usually on these trips everyone usually just hangs out in the hotel. That is one of the funny things about wrestling internationally. I have been to a lot of different countries, and when I talk to people about it they are always like, "Oh that's really cool. I wish I could travel and see so many neat things." My response is usually, "Yeah, it's great. I have probably seen the inside of about 100 hotel rooms. It is really exciting." Seriously though, we usually have a day or two on trips like these to go around town and see stuff, so I have been fortunate to see a lot of interesting things around the world.

The group of guys that are going down to represent the Greco team is a good group. This is the third year that most of this team has been together, and it really does feel like a team. Obviously, everyone wants as much personal success as they can accomplish, but it is really nice to know that everybody will be cheering for each other and wishing each other the best. I think everybody on this team is hungry to compete and wrestle well. Every single athlete on this team is proven in international competition and I think that this is a great tournament to help get us on track for the World Championships later this year. We had a good showing at the Pan Am Championships earlier this year in El Salvador, and I think that we can have an even better showing at the Pan Am Games.

Anyway, I still have some more things to get ready before I go, but I will try to keep up on this blog or journal entry every day of this trip. I will do my best to keep it interesting. Until tomorrow. Take care.
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