Wednesday, February 9th | Trip to the City!

Today was a recovery day for the wrestlers at the Olympic Training Center in Kiev. Some of the guys did a light jog at 8 a.m. this morning and drilled in tennis shoes in the indoor soccer field. My body had a hard time with the time change. I only slept for two hours the night before, so I elected instead to get as much sleep as I could to try to get the trip out of my system. After breakfast, Jon Reader, Ben Kjar, Chad Hanke and I decided to go into Kiev to see the city, shop for a few essentials and get something to eat. It was only 60 grivna for the 25-mile trip from the OTC into the city, which is about nine American dollars.

We ate lunch at T.G.I. Friday’s. I was surprised to see how many American restaurants there are in Kiev, and the food tasted great! We pretty much got ourselves lost when we left the restaurant, so we asked a guy walking by if he could help us find the flea market or some kind of convenience store. He happened to speak fair English, was a native Iranian studying to be a pilot, and he led us to a cab that offered us a fair rate. We quickly found out that it is a custom for cab drivers to charge tourist, especially non-Russian speakers, very high rates assuming they don’t know the difference. One driver quoted us 200 grivna (around $18) for the short drive to the mall. Eventually, we were able to get all our necessities and cab back to the OTC.

Kiev is like no city I have ever seen. The landscape surrounding is not mountainous or flat but small ravines and rifts divided by a large river that is completely frozen over. Many small groups of people constantly brave the cold to enjoy ice fishing or ice skating on the small patches that have been cleared of snow. On every overpass we went by, kids and adults were sledding. I even saw a group of guys climbing a hill along the interstate through the trees with snowboards looking to catch some fresh powder. I was shocked to see so many people outside; the temperature was barely above zero degrees Fahrenheit.

The skyline is dominated by huge apartment buildings — hundreds of them. I have never seen so many apartment buildings! In fact, I saw very few of what we think of a conventional houses. The shops and stores downtown seemed much like those of large cities in the United States. I have never seen so many fur coats! Most of the women and many of the men have very heavy fur coats of all colors, shapes and sizes…. understandably so with the temperatures frequently plummeting well below zero degrees. I have always wondered where the market for animal furs is based. I believe I have found my answer.

Tomorrow we are back on our regular practice schedule — jog/light drill at 8 a.m., technique on the mat at 11:45a.m. and live wrestling at 5 p.m.



Monday, February 7th | Hello From Kiev!

Today was my first full day here. I am pretty jetlagged and only got about four hours of sleep last night — we landed in Kiev about 3:00pm on Sunday — but I got a great lift in today and feel much better. The guys wrestled four matches today, but I didn’t wrestle because my knee is pretty bruised from the Dave Shultz Invitational last Friday. I’m not happy with my performance at that tournament at all, and I’m anxious to get back on the mat and work on changing speeds from hand fighting into my offensive and defensive attacks. Most of the swelling in my knee has gone down since the flight.

In my opinion, the food here is pretty good. The soup they make reminds me of mom’s soup, with chicken meat still on the bone and fresh vegetables adding to the flavor, and there’s plenty to go around. We only ate twice today, so we put away some major calories to stay fueled up. It is very cold — just above zero — and there’s a couple feet of snow on the ground. The wresting room is huge with six mats all together, and it’s also very cold. Some of the guys warm up with their winter coats on.

These Ukrainians don’t seem to like us very much, which is fine but it’s interesting. No one really tries to communicate with us more than necessary. I wonder if it will stay that way for the whole trip. The Ukrainians are good wrestlers, they all can scrap, but overall the guys held their own in matches today. I am very excited about this opportunity, and I’m confident that I will make some major improvements in my wrestling while I’m over here.

Our dorm room is nice, newly refinished. It’s small but has everything we need. We can’t drink the water, but Coach Hrovat keeps us well supplied with bottled water. We are pretty cut off from the world. There is no cell phone service, and our internet service is hit or miss. It is refreshing to be able to focus completely on that task and hand, but it does feel a bit strange to not be checking my cell phone all the time.

This is truly an amazing experience and I am blessed to be a part of it.