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Pak Across the Pond – Day 1

Oh my goodness, where to begin?

It’s after midnight local time, so technically I’m already a day late with this blog, which is just embarrassing, because it’s only our first day! But today technically started at 7 PM in Boston last night, which was almost literally 24 hours ago, and I only caught a cat nap on the plane, so I think I might let myself off the hook just this once 🙂 Plus, the vast majority of you will be catching up with this on your version of Friday anyway, so that totally still counts. (Hmm… Re-reading that line, I’m a bit afraid I’ve gone temporarily mad. But I think it’s just the sleep deprivation. So let me do my very best to catch you up quickly.)

Colby and I landed in Heathrow at 9:05 AM local time. We were expecting vast crowds, but the airport was practically barren. We didn’t even have to wait in line for the passport/customs check, though I almost wished we had. The gentleman who (thoroughly) inspected our passports seemed to question the purity of intentions (and perhaps overall sanity) of two women wearing matching “oh boy(d)!” shirts. After grilling us on the details of our stay, he demanded to see a copy of our return flight ticket. Apparently London is full-up on crazy and didn’t want us sticking around 🙂

After making it through customs with a wink and a smile, Colby and I set off to the USEF/USET house, to meet up with the rest of the Team USA support crew. We quickly dropped our bags at the house, which is JUST outside Greenwich Park, where the equestrian competitions are held (literally on the other side of the wall). While hiking up the four flights of carpeted stairs with two very heavy suitcases didn’t seem like much a treat after the long flight, when I got to my room on the fourth floor, I nearly thought I’d died and gone to heaven. I can literally see portions of the XC course from my bedroom windows!

But why look out the window in amazement when you can get out and soak it all up in person? So off we went, walking all around Greenwich with our good friend Scott from USEF. We walked down to the Thames, saw some sights and then grabbed a bite for lunch. After lunch, Colby and I snagged the camera and got to work, putting together three fun videos for you guys. The first was shot within the Old Royal Naval College, which is adjacent to Greenwich Park, the site of all the equestrian events.

Next, we wanted to give you guys a peek inside the USEF/USET digs. Check it out!

As soon as that was done, there was barely time to change clothes and we were off to the athlete’s hotel to join the party for the Opening Ceremonies. Since the Eventing Team has to compete bright and early tomorrow (Boyd is the first ride at 10AM local time), they weren’t able to participate in the on-site ceremonies, or stay in the Olympic village, which is anywhere from a half hour to an hour away, depending on the traffic. So all the riders, horse owners, grooms, vets, friends, family and other supporters gathered together to enjoy some good food, good drinks, a good show on the “telly,” and some positively outstanding company.

It was such a tremendous experience seeing first hand all of the love, support and hard work that goes into making these Olympic dreams come true. The part that struck me the most is how similar it all felt to competing at every level of the sport. Whether you’re a six-year-old who can barely reach the stirrups, embarking on your first 4-H show, or a lifelong adult rider, anxiously awaiting your first ride at the Olympic Games, it’s the support of the people who love you, and believe in you, that got you where you are. And it’s that same support and love that will see you through to the other side – whatever that brings.

To all the athletes showing tomorrow, I wish you nothing but the absolute best of luck. And I thank you for inspiring me, and reminding me what this amazing sport is truly all about. I would say, “go make us proud,” but you already have. Here’s to a fabulous Games. And here’s to you, riders everywhere!

Stay up to date on the latest London happenings by following @SmartPakerSarah and @SmartPakerColby on Twitter!

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Posted in SmartPak Features, Stories & Adventures, Travel

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