August 30, 2007--End of day 3
Everyone is treating us so well. We have a state-of-the-art training facility, Olympic caliber coaches, nice accommodations (the women are staying Chez Santaniello, aka “the convent,” according to Jason, in Santa Ana—I have my own room that features my own bathroom as well as a giant picture of a delicious-looking strawberry—and the men are staying at their condo in Newport Beach and at Chris’ place in Fullerton), and free stuff up the wazoo. For instance, now I have my own tumbler for making protein drinks. I wrote my name on it with a Sharpie. And I have packets of protein powder to put in the tumbler. (The strawberry tastes like Strawberry Quik, the chocolate fudge brownie tastes like SlimFast, and the caramel swirl tastes like cake batter.) We get a per diem of $25, despite the fact that the Santaniellos feed us incredibly well every night. We get free water and sports drinks at No Limits, access to the wireless, use of the laundry service there, and as much time in The Pod as we can squeeze in. We’re going to get rash guards and board shorts to compete in, a warm-up suit, and wrestling shoes. The hotel we’re staying in is 0 kilometers from the beach in Antalya (we were laughing about that), and Karen said it’s gorgeous. And if Karen thinks it’s gorgeous, it is. We’ll be traveling with a contingent that includes someone named Goki (spelling unknown), who speaks Turkish, knows everyone and everything, and can get it done if it can be done (and if he can’t get it done, it can’t be done).
So if there weren’t this huge Grappling Competition of Damocles hanging over my head, life would be pretty sweet about now. Everyone keeps saying that the only pressure on us is to have a good time, and they really mean it. But I know everyone wants us to win, too. Including me, of course. A lot of negotiation went into getting submission grappling included in FILA’s roster of wrestling styles. And Karen and Jim were at the center of a lot of it. It’s so great that they’re such supporters and promoters of the sport. And they know their stuff. And it’s cool when I hear Jim talk about how we’re making history by being the first delegation to represent the US in the first FILA-sponsored submission grappling tournament.
It’s just that I’m waffling back and forth between feeling like I belong here and feeling like I don’t. Jason said, unsolicited, that he wishes I were on his team (I think he means Cobra Kai), and Darren told me that my technique is really good. And I value their opinions a lot. But the voice of doubt in my head is pretty loud, so it can drown out even some strong positivity if I let it.
I’m not planning to let it, but it is kind of overwhelming, the stuff they’re doing for us and the opportunity this represents. I grapple because I love it, and I compete because it makes my grappling better. And it’s insane that I’m part of a group of people that’s being treated like Olympians. I look around at a lot of the group and feel old. Ricky and Midget are young enough to be my teenage out-of-wedlock mistake babies. Darren, Lisa, Crystina, Matt, and Malcolm aren’t that much older. I look around at a lot of the group and feel outclassed. I had 2 matches in the Vegas qualifier, while Darren had 4. Midget had 5; she had to fight back from a loss to Felicia to take 3rd. And she did it. Ricky and Felicia are black belts. Darren and Don are brown belts. Malcolm, Darren, Don, Matt, Lisa, and Ricky are freaking good wrestlers. I am none of those things. Maybe I should just move into The Pod.
Like I said before, this kind of confession isn’t likely to 1) make my grappling any better, 2) strike terror into the hearts of my opponents. Oh, that’s another thing, speaking of opponents. We saw a preliminary list of competitors from other countries. I will try to find the URL so you can see. But there is nobody for me to fight yet. Brazil and Japan haven’t posted their lists, but Malcolm said Brazil might not be able to afford to field a team. So unless Australia, France, Belarus, the UK, and India, among others, are going to add competitors later, they got no one for me to fight. Having no one to compete against would suck worse than having people to compete against.
Okay, enough woe is me. Like I said, this is an amazing opportunity and I’m going to experience the hell out of it. I’m just trying to chronicle everything as it’s happening to me, warts and all. If it were all sunshine and babies, as Anahi would say, I guess everyone would compete. I certainly don’t hope that everyone goes through what I go through before a competition, but I also certainly don’t believe that I’m the only one who does.