As spectators of the Olympic Games, we've heard stories about the Zika virus, poor living conditions, polluted water, and a police force on the verge of a strike, but what is it like to actually be an Olympic athlete in Rio right now? Below we follow athletes Dagmara Wozniak and Monica Aksamit of the U.S. Women's Saber Fencing Team as they make their way to the biggest stage of their careers.
To achieve mastery of a sport, it is said that one must diligently practice for an accumulation of 10,000 hours. At a rate of 3 practice hours per day, this would take around 9 years of perseverance, determination and sweat to accomplish. You've put in the time. You've fueled, trained and recovered, and you've emphasizing every detail. You've triumphed in success and learned from failures, and now you are an Olympic athlete en route to Rio.
Your travels begin in Houston, Texas, at the Team USA Olympic Processing Center. Each Olympic athlete makes a stop at the George R. Brown Convention Center for 24-48 hours, where they are welcomed by 1,200 volunteers and introduced to Team USA's sponsors. After their credentials are checked, the athletes are shown to their private Nike dressing rooms, which are fully stocked, head-to-toe, with enough Nike apparel to open an outlet store.
When you walk to the back of the changing room, you see your own personalized mirror, etched with the Nike and U.S. Olympic Team logos along with your name. Outside the room, you are measured and fitted by Polo, the outfitter for the opening ceremony, before meeting with Omega to get fitted for your new timepiece. While some athletes go to Rio from the professional circuit, many, including the U.S. Fencing Team, must rely on part-time jobs and fundraising to cover their training and travel expenses prior to the Games. In Rio, however, these athletes are graciously rewarded for their dedication, and Team USA pulls out all the stops to make each Olympic athlete feel welcome. During this 2-day period, each athlete takes official team pictures and has the opportunity to get alterations made on their new apparel.
Upon arriving in Rio, credentials are verified at the airport, and athletes are shuttled off to the high rise apartment-style Olympic Village, where room keys are distributed by an official from each sport. "The rooms aren't bad at all," says Aksamit. "Not much different from a college dorm." Accommodations are suite-style with several rooms in each suite. Two roommates share a closet with a locked nightstand to protect valuables. Although on the small side, the suites have balconies, custom Olympic elevators and bedding with Olympic event symbols on them. Outside the buildings are activity areas where athletes can relax, go for a swim, or take part in other leisure activities. Once the athletes are settled in, the Village hums with activity as the athletes explore and meet each other, exchanging their unique team pins with athletes of other countries.
To reduce the risk of Zika infection, each outlet emits a mosquito repellent spray around it, and cans of OFF are available from athlete Brand Ambassadors. Athletes are instructed to keep their windows closed and A/Cs on, because mosquitoes apparently don't like them. In addition, athletes are advised to apply bug spray before heading outdoors and to wear long sleeves and long pants when out early or after dusk.
While the athletes await the Opening Ceremonies, they are ablated to remain in the best shape to perform at the highest level. The U.S. fencing team shares a training room with the wrestling team. It has metal fencing strips on one side of the room and multicolored wrestling circles on the other. Here the athletes review tactics and refine their technique while keeping their conditioning levels up with low-risk exercises to prevent avoidable last-minute injuries. Athletes have access to sports medicine teams who provide manual therapy, modality treatments and mobility exercises to help them recover and stay ready to compete.
Scheduled in the daytime are appearances on a variety of media outlets covering the Games. Many newscasters made the trip to host live shows and conduct interviews with team members, while others perform interviews via phone and social media. Here, Dagmara and Monica are featured on the Today Show and Buzzfeed with the Women's Saber Team on the sunny beaches of Rio.
As athletes grow in popularity, "sometimes we find ourselves on websites without even knowing it," Monica says in a recent article, Monica Aksamit: Hottest Photos Of The U.S. Olympic Fencer, featured on COED.com. The article provides a quick profile of Monica's fencing career leading up to the Olympic Games and displays a slide show of her Instagram pictures, ranging from her modeling portfolio to her Dalmatians Nala and Pongo.
The Olympic Torch arrives in Rio and the athletes prepare for the Olympic Opening Ceremony. Follow Monica and Dagmara's journey @dagmarawozniak and @monicaaksamit on Instagram, and see them live on snapchat @dagaw and @monnmons.
Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock