Jan. 10, 2014
After a 5 hour ride on a bullet train we made it to Beijing! We arrived at our hotel around midnight on the 8th and went right to bed seeing as we had to be up in a few hours to climb the Great Wall.
We woke up early on the 9th and drove two and a half hours away to the outskirts of the city to see the Wall. We were all so amazed that we were given the opportunity to see such a famous site. It took us about two hours to climb up and down the wall and to see all the great views. It was definitely harder than the football stadiums that Jian Li makes us run back in Reno. Although we took many breaks to catch our breath and take pictures, we finally made it. At the top of the Wall it was well below freezing temperatures (Celcius). We were bundled up in scarves, hats, winter jackets, as well as gloves and boots. The river below the Wall was completely frozen over!
After making it back to downtown Beijing we rested up at the hotel for our next big day.
Today, (Jan 10) we got to see the famous Water Cube, Tiananmen Square, and the Forbidden City. The Water Cube was the site of the 2008 Beijing Olympics for swimming and diving. Ever since the day we watched the 2008 Olympics we have all been wanting to visit the Cube. Grace had already competed there for Olympic trials so she had seen it however, the rest of us stood in amazement once entering the facility. It was very beautiful and looked just as it had on TV.
After the Water Cube we got to visit Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City. It was very interesting to see Tiananmen Square and to learn more about the history of why it is so famous. We learned that in 1989 many students were protesting their freedom to learn more outside the education they were given. Mao Tse Tung, the leader of China, wanted students to strictly learn about everything about their country, however some students felt that they wanted to learn more outside of their land. Mao Tse Tung did not agree with the protestors and had them killed in Tiananmen Square. It was very interesting to not only learn more about it, but to actually see the site in person.
Next to Tiananmen Square is the Forbidden City. This is where are all the Emperors, Empresses, Kings, and servants had lived centuries ago. The buildings and artwork were beautiful. We were all amazed that it was entirely handcrafted many thousands of years ago.
After all of our site seeing, we went back to the hotel for a little bit before getting to meet the Chinese National Team. Normally foreign countries that come to China to dive never have the opportunity to meet or to watch the team because of private practices, however since Jian Li is best friends with the head of Chinese diving we were able to watch the practice and get to meet many Olympic gold medalists. We definitely considered this one of the highlights of the trip.
After seeing how the Chinese practice, we now know where Jian Li gets all of her coaching skills and ideas from! It was very cool to see that. Jian Li told us that the dryland facilities in China are the best in the world, and we now fully understand why the Chinese are at the top around the world in diving. It was very inspiring to see such high level athletes. Generally we only get to see them on TV however meeting them in person was an experience that you could never put a price on.
We were fortunate enough to have dinner with two of the Olympian divers. Their schedule is very strict and they have to be back at their dorms by a certain hour, but sure enough they were allowed to leave the dorms for a little bit to enjoy a nice dinner with us.
As the trip is nearing an end, we (the divers) were talking with each other and realized that if we were to visit China on our own, we would never have something as close to the experience as we are having right now without Jian Li. We have learned so much about her life and have seen it happen first hand this trip. It gives us a lot of perspective on her background and why she coaches us the way she does. The Chinese are very smart with coaching the sport of diving, and we can surely see why Jian Li is the amazing coach that she is.
Tomorrow we head back to Shanghai to finish off our training.