July 23, 2012
Stephen F. Austin soccer will be represented in the 2012 London Olympics as two-time Southland Conference Player of the Year Kylie Louwwill participate as part of her native South African national soccer team. Keep up with Kylie's first-hand journey through the Games via SFA Athletics as she chronicles her time there with a personalized blog.
She and her team will begin pool play on Wednesday at 1:45 pm CT vs Sweden. A link to watch all matches, as well as a schedule, is included at the bottom of the first blog entry.
Check back periodically throughout the competition for updates.
London Olympics 2012
May 17, 2012
I arrived in South Africa ready and rearing to go! I traveled straight from the airport to join the National team in training camp because we were leaving for Tanzania the very next day. The Tanzania tour came and went and we won the match 5-2. We felt super confident after that because we put up a great performance away from home. I got an assist in that match which boosted my confidence after joining the team who had been preparing without me 3 weeks prior to the game.
We stayed in training camp the following week to prepare for our next game, which was an African Woman's Championship Qualifier against Zambia. Training during that week was rather hectic. We trained up to 3 times a day, sprinting, jumping, conditioning, running and more running. Our physical trainer showed us no mercy and was determined to run us into the ground ... literally. It paid off, though, because we beat Zambia 3-1 at home and we were all over them showing no signs of fatigue at all. A week later we played Nigeria at home and held the African Champions to a 1-1 score line. No rest for the elite, so we went straight back into training camp. At this point our bodies were dead tired and all we wanted to do was sleep, but alas that was not an option.
Consecutive weeks from that game on, we played Zambia and Nigeria away! We won 4-1 and drew 0-0. I landed myself another assist against Zambia. Thank goodness after the game against Nigeria, we finally got a week's worth of rest before we jetted off to Germany!
Training up to this point had been very intense and our bodies were near the point of giving up on us. Even my thigh decided to give in a little and I had a reasonably bad quad pull but at this point I couldn't afford not to train and be left behind, so against all protocol, I ended up training on it. The week's worth of rest we got was heaven-sent and my legs needed all the recovering they could get. I got some physical therapy and rehab sessions in which helped massive amounts and I made a full recovery.
Off we went to Germany, we landed in Munich and caught a connecting flight to Koln and then drove to Hennef. A full day-and-a-half's worth of traveling really took a toll on our system but once we arrived at the Sportschule in Hennef we had a day off to relax and catch up on some sleep. The training facilities were absolutely gorgeous at the Sportschule and it just made us that much more excited to better ourselves and improve more and more everyday. We played a friendly match against a local team, Bayern 04 Leverkusen. We played very well and beat them 3-1. This was a huge morale booster because we performed well and came away with a great result.
After a week in Germany we caught the Eurostar train and travelled through the English channel all the way to Birmingham, England. We played a friendly against Great Britain the very next day, so there wasn't a very long turnaround time for us to adapt and recover from traveling but it was good for us to play at least one match in England to acclimatize a bit before we arrived for the Olympics. We put up a good performance in this match too, unfortunately we fell 3-1 to Team GB because of small stupid mistakes. It didn't take anything away from the way we performed though, so we were happy. The very next day we flew all the way back to South Africa (sounds crazy I know) to join the rest of the Olympic Team. The reasoning for this outrageous amount of extra travelling was that we needed to collect all our equipment and official Olympic clothing and all the rest.
We also had to attend a wealth of events and functions and appearances for the next two days, as well as an official Olympic banquet. The support and pride that our fans showed us at the events that we attended was absolutely amazing. South Africa really beamed with faith in us and showed huge amounts of support for our team. It was really an honor walking in amongst other Olympians that have been in this position before and here I am, an Olympian myself.
The reception we received from the media and our fans at the airport when we left for London was absolutely overwhelming ... Hundreds of people cheering and shouting for us, waving their flags furiously. Walking through the crowd on a red carpet that had been laid out for us was super exciting and I felt incredibly humbled. It is the most amazing feeling knowing that all of this was for my teammates and I. We have the whole nation behind us and we could see that with our own very eyes.
It really is an amazing feeling and I felt a massive sense of accomplishment because I had reached my goal, my dream come true. Boarding our specially-branded plane that had a special Olympic design on it was also an indescribable feeling. While sitting on the plane I thought to myself: "This is it, the time is now and we are off, off to the Olympics, the actual real LONDON OLYMPICS 2012! Arguably the highest competitive stage in the world, and we are competing in it!"
Goosebumps ran down my spine!
Upon arrival in London, we were greeted by hundreds of London 2012 volunteers, our luggage was whisked away from us and loaded onto our buses, we didn't have to lift a finger. We were being treated like absolute royalty.
Unfortunately we are one of the few teams who are not competing in London itself so we won't be staying at the Olympic village. It was a little disappointing at first, but when I actually took a step back for a minute from all the hype and revisited the reason why we were here I came to the conclusion that the village is not what it's all about. The competition is what it's all about, playing and competing at such a high level is the real importance. The atmosphere and the extras like staying at the village and all the rest is just the luck of the draw.
We are currently based in Coventry where our first two matches are being played. The rest of the teams in our group (which are Japan, Canada and Sweden) are also based at the same hotel, so it can't be all that bad. The next bit of bad news we received was that we would not be attending the opening ceremony.
The reason for this is that the opening ceremony is on July 27th in London and only begins at 8:30pm. Coventry is almost 2.5 hours away, so it isn't realistic going all the way there for anything up to 5 hours and then making the lengthy trip back, especially because we have a match the next day, July 28th. We, as a team, are disappointed because it would have been an experience of a lifetime, but unfortunately we don't make the rules, we just have to follow them. We have accepted it and will make the best of the experience here in Coventry.
Time is drawing really close for our first game and we are getting extremely excited and nervous, anxiety is also settling in a bit and I can feel my heart rate is slightly elevated but we are ready. We have been preparing so incredibly hard for the past 7 months and the time is now! The training and preparing is done, now it's about portraying our skill, knowledge and passion for the game. Playing with our hearts for our nation's pride will be the order of the day! Our first match is against Sweden on July 25th at 12:45. The game should be shown on MSNBC and is available to watch online. All support is greatly appreciated. I hope to not only represent my country with pride and courage but also to put my axe up high and represent Stephen F. Austin at the London 2012 Olympic Games.
July 25th - South Africa vs Sweden (Watch Online)
July 28th - South Africa vs Canada
July 31st - South Africa vs Japan
TV channel listings link
July 25, 2012
South Africa versus Sweden, the day has arrived. Our very first game, of our very first Olympic games. The team and I are feeling extremely anxious, nervous, scared, happy and probably every emotion you can think of all thrown into a bag and jumbled up.
Yep that's exactly how we felt, well how I felt anyway. This is the very first tournament at a world stage that we have competed in and it starts today. The day we have been training tirelessly through blood sweat and tears; once, twice or even three times a day. There is so much expectation and so much pressure, I can feel it, I can see it and I can hear it. I hear it out of the mouths of the media, out of the mouths of my teammates but also out of the mouth of my own conscience. I can feel the tension in the air and in my shoulders, but I'm excited and anxious. Most importantly I'm ready and I cannot wait to get onto that beautiful pitch and play.
The day rolls on and we arrive at the stadium, treated like Olympians and respected as soccer players. The change room and the facilities are in mint condition and our jerseys are laid out for us ready for the courage, effort and determination to fill them. Standing in the tunnel waiting to run onto the field for our warm up, I can hear the people in the crowd, I can hear the official Olympic song playing and the beat runs through my entire being, my whole body.
I close my eyes and consume that moment for just a second when I hear the sound of cleats slamming on the floor, I open my eyes and see my teammates run past me with such intention and pride and onto the field we go. I can hear the crowd begin to roar, I can't help myself and I sprint out onto the field. The cheers and screams get louder and louder until the applause almost becomes one rhythmic beat. Adrenalin is now pumping through my body and every hair on my skin is standing on end. I have the biggest goosebumps anyone has ever seen in their life.
This is it, I have made it, I am Olympian. This realization slowly sets in as I scan the crowd in the stadium; all these thousands of people are here for us, here for my team, here for me. What an honor.
The national anthem obviously left a lump in my throat and I could feel the pride of my country run through my veins as I sing out the words as loud as I can. I am here for my country, I am here for my family, my friends and I am here for me. A reward for many years of very hard work. The whistle blows and the fans explode in applause. What a feeling that was. I all of a sudden have so much energy, I'm ecstatic about this revelation because I know fatigue won't be an option during this game which means I can give my absolute best, no holding back.
The game ended and we lost 4-1, easy to just say we lost. We didn't just lose, we learned, well I learned. I learned that sometimes a team is just better than another for a variety of reasons, reasons neither my teammates nor I could have controlled. Sweden was great; they had a great game as a team and put their chances away. Although we lost, we learned that even though we are down, we are not out because my teammate scored the most amazing goal from almost 45 yards out. She scored possibly the goal of the tournament. To me that's not giving up. I was so proud of her and what a beautiful goal it was.
July 28, 2012
South Africa versus Canada, a team we are fairly familiar with, a team we feel more prepared for. The nerves are gone, the anxiousness has subsided and we have attempted to correct the mistakes we made in the first game. Losing to me, was an opportunity to get better, Sweden exposed areas in our performance that we needed to work on and we felt like we addressed those issues during our training sessions. We feel more ready for Canada than what we thought we were for Sweden.
We run out onto the field for our warm up and I experience that same feeling of worthiness and accomplishment. Except this time around I can honestly say my nerves had calmed down substantially and thankfully I didn't feel like I was going to pass out (embarrassing confession experienced during the warm up against Sweden). Once again our national anthem leaves a lump in my throat as I squeeze my teammates hand while we sing as loud as we could with absolute pride.
The game begins and six minutes in, Canada scores. Probably one of the most disappointing moments of my whole experience. All that hope and confidence I had felt before the game had subsided. We held them to a 1-0 score for most of the game, until they got a second wind from somewhere and came flying at us scoring another two goals. Final score 3-0 to Canada.
This game was way more disappointing than the last because we competed and played hard and we didn't manage to score yet conceded three goals which were very easily preventable. It was almost a feeling of, "Well maybe if we had done this instead of that then we could have won." Our hopes and dreams of going thru to the quarter final round were dashed.
Knowing that we still had the world champs to face next dug the dagger deeper.
July 31, 2012
South Africa versus Japan, we regrouped from our devastating loss and focused on what we had gained rather than what we had lost. We finally accepted that walking away with a wealth of experience and recognition was just as rewarding as walking away with a piece of metal around our necks. The overall atmosphere of this game was different to all the others. Very different. There was tranquility in the change room and a sense of calmness amongst my teammates. There was no tension, no pressure and everyone seemed to be okay with that.
We were actually having fun and being jovial about the possible results of the game ahead of us. We wanted our last game of the London 2012 Olympics to be one we would never forget, one we could talk about for the rest of our lives, one we could say we had fun playing, one we enjoyed. Our expectations were fulfilled when we tied 0-0 to the world champions. Japan was ranked third in the world and we were 61st. One would think would be an absolute walkover. When players play with heart and courage and play for the pride of their country and for everyone that ever supported them, that's when a team of any rank becomes beatable at anytime. After all the ball is round for all of us.
As the whistle blew for the start of the game, I thought to myself this is it, time to leave our names in the history book, and history we made. We had the game of our lives, everyone was on form and every player gave 110% and was determined to give the best they had and lay it all out on the pitch.
What a feeling after the game to have achieved. We may have not won the gold medal or even qualified for the next round but we had won in our books. The abundance of knowledge and wealth of experience that I have walked away with from London 2012 is exactly what I was looking for. Yes, we would have loved to have beaten Sweden or Canada or even Japan but at the end of the day we didn't. We tried our best and we just didn't have the goods needed to qualify for the next round. We could sit around for the rest of our lives saying, “What if this, what if that. What if we were drawn into another group? What if we had not conceded so many goals? What if the ball that hit the post went in? What if I had run a little farther to the left at the 56th minute of the second game?”
What ifs never bring justice or acceptance to a current situation. What ifs are a waste of time and cause unnecessary worry. What ifs don't allow us to learn. I never allowed what ifs to consume my mind. I accepted the way things turned out and from that simple decision of allowing myself to be okay with the result is what has made me rich, rich in experience and knowledge. I believe the Olympic Games have made me into a richer person. A person who appreciates the smaller things in life more, a person who understands that if you give one day you will receive in a way I had never imagined. A person who believes that determination and drive to reach goals are certainly attainable if you work for them and don't expect them to land in your lap on a golden platter. A person who will concentrate on showing more appreciation to the people who she loves and that love her. A person who has learned from the lessons taught. A person who has become a bigger and better person. Thank you London 2012, THANK YOU!
I also would like to take this opportunity to thank absolutely everyone that has sent their best wishes and cheered myself and South Africa on during the Olympics. The amount of support I have received is truly breathtaking and I am so incredibly humbled. To all of you that tuned in to watch me play, thank you so much. My true teammates at SFA, you girls are just incredible. You were my backbone during the Olympics. You lifted me up when I was down and you showed your appreciation of me as a teammate and as a friend. I am truly thankful to each one of you for that. To my friends at home, thank you for motivating me and willing me to do the best I can and assuring me that I have done my country proud. Last but not least, mom and dad and the rest of my family, how could I ever thank you enough?
Mom, it's because of you I have achieved what I have today. All those early freezing cold mornings paid off. Dad, thank you for encouraging me to get better and lifting me up when I was down. Mom and dad, I am so proud to be your daughter and thank you for molding me into who I am today. Thank you for the lessons you have taught me, I promise it's all paid off. I love you.