Read all about how Mareike Miller and the German team received a great send off and arrived in Rio for the Paralympic Games.
After almost two full days, it already feels like we have been here a whole week. The amazing trip started with a wonderful sendoff by Lufthansa and the German president Joachim Gauck. With a total of 175 athletes and staff members all on the same flight, the majority of our entire Paralympic team enjoyed a pleasant trip. We left Germany on the 31st August to arrive in Rio on 1st September.
With 175 people and 2 pieces of luggage each, all with the same bags, we continued to have fun like the Olympic athletes did before at the airport… Even though we obviously prepared, it still took time to sort out about 300 bags and find your own. Once we did, we loaded up to head to the Paralympic Athlete’s Village while the bags were packed into a big truck, which meant we had to sort and find them again once we got to our accommodation. I guess it was a good thing since we needed to stay awake to fight any chances of a jetlag.
Already being in awe from the all-out sendoff with emotional videos reminding us of the incredible and emotional event we are about to compete at, the entire group was in a great mood. Without words, we could simply feel the excitement across the board for the next few weeks – finally being able to live the dream and compete at the biggest stage, most of us having worked at least four years to make it here!
Arriving in Rio, following recent negative news from the Olympics and also about the upcoming Paralympics, we had low expectations, however, we were pleasantly surprised when arriving. The village is beautiful with a nice park and running tracks, the practice gyms have great courts, and miss nothing but maybe some showers. The views from our apartment’s balcony and rooms are beautiful: We got to see some of the village, and some of the nearby lake – the Lagoa de Jacarepaguá. And while of course not everything is perfect and we were missing a few little things, the apartments are nice and spacious, accessible and our house in a great central spot of the village.
We were warned that McDonald’s may not sponsor the Paralympics or that the food at the main dining hall was poor. Both turn out to be untrue, the main dining hall has plenty variety as usual, maybe not perfect to everyone’s taste or a 5-star restaurant but when have you heard of a 5-star restaurant serving buffet for 4,300 athletes 24 hours a day? I’m sure you get my point; it serves its purpose very well. Additionally, McDonald’s is open, not 24 hours like we experienced in London, but 12 hours and with a smaller menu but really all our team desired it for was their McCafe coffee choices – which are available. So once again it all turned out better than expected.
Finished with all of the exploring to do for the necessities, we practiced right away on our arrival day. With a five-hour time change, we were already tired before we started but it felt great getting some exercise after the long flight over. With the practice facilities right by the village, not much time is lost with transportation. At 9:00 p.m. we were finally done and all settled in heading to bed to get some much needed rest.
On our second day, we got to scrimmage in the morning and then enjoyed a few hours of sightseeing. With a couple buses, we left to see more of the city and continent that most of us have never been to before! A fun unplanned sight was also seeing the Olympic beach volleyball arena that is currently being taken down (one of the few locations that is not used for Paralympics and not staying in Rio). Only weeks ago, two of our fellow German athletes won their gold medals here and now it wasn’t more than a framework of metal to be seen. An interesting way to see how short experiences can be and another reason I look forward to soaking in every moment of the next few weeks.
You will be able to keep up to date on Mareike’s Rio 2016 journey via her IWBF blog. As well as following her on her own social media channels to get regular updates.