August 29, 2008

The fastest man on no legs

I was reading one of the abstract books from the Olympic conference (yes, GEEK) and came across the summary from the symposium about the Oscar Pistorius case. I did not attend this session, even though it was on my list and I can't remember what session I went to instead...

I find this story truly amazing. If you have not heard about the South African sprinter Oscar Pistorius, aka 'the fastest man on no legs' or the 'blade runner', here are a few pictures, that simply speak louder than words....

It is pretty late. I will get into more detail tomorrow...

August 28, 2008

Is there anyone out there?

I know people are actually reading this blog. Not too many right now, but a few for sure... I am just not sure who these people are, other than my mom and Kate (I love you mom, and thanks Kate...).

So if you are reading this blog, weather you have been following it for a little while or you just stumbled across it somehow, please make a comment/say hello, so I know who you are! Its always more fun writing (OK, typing) when I know who is reading what I have to say... :)

China - Days 10 & 11 - August 7th & 8th

So I was back at the conference centre again, and I had a plan. I was going to take the train to HK with Stephen and catch my flight to Vancouver from there. I really did not want to go to the Guangzhou airport again... but first, I had to confirm my flights and book the last leg of the trip, the flight from Van to Vic. I though it will be a pretty short and straight forward phone call to Cathay Pacific, but I ended up spending most of the day re-booking my flights.

Apparently, the girl from Southern China airlines that told me that everything is re-booked and gave me the flight numbers simply lied. I normally want to think the best of people and I would love to just pretend that she made an honest mistake, but there is no way around this one. She did not book anything for me. In fact, there was no space on the flight to Van she supposedly booked for me! It took a lot of crying (good thing I was speaking to a male customer service representative... haha) and explaining that my visa expires on the 8th, that I need to get back home and that I was told I have a reservation on that flight to get the guy on the phone to feel really sorry for me and pull some strings to get me on that plane! The flight from Van to Vic was easily booked, but I was told that I can't catch the flight from HK. I had to take the Guangzhou-HK leg of the trip because that is how my ticket was purchased and it is not a re-routable ticket. Let me tell you, next time I will definitely buy a re-routable ticket!! After around 5 hours (and $30 later) a new e-ticket was emailed to me. Phew!! That was such a relief...

On the 8th, things were actually fairly smooth to begin with. The flight from Guangzhou to HK left on time. There was a slight delay in the flight to Vancouver. Van was the first stop, then the plane was headed to New York. I guess that was why it was completely jam packed and we had to go through security again just before boarding the plane. They searched through our bags and everything. Im not sure what they were expecting to find as we already went through security...

The flight was long (13 hours), but it went by pretty fast; Cathay Pacific is a good airline. I watched a lot of movies, including the Flying Scotsman. Great movie! I spotted him wearing Specialized Tri shoes, 06' model. Not too authentic... it just made me laugh because I'm sure most people watching that movie would never notice something like that or would have no idea what model year these shoes were. I guess it just proves that I am a geek and have been involved in the bike industry for a little while...

I missed my flight to Vic. It was because of the short delay in the flight from HK, the long custom line and the even longer wait for the bags... I run across the airport to the domestic terminal just to learn that not only did I miss my flight, it was also booked wrong... so I had to go back to the international terminal so Cathay Pacific can fix my connection flight. I was back in the domestic terminal pretty fast, which was a nice change compared to the way things worked in China! Everything was a lot more smooth and efficient in Van...

I was home by 7:30pm on the 8th of August, after around 30 hours of travelling and only 2 hours of sleep. It took around 1 week to finally sleep at night and stay awake during the day... I have never been happier to be back home... :)

August 27, 2008

China - Day 9 - August 6th

Home sweet home! Or so I thought... My flight to Hong Kong was scheduled for 9:30am, and I had around 4 hours wait in HK before flying to Vancouver and then to Victoria. I got to the airport early, at 7:30am and went through check-in and customs pretty fast, which was awesome. I had an over priced, bad cup of coffee and waited... and waited some more... at 9:30am they announced that the flight was delayed to a time that will be announced later. I figured I was safe because I had so much time in HK, so I just kept reading by book. At around 11, I was starting to get agitated (to say the least!) because they couldn't tell us when the flight will leave and wouldn't tell us whats going on... at 12:30 they brought everyone lunch (rice and hot dogs). Not a good sign. I only ate the rice. By that point, they said that the HK airport is shut and there are no flight coming or going because of a typhoon, but a little while afterwards one of the passengers checked online and there were flights leaving the HK airport... Hmmmmm... that created a bit of a mess around the gate! To make a pretty long and nerve wrecking story short, they cancelled all flights from Guangzhou to HK because the typhoon was right in between those 2 cities. Some flights were leaving the HK airport but my flight to Vancouver was actually cancelled too.

I had to re-book my flights, but Southern China airlines wouldn't do that for me... they said that Cathay Pacific needs to do that because I was flying with them from HK to Van and that I need to call my travel agent. Travel agent? Whats that? We don't use those in Canada anymore... I called Cathay Pacific and they said Southern China airlines has to re-book my flights... Hmmmmm... after a lot of arguing and trying to communicate with staff that can barely speak English, I got someone from Southern China airlines to talk to someone from Cathay Pacific. All of that was with the help of Shawn and his wife, an American couple that lives in Guangzhou and was trying to visit family in the USA. He could speak Chinese, which helped a lot! They could have gone home, but they stayed for another 6 hours, helping me sort out my flights, get my bags back and get back to the convention centre. I don't know what I would have done without them!!!!!

Finally, at around 7pm, my flights were booked. I was scheduled to fly out of Guangzhou at 9:30am on the 8th of August. The airline would not help with the hotel, etc, because its not their fault (weather related). The argument that it is not my fault either did not stand a chance... Lucky for me the convention centre agreed to let me stay for 2 extra nights at the convention price (very helpful, because it was a 1/3 of the normal price!), and all I needed to do was get my bags back, get myself back to the convention centre and call Air Canada in the morning, to book my flight from Vancouver to Victoria. The only problem was that it took over 2 hours to get my bags back!

After checking in again at the convention centre and dropping off my bags in my room, I knocked on Stephens door (he was staying there until the 7th, before taking the train to HK). His face was so priceless, I wish I had my camera on me... he looked like he had seem a ghost. After I crashed on a chair and gave him the low down, he decided i need a beer and some food. He was right. I'm so glad I had someone to talk to after that crazy day :)

I have decided I hate China and that I will never visit it again (3 weeks later, as I am typing this, I'm thinking that never is a long time, and not really realistic...). Everything worked out in the end... or did it?!?!

China - Day 8 - August 5th

The day after the conference... almost everyone have already left, so the whole complex was pretty quiet. I had to pack my bags and move from block 5 to block 1. A bit of a pain, but no big deal. My new room in block 1 was not as nice though! Stephen was the only person I knew who was still around and we decided to take the cable way to Baiyun mountain and check out the park and the view. It started raining like crazy as soon as we got off the cable car and did not stop for a few hours... we did not let that get in the way of exploring! I will let the pictures do the talking... :)

This one made me giggle!

August 20, 2008

China - Day 7 - August 4th

Last day of the conference...

8:30 - Current research and practice in sports nutrition.
10:30 - Training of elite athletes
12:30 - Posters, posters, posters...
13:30 - Nutritional strategies and the application to paralympic sport
15:30 - Gym time!

The last day was great until the late afternoon sessions with nothing interesting to listen to... so I decided I should go to the gym and read the abstracts later. Apparently, I was not the only one as the gym was bussier than normal ;) After around 20 minutes on the boring treadmill, in a gym with no air conditioning and a pool in the same facility, I decided that I should just jump in the water for another swim. 2 swims in one week!! Lucky for me 2 Spanish biomechanists watched me swim and confirmed that yes, I do indeed have a swimming background. Phew... 20+ years of swimming must mean something, even though I have not swam a lot at all this year... :)

The closing ceremony was OK, just a dinner. Afterwards, we decided that we should have some drinks so we headed to block 1 lounge. The cocktails were incredibly cheap so I decided to try one. A bit of a mistake... that thing was so strong, I could not drink it. It did come in a pretty glass though... It was beer for me after that.

When I got back to my room, I had a note under my door saying that all the delegates staying in block 5 have to move into block 1 for the rest of their stay (one more night for me) because they needed to do security sweeps before the next conference. Damn. I had to pack, check out and then check back in again for just one night... what a pain... oh well!

China - Days 5 & 6 - August 2nd & 3rd

I have decided that those of you reading this blog are likely not too interested in what presentations I attended and exactly what I have learned... so I will just provide a quick summary and get on with more interesting stuff. It is a bit of a stub in the dark since I have no idea who is actually reading this blog, so correct me if I'm wrong!

The 2nd and 3rd days of the conference were great, just like the first one. I did find it harder and harder to pick what sessions I should go to as there were 12 sessions running at the same time, each is 1.5 hours long... I also had to learn that it is not rude to leave in the middle and go to another presentation. On the contrary, it is almost expected and encouraged, that's why they are really strict on the time each presenters has.

Day 2 session summary
8:30 - Electromyographic analysis of human movement and control
10:30 - Exercise, obesity and body composition.
12:30 - Posters!
13:30 - IOC students/teachers meeting.
15:50 - Motor control and learning

I managed to squeeze in a short swim after the last presentation and before dinner (first time in the pool after a long time...). I finally got to meet 2 of my prpffesors and 5 of my classmates. Only 6 (3 first year, 3 second year) of us came to the conference (it was optional), which I thought was a shame. A small group, but good quality :) We has some discussions about the conference, sport nutrition, the Olympics and had a great dinner so we can get to know each other a bit better.

Day 3 session summary
8:30 - A comparitive study of coaches' professional development between different countries: a perspective of globalization.
10:30 - Central and peripheral adaptations to exercise and athletic training
12:30 - More posters
15:50 - Knowledge translation between sports and occupational medicine.
17:30 - IOC students/teachers meeting

After we talked some more about what we have learned during the day (doping seemed to be a hot topic...), we tried to figure out what to do for dinner... a few of us were not sick of Chinese food yet, but Albert, Miriam, Pippa and I were on the hunt for some Western food, and we weren't too picky of what kind of Western food it was... thats how a bunch of sport nutritionists ends up at Pizza Hut! We decided that if we went to the mall, we could find something there. The mall was massive, and totally packed with people, it was insane. We just walked into the first non-Chinese restaurant we saw, which was Pizza Hut.

August 19, 2008

China - Day 4 - August 1st

First day of the 2008 Olympic Sport Science and Medicine Conference! As a true geek, I was really excited for this opportunity to fill my brain with more information and had a hard time deciding what presentations to attend...

I woke up just before 6am and went for a short run. It was around 28 degrees outside with pretty high humidity, and that made my run, ummmm, interesting. The streets were practically empty, and the few people that were out looked at me like I was absolutely insane, which is probably justified. The heat and humidity seriously sucked the air out of my lungs and visibility was terrible because of the smog. The pollution there is pretty bad. One of my classmates went to Beijing after the conference and reported that the air quality is much better in Beijing compared to Guangzhou. But I digress, back to the conference :)

The brand new conference centre is a pretty amazing building that stands out in the city, just like the Olympic venues do in Beijing. It is made out of 5 buildings, with 2 corridors (1st and 2nd floors) connecting them to each other. The corridors are around 300m long. Buildings 1 and 5 are the hotels (10 stories each), while buildings 2,3 & 4 are 3 stories each and are full of conference rooms and halls.

OK, back to the actual conference... presentations stated at 10:30am and I had some tough choices to make right off the bat... should I go to the biomechanics session or the expert performance symposium? I ended up at the 'Practice, instruction and expert performance' symposium, which was a great choice. There were 3 presenters that covered human adaptation to practice and instruction, implicit motor learning and expertise and developing movement skills in children. It was super interesting and a couple of days later I had lengthy discussions with all 3 of them that resulted in an invitation to do my masters degree in the University of Hong Kong (something I am actually considering..). Later in the week I ended up meeting 3 of the biomechanics presenters and talked to them about their work (which is similar to mine) in a more social environment so things worked out perfectly.

After lunch and the opening ceremony, I headed to the exercise and sports nutrition session and learned first hand something that I have suspected for a while - not all scientific research is of equal quality and there is a need to critically evaluate every piece of research you read, even though it is published in a scientific, peer reviwed journal or presented in a major international conference... one of the presentations was good, the other two were pretty bad.

The evening's welcome dinner was good, but not too eventful. Met a couple of Kiwis from Christchurch that knew some of the people I used to train with. That's about it...

August 18, 2008


An Olympic silver to Simon Whitfield, just a few minutes ago. What a fantastic, tactical race... I think that if I shouted louder at the TV my neighbours would have busted through the door thinking that something is horribly wrong... LOL.

What a race... Congradulations Simon!!!!!

August 17, 2008

China - Day 3 - July 31st

Surprisingly enough, I managed to get adjusted to China time zone straight away. Thursday was the day before the conference started and after breakfast I had to take care of my accreditation issues... which took a good 3 hours to do. Good thing I started my day early! After I picked up my accreditation ID tag, conference info and abstracts (3 huge books!!), I walked past the breakfast hall and spotted a few of my lecturers from Uni in NZ. It was great to see them, and it was great timing too, because they were planning their trip through the city and invited me to join them and catch up.

After gathering some conference centre business cards with our planned destinations written in Chinese and English on the back, we made our way out of the conference centre in search of a taxi, which was not too hard to find. It was raining, which was actually kind of nice with the heat. Our first stop was the Sun Yat-sen's memorial hall (Dr. Sun Yat-sen was a Chinese revolutionist). We had a guide who spoke great English, which is rare, and there were signs in English everywhere, which was a bit of a surprise. I have to say that its the one thing that really impressed me; there were signs in both English and Chinese all over the city!

Our next stop was the Guangzhou park, which is a huge park with some famous sculptures, huge trees, a swimming pool and lots of people playing badminton. It stopped raining by that point, and it was getting really hot and humid. The park was pretty cool, and I was a bit annoyed to find out that my camera battery had died :( As a result, I don't have any pictures of the famous five goat statue or the markets, which were our next and final stop of the day. I have to say, the markets were crazy. So many people! The food market was kind of scary, it was a bit dirty and I'm not into eating octopus on a stick (that think looked like it could come to life at any moment!), bugs on a stick or other unidentified objects on and off sticks. There were sales people at the entrance to every store yelling and screaming in Chinese; trying to get people into the store, in a way that seemed a bit rude, but I assume it is normal over there.

Our day wondering around the city was really interesting. We got to experience a bit of the culture, see the city, and we learned about tea! It also highlighted the massive difference between rich and poor, there is nothing in the middle... The houses around the markets are really old and falling apart, while just across the street, there are huge, expensive looking building as a direct contrast.

More updates and pictures coming... :)

August 14, 2008


Why - (Olympic convention) 2008 International Convention on Science, Education and Medicine in Sport.
Where - Guangzhou, China.
Duration of trip - July 29 - August 8.
How did I get there? I was invited to the convention as a part of my post graduate studies in Sports Nutrition through the International Olympic Committee.

Day 1 & Day 2 (July 29-30)
Travel day... mom was visiting me for a few days before I left for China, and our flights worked out well because she left less than a couple of hours after I did. A non eventful flight... long, but it wasn't too bad. I read a book (yes, a whole book), watched a couple of movies and got about an hour of sleep. Total flight time = 14.5 hours. Transition time = 7.5. Total travel time = 22 hours. Sleeping time = 1 hour. Ouch.

I got to the Guangzhou airport at around 11:30pm, and met another person who was headed to the convention centre. Arthur is a world renowned anthropomestrist and also happened to give a lecture in the area of Anthropometry for my first sports nutrition course module earlier this year. We figured that by sharing a cab to the convention centre we will minimize the risk of getting ripped off, but we were wrong... we payed 500 yuan, instead of about 100-120. We didn't really know what it should cost and we were too tired to argue... it was a bit of a crazy drive too. Apparently, the organizing committee surrounded the convention centre with fences and placed guards 24/7 all around it within about 500m. Our cab driver was not aware of that, and we stopped, in the middle of the road, for at least an hour while the cab driver tried to figure out how to get us to the actual entrance... by the time we got to the entrance it was after 1pm, but it was still a while before we got to check out our rooms!

We had to go through security procedures that were as strict as airport security before we were led to the accreditation centre for another 2 hours of waiting, and the accreditation was not even completed at that time. I got to my room at 3:30am and fell asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow.

I will post days 2 and 3 tomorrow...:)

Back in Victoria, I think...

Im back home, after a long and exhausting trip, which I am still recovering from. Im hoping to be back in BC time zone by the end of the week :)

I think I finally managed to catch up on all the emails, etc so now it is time to tell you all about my time in China... I will break things down by the day for your reading pleasure, along side pictures :)