Tim Toy is on his first international trip and he’s reporting from the Rio Olympics.
By Tim Toy for VolleyballMag.com
I had an interesting experience on Tuesday.
Leaving the equestrian arena we were told the best way to get back to Maracanazhino Arena was to board the train.
After a 45-minute ride through the favalas (Rio’s poorest districts, peppered with lean-tos and shacks) we arrived at Maracana, only to be dumped into 20,000 fans crossing the bridge into the Brazil vs. Sweden women’s soccer match.
They sang songs and laughed and cheered their way into the stadium. Today was not a good day for them, but make no mistake because Sweden won.
Then I got to watch our USA women’s team again. Led by Kayla Banwarth’s crisp passing and acrobatic defense, and Kim Hill’s best effort in this tournament, the Americans swept Japan and advanced to the semifinals.
Leaving Maracanazhino and spilling out onto the street we found thousands of Brazilians roaming around. They sought out a way to find out what was going on in the soccer game inside the Maracana stadium. Most congregated outside sidewalk cafes and restaurants craning their necks to get a view of the action on television.
Getting a cab was actually pretty easy while the population was distracted, but once in the vehicle we discovered that the entire city was focused on the match, even our cabbie, who deftly wove in and out of traffic between penalty kicks.
We cheered with him, just in case.
Wednesday was another off day, and since things in the women’s tournament are getting serious, I though it would be a good day to make the trek up and visit the Redeemer.
This 125-foot high statue of Jesus can be seen from everywhere in Rio. He symbolically looks over this massive city, rich and poor, black or white. I have to imagine that visitors to “Cristo Redentor” have spiked during these games.
The ride up is fun, as the van drivers seem to know their part in the journey is part of the show. Winding roads and edgy driving make it feel like a roller coaster at times.
We were dropped off at a gift shop about half way up. It is brilliant marketing. We had to walk through it and then get on another van to the top. Once at the top Rio unfolds before your eyes. There is so much to see.
I have to mention that I’m certain that a photograph cannot capture the beauty of this view. There just is nothing like seeing it with your own eyes.
Then you remember the giant statue of the savior. Stretching his arms out as if he was offering a hug to all of Brazil. Yesterday would have been a good day for that hug.
So much disappointment at these games for the athletes in Brazil’s green and gold.
I’ll tell you, though, the real feeling I had at the base of that statue, it had little to do with religion.
This unlikely journey.
Why I am here. What brought me to stand at the feet of Jesus, and the overwhelming thought. I am here. Still standing. Still living. Still enjoying. All these wonderful athletes, their families, and me. I may never be in this place again, but for today, it was glorious.
I am not one to have made a trip like this, yet here I am.
In the Broadway show that has come to mean so much to me, Alexander Hamilton says, “There’s a million things I haven’t done, but just you wait, just you wait …”
999,999 to go.
Today is game day, the semifinals for USA vs. Serbia! I’ll have more from Maracanazhino later.
Tim Toy’s wife, Ellen, passed away from cancer. Before she died, she and Tim became very close to the USA women’s volleyball team. The best way to catch up is to go: http://www.jamthegym.com/our-story/, because there’s so much to it that deserves your attention, including their Jam the Gym event and how they gave back to the volleyball community in so many ways.
This trip to Rio is one of Tim’s way of honoring Ellen and their We Serve First Foundation.
VolleyballMag.com is fortunate to have him as a correspondent this week as he makes his first international trip to see the team he loves.