I had big plans to talk with Angola's top player, Joaquim Gomes. I saw his picture online and picked out key features to remember him by. He's really tall and has corn rows. Ready... go. Practice ended and I went into the gym with Anna. Scoping through the squad as the players did their final stretches, I spotted my guy, tall and head full of corn rows. But wait. Directly next to him was the only other player with virtually the same features. So I announced his name to help me identify him. "Joaquim!" I said. Both guys turned around. Of course one because he heard his name and the other out of curiosity. I had to ask the player I thought was right, "Are you Joaquim?"
Confirmation and success. Whew. Now I could conduct the interview, except not because one of the coaches yelled at me to get off the court. (But they said practice was over!) Gomes turned to me and asked me to wait 5 minutes, which I did. After the team came together for a hands-in cheer, Gomes came straight back to me. I asked my first question relating to Angola's upcoming game against Germany. Gomes started to answer, and the pause button slapped me in the face again. This time another coach walked up to me and said, "What country you with, Germany?" I had to show him my creds and tell him I was with the Olympic News Service. He smiled, patted me on the back and walked away. From there the interview went well and I got some great quotes. (I plan to post links to articles I can find that use the quotes.) I tried to get the head coach afterward, but he spoke only Portuguese. Anna made a valiant effort, but it was too hard. Still she got quotes from other players and we called the ONS copy takers to enter our quotes into INFO, which is specially for the journalists covering Beijing 2008.
Next up, Argentina. Their practice was closed as well, which probably will be the case for all the teams. More time for Olympic events on TV and note reviewing. This time, I had my sights set on the NBA's 6th man of the year, Manu Ginobili. I came up with some questions specifically for him and some other ones for the head coach or another player. Anna had questions for Andres Nocioni and Luis Scola. When Argentina's practice ended, we walked back into the gym with our questions in hand. (I don't think I saw one other journalist in there, which is weird for a defending gold medal team. My friends at the other practice venue said there were a few for Spain.)
I took one step around the barrier blocking the court and there was Ginobili, walking right toward me, or right toward the locker room. Whatever the case, I was in his way and took my shot at introducing myself. When I asked for an interview, Ginobili sighed, turned his head away, looked at me again and said, "I'd be thrilled." I assured Mr. Sarcasm that it would be quick, which it was. Then I asked Argentina's PR guy if I could talk with the coach, Sergio Hernandez, because he was already off the court. He told me to wait by the refreshment area, and to call the coach "Oveja," meaning "sheep." I guess it's like "Doc" for Glenn Rivers. Initially I wasn't sold on calling someone I'd never met a sheep. But when Ginobili walked by again, I asked him where Oveja was and he actually got him for me. (Thanks, Manu.) Soon Oveja came over to me and mostly talked about defending the gold medal. The final question I asked was about any injury updates, not really expecting anything. But I was wrong.
Oveja told me Carlos Delfino sprained his ankle two days earlier during a practice game against Angola. He went into great detail about it and I was almost positive I had my quote of the day. I think I was the first journalist he told because I couldn't find it on the wire or the Web. I felt like I had broke my first story. I had new news. As FQRs we provide only quotes for the INFO system, so I'm interested in seeing when it will be released in an actual story. My guess and hope is that a reporter will follow up tomorrow. Keep an eye out. I'll post if I see a quote I gathered.
Here's hoping the next week at Shougang will be half as adventurous. I'll be there every day until the 15th. Then it's back to the Bird's Nest for track & field.. Saijian.