By Mike Petri
There is a clock at the Olympic Training Center in California with a countdown to the next Olympics. It simply reads "It's not every four years." Sometimes it shows that the Games are in fact years away and superficially it appears that one would have all the time in the world to prepare. I remember looking at this and comparing it to the Rugby World Cup. My senior level Eagles career began in 2007 at the last World Cup in France so I had exactly four years between the two tournaments. This clock helped reinforce the notion that every day, every training session, and every decision I made would in some way, shape, or form make an impact on my preparation for those four games in New Zealand. It seems like a hard concept to believe but now that it's over I am able to reflect and see clearly why everything I did was so important.
The eyes of the world were quite literally on us for that entire month. For the first time our games were being broadcast to a live audience back home on NBC and Universal Sports. There were also thousands of fans that made the trip to New Zealand to support us and since it is a small country we encountered them pretty frequently. Without preparing properly mentally it could have been a bit overwhelming since usually the USA Eagles aren't exactly the hottest topic in the mainstream media and don't exactly have a fan base like the All Blacks. But as a team we were all aware of the significance of what we were doing and we knew we had a mission to change the game of rugby in the United States. It was a tremendous opportunity for each and every player in our squad and on our staff and I am very grateful to have been a part of that.
It is frustrating for any athlete to walk away from a tournament with a losing record and still feel proud. Deep down we each knew that finishing with a 2-2 record was real possibility and we believed that we were capable of doing it. Obviously we didn't accomplish that goal but collectively we felt that we played to the best of our ability and left everything we had on the field in Nelson that night. So after the game against Italy, I was proud to accept my World Cup medal and walk around the field to thank our fans.
It was amazing to share that moment with my teammates and coaches. We have been working so hard and been waiting for those games for so long. It was also really special to share those few short weeks with my wife. She missed work for three weeks to come to New Zealand and has supported me through every high and low of these past four years. I can honestly say that she was a huge part of my rugby career and my success so I was really happy to be together on this occasion.
Coming home to the USA was a huge reality check. There were no celebrations in the airport to commemorate our arrival. There were no magazines in the stores or posters about the World Cup. There were no games on the televisions in the airport and the employees there treated us like every other person. I remember landing and thinking to myself that's it, it's over. At that point in time I felt like all I had to show was a nasty cold and a severe case of jetlag. But in reality, I had just been through the experience of a lifetime. Then I thought back to the clock at the Olympic Training Center and realized preparation for 2015 has already begun... because it's not every four years, it's every day...
To all of our amazing fans all over the world and especially at home here in the USA... thanks so much for your support!
Until next time.... GO EAGLES!!!
Check out all the entries from the Mike Petri blog and follow his journey from the U.S. to New Zealand and home again.
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