The Olympic village can be a seductive spot. Understandable. There are more than 10,000 athletes at the Games, most of them in prime physical shape, most of them in a buoyant mood, which can make them susceptible to expressing that buoyancy in ways that can perhaps detract from their focus on the task at hand: winning a gold medal, or at least performing to the highest possible personal level possible.
Jamel Herring, a co-captain on the U.S. boxing team and a Long Island, N.Y., native, assures NYFightBlog that he is going to stay on message and remember throughout this Olympics experience that such an opportunity will likely come only once, and must be seized with proper enthusiasm.
Herring, 26, will campaign in the junior lightweight division. He's a Marine who has served two tours in Iraq, so it frankly doesn't surprise me to hear him express such maturity. He has seen things and done things that his teammates cannot even fathom, experienced situations and emotions that either make or break you.
Herring touched base with us to talk about the move from Bolton, England (where the squad was training), to the Olympic village in London, his mindset as he moves towards a bout and expectations of him and the squad as a whole.
"The move from Bolton to the Olympic village was like a breath of fresh air," Herring said. "The hospitality in Bolton was great, and Amir Khan [the ex-junior lightweight champion from Bolton] was a good host for allowing us to train in his gym, but at times everything just seemed to move slow. Once we got to the village, it felt like we caught up with time again."
I got a sense of the Bolton-to-London trek from Julie Goldsticker, who heads up media relations for the squad. "On Tuesday, we took a bus to London from Bolton, left around 10 a.m. and got into London a bit after 3, following two pit stops. It was the full U.S. crew, including the Olympians, training partners, coaches and a couple of staff folks. They stopped first at University of East London to drop some of the staff and training partners there before they headed to the team processing at the Sarah Bonnell School. There, they received all their gear, got sized for their rings, took photos, etc., before being transferred into the village, and it was about 9 p.m. by the time they got into their rooms."
Herring told me that he is fixated on winning gold and won't be swayed by a jubilant atmosphere in the village.
"The gold is all I care about," he said. "Amir and others said the village can get wild with people partying and mingling, but I really don't have that interest. I just want to do my job and then worry about celebrating afterwards. I have a dream I want to fulfill, and this is my only shot."
Please check back for more details from Herring, as he expresses his reaction to pundits saying that he doesn't have much of a chance to get gold.