After six days (Aug 25-Sept 4) of yummy Hilton Hotel breakfasts and riding three hours a day along the Pacific Coast Highway in Southern California at Team USA ParalympicPrep Camp, it was time for what is considered by most Olympic and Paralympic athletes as the most fun part of the games experiences, Athlete Processing.  Team Processing is where all athletes get fitted for Opening and Closing Ceremony apparel as well as get to “let loose” a bit before heading off to compete.  All Team processing took place in Houston, TX at the main Convention Center connected to the Hilton of the America’s Hotel.  The entire convention hall had been re-carpeted and decorated for Olympic and Paralympic Athletes.  Rooms were set up with stations from different Team USA sponsors such as Nike, Ralph Lauren, Omega and many more.  There were also places to show off your “Celebration Dance” or your “Club’n Dance”.  Ben and I were like kids in a candy store.  We made sure to hit every station and capture it all with photos and video so “YOU” our fans could also experience this awesome day.  

If we didn't already know we were in Houston, we did now with these giant letters!

If we didn't already know we were in Houston, we did now with these giant letters!

The wall of Paralympic Champions.  A few of those on this wall include visually impaired distance runner Marla Runyan, swimmer and Team Manager of US Para-Cycling Erin Popovich and female wheelchair racer Tatyana McFadden.  Some AMAZING athletes!

Ben and I do a little doodling and artwork on the huge letters.  I made sure to identify who drew this masterpiece!

Signing the surf board that went to President Obama at the Whitehouse visit after the games.  

Signing the surf board that went to President Obama at the Whitehouse visit after the games.  

Before beginning our shopping adventure, we sat through something called Two Op.  This includes some fun presentations regarding behaving well at the games and regarding social media posting.  Evidently Ryan Lockte and Hope Solo fell asleep during these presentations because they basically did everything we were told not to do here.  Many have asked me whether what these two did during the Olympic Games impacted regulations and policies for the Paralympic Games and the answer to this is an overwhelming “YES”.   Once we set foot in Brazil, we were closely watched by the US State Department and it closely resembled back in middle school when I had to report to mommy and daddy and tell them where I was at all times.  Curfews were set much earlier than in games past and leaving the grounds of the Paralympic Village was restricted at times. 

Social media was the other main topic covered in Two Op.  This topic is good to mention as many of you may have wondered why I did not post much in the two weeks leading up to and during the Paralympic Games.  Over the last four years very stringent rules on what athletes can post have been implemented.  This rule is known as Rule 40 and is associated with the Blackout Period in which athletes cannot be associated with any media that related to to any entity unrelated to Paralympic sponsored entities.  Also, use of words such as Paralympics, RoadToRio, Rio, Gold, TeamUSA and many more are highly restricted in the way in which they can be used by athletes and sponsors.  Many athletes and sponsors have thus decided to avoid social media posting during this period to prevent from getting in trouble.  I did post some content during the games but had to be very careful and if you as fans felt slighted or out of the loop during the games, this is most likely the reason.  

The third part of Two Op was one of my favorite parts and that was reading cards from all over the country and elementary students who wrote to wishus all good luck in Rio.  Here are some good examples of these.  

Letter to Team USA

THE NIKE LOUNGE

How do you like our belly shirts? :)

How do you like our belly shirts? :)

Although I may be smiling, inside I am thinking, "Ben could you ate one less cheeseburger last night.  

Although I may be smiling, inside I am thinking, "Ben could you ate one less cheeseburger last night.  

Athlete processing was evidently a time for the staff to be off the clock and let loose as well.  

My personal message to Nike in their memory book saying THANKS for all that they do for Team USA

My personal message to Nike in their memory book saying THANKS for all that they do for Team USA

I had to of course take some pictures of some other Thank You's in the Nike Memory Book.  Here is one from Simone Biles Olympic gymnast.  I find it comical that other athletes tried to squeeze their message right next to Simone's just to get a little attention.  BTW, there were plenty of empty pages :)   

I had to of course take some pictures of some other Thank You's in the Nike Memory Book.  Here is one from Simone Biles Olympic gymnast.  I find it comical that other athletes tried to squeeze their message right next to Simone's just to get a little attention.  BTW, there were plenty of empty pages :)   

Nike provided our own personal dressing room and one on one apparel fitter so we could make sure we were looking in style over in Brazil. 

Nike provided our own personal dressing room and one on one apparel fitter so we could make sure we were looking in style over in Brazil. 

Here they are, Aaron Scheidies and Ben Collins coming out of the Nike dressing rooms.  Introducing THE TANK and THE STALLION!!!

They never think about the blind kids when producing stuff.  We did our own editing and changed that!

They never think about the blind kids when producing stuff.  We did our own editing and changed that!

THE RALPH LAUREN LOUNG

The entrance to the Ralph Lauren Lounge.  This is where we got fitted for our Opening and Closing Ceremony outfits!  It was also where the new pop star, "The White Cane Sensation" was born. 

The entrance to the Ralph Lauren Lounge.  This is where we got fitted for our Opening and Closing Ceremony outfits!  It was also where the new pop star, "The White Cane Sensation" was born. 

SOCIAL MEDIA EXPERIENCE

OFF TO THE AIRPORT

Before we left the Hilton of the America's in Houston, we got a great farewell from locals in Houston that came out to send us off chanting USA!

After our police escort from the hotel to the airport, we got a special escort through security and to our gate at the Houston airport before we took off to Rio

After our police escort from the hotel to the airport, we got a special escort through security and to our gate at the Houston airport before we took off to Rio

OFF TO RIO

From Houston, we flew overnight to Rio, Brazil.  Here we are landing in beautiful Rio.  From here our Rio experience began. 

 hope you have enjoyed the recap of our athlete processing experience before heading off to Rio.  From here our Rio experience began and the next blog will include the amazing Rio Experience video that recaps our entire experience beautifully.  

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