SYDNEY-There's something special about being an Olympian. Once you're a part of the club you're a member for life. The feelings that come from participating in this greatest of all sports spectacles may lie dormant for years, but you never know when they might pop out.
Anne Martin discovered that this week, 12 years after she rowed in the Olympics.
I ran into Ms. Martin Saturday on the triathlon course as another reporter and I undertook our own triathlon (or maybe marathon) as we walked along the hilly course, talking to enthusiastic people watching the exciting race.
It's fun to see an Olympic event like a spectator and not be cooped up with the other scribblers, all trying to keep their leads secret. Besides, we didn't have tickets for the press seating for the triathlon because it is a popular new event with a small media center.
We don't need any stinking tickets, we decided. We'll find some way in and get to mingle with the spectators. That's the best way to see a competition. But we did want to get in the press venue so we could interview the athletes after the race.
Every time we talked to a volunteer and they would tell us there was no way to get in without a ticket, we would just go to another place and try again. The other reporter would not take no for an answer and we got very close during the course of the race, but we never got into the sacred inner circle. Eventually we talked to the athletes we needed and came across some good stories in the street, so we had the best of all possible worlds.
I first saw Ms. Martin's little boy, Tommy, standing on a bench waving an American flag. Everyone else around seemed to be Australian, so I asked why he was waving the flag.
"Because he's an American," said Ms. Martin. So we started up a conversation.
Turns out she rowed on the women's quad in 1988, finishing ninth, and she's married to John Pescatore, who won a bronze medal with the men's eight in 1988 and finished sixth in the 1992 pairs. He's also an assistant coach on this year's team.
She plans to see swimming, gymnastics and a lot of rowing, along with her four-year-old twins, Tommy and Jake. While we talked they were alternately interested in the triathlon and in coloring. Though they are still young, Ms. Martin said she enjoyed getting them involved in the Olympics, too.
"We've been away from the Olympics for eight years," she said. "Last night I was watching the opening ceremonies and I was crying. I really felt the amazing magnitude of it. You take it for granted as an athlete.
"When you come into an Olympics as an athlete, you're so focused on your own performance that it's harder to get the larger Olympic spirit."
Ms. Martin, who lives in San Francisco, said the magnificent opening ceremonies reawakened all those feelings in her.
"I was especially moved by the closing, the tribute to women. It was great to see Australia take that step and honor women."
Watching Tommy whip the flag through the air with power, you couldn't help but wonder if some day he and Jake will be Olympians too, just like Mom and Dad.