After the Olympics, athletes get chance to finally unwind
RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) Alev Kelter's Olympics were over, so she and her U.S. women's rugby teammates could finally go out for some celebratory passionfruit caipirinhas.
Oh, and to party with Matthew McConaughey.
True story: After finishing fifth at the Rio de Janeiro Games, the rugby team had gone through its post-Olympics debriefing meeting and headed to a hotel bar to enjoy a few glasses of Brazil's national drink. And in walked McConaughey, who was spotted at rugby matches earlier in the weeks. He posed with players for some pictures, said a few encouraging words and even told the team the origin of his signature ''all right, all right, all right'' saying from the movie ''Dazed and Confused.''
''I think we'll remember that one,'' Kelter said.
Such can be the life for those whose Olympics end long before the flame goes out on Aug. 21. It's a rare time with no early morning workouts, no training sessions, no challenge to block out distractions and try to stay as sharp as possible for the enormity of Olympic competition. Instead, they get to eat whatever, drink whatever, stay up as late as they want.
Or if they're lucky, have fruity drinks with Academy Award winners.
''Slept in until 10:30 this morning,'' Kelter said Wednesday. ''Can't remember the last time I did that.''
It makes for an interesting dichotomy in the athletes village, where many of the 10,500 or so competitors in the Rio Games are staying. Some are already done and are staying for a few extra days; others don't compete for another week or even more in some cases, so the vibe changes as the games go along.
While many there are still trying to keep a sharp focus, others are in vacation mode.
''I'm not jealous of everyone else because they get to let loose,'' U.S. women's taekwondo athlete Jackie Galloway said. ''This is what I've been working toward for four years. The accumulation of all of my hard work has been leading up to Aug. 20 when I step out on the mat for the first time. So that's really all I'm focused on. For me it isn't as hard as you might think.''
Five-time taekwondo Olympian Steven Lopez says he's remembered times at past games when he's heard the in-village celebrations of athletes who are done, and wished he could take part in those since his competitions are typically in the final days of the competition. Teammate Stephen Lambdin said he doesn't expect things to get too far out of hand.
''Honestly, 99.9 percent of athletes are super-respectful of everybody,'' Lambdin said. ''At 10 p.m., it's pretty much silent throughout the village. I'm sure that'll change a little bit as more people finish ... but for the most part, nobody's going to run up to your room and start banging on the door at 2 o'clock in the morning.''
The U.S. Olympic Committee has some tickets available to certain events if athletes so desire to watch, and there's plenty of sightseeing to do. In some cases the end-of-competition schedule also allows time for family reunions of sorts, catching up on time lost to training and flying around the world to get ready for the games.
Fencer Jason Pryor didn't medal, and to his parents, that didn't matter in the least.
''Now we celebrate,'' said his mother Brenda, who was spending Wednesday with her son before heading back to the U.S.
There's also the element of athletes who have long breaks between events.
Golf's Julieta Granada carried the flag for Paraguay in the opening ceremony, then returned to Orlando, Florida, for a week of practice before her competition in Rio next week. British diver Tom Daley already has a Rio medal and still has an individual competition left on his Olympic schedule, but that isn't until Aug. 19. So he's moving elsewhere, in large part to avoid the village frivolity.
''Get away from everything, give my head a little bit of a rest and my body more of a rest,'' said Daley, who'll move back to the village in a few days.
Kelter is bouncing back and forth between the village, where she still has a room for a few more days, and where her family is staying. She's looking forward to experiencing the beaches and Brazil's culture, plans on cheering for other U.S. athletes in trampoline, basketball, soccer and swimming events, and will be in Rio through the closing ceremony.
''It's been an emotional roller-coaster,'' Kelter said. ''The last two days we played, our team came together more than we've ever seen. We showed America and we showed the world that Americans can play rugby. It wasn't the result we wanted, but we did something incredible and now we can enjoy it.''