Mann takes long walk in stride

By on September 8, 2008

By Gavin Lapaille

When University of Louisville track and field head coach Ron Mann walked into Beijing National Stadium, he found 90,000 people staring back at him.
Mann, who served as the men’s middle distance coach for Team USA at the Olympics this past summer, was near the front row of the Team USA contingent as they walked into the stadium – better known as the Bird’s Nest – at the opening ceremonies of the 2008 Olympic games.
Mann was walking just behind Lopez Lomong, the flag bearer for the U.S. and one of the athletes Mann was responsible for, and the Chinese escort who carried the USA sign.
Mann called the walk into the stadium “humbling.”
“To be that close to the American flag as it’s coming in was just awesome,” Mann said. “Being a part of history is certainly a position you are in awe of.”
Mann said the experience of being at the opening ceremonies was much different than watching it on television. The entire Team USA was sequestered in another arena while each country was called in alphabetical order.
Mann wasn’t able to see most of the opening ceremonies, but still called them “unbelievable.”
“There were 139 countries ahead of us, so we really didn’t see a great deal of the opening ceremonies,” Mann said. “We could watch it on the big screen TV in the arena we were in and you realize the orchestration of such an event.”
While in Beijing, Mann also met U.S. President George W. Bush, and the first lady, Laura Bush, as well as Team USA men’s basketball head coach Mike Krzyzewski and team captain Kobe Bryant.
Mann said that favorite part of the Olympics was attending the marathon at Tiananmen Square.
“That was particularly moving because that was my last day there,” Mann said. “I wasn’t scheduled to be there for closing ceremonies so I watched the end of the marathon and boarded a plane to come home.”
Mann said coaching at the Olympics taught him many things that he will use with his team at U of L.
“I learned that no matter what the level of competition, the rules of the game are the same,” Mann said. “You have to go in and compete with those in your race and the rest takes care of itself. Coaching is coaching. Competition is certainly competition.”
After spending a month in Beijing away from his wife and three sons, Mann said he was glad to return to Louisville following the conclusion of the Olympics. He said it was unlikely he would coach in another Olympics. 
“I think it’s an experience you have to live once in your life,” Mann said. “I got the experience, I loved it, and now I need to apply that to the University of Louisville and continue to focus on what I do here.”

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