In 2007 I was selected as the USA National Coach for the Women's Heptathlon team that would be competing in Stuttgart Germany as part of the Jim Thorpe Cup. This elite two day annual home and away event for US and German heptathletes and decathletes was established in 1993 to honor the famous champion.
Past US teams had future Olympians Chris Huffins, Jackie Johnson, Tom Pappas, and Brian Clay, the German athletes with six eventually competing for their national team at the quadrennial event. It was a great honor for me to be selected for my third international team, proudly wearing the US gear provided for the men's and women's coaching staffs.
Our men's and women's teams arrived five days before the event so we would be acclimated to the time change, practicing alongside our German competitors each day on a facility where we would be competing. The talent level I watched at each practice was amazing.
Dan O'Brien, the 1996 Olympic gold medalist was the assistant men's coach, athletes on the German team, along with citizens on our excursions constantly asking for his autograph or a picture, the American quite well known. It kept me from making a similar request of Dan.
Our men's team easily won the competition that weekend, our women's team losing in a close battle, all of us looking forward to the post-event celebration immediately after the event finished. The German hosts were renowned for their drinking ability, our men's and women's squads prepared to take on another challenge.
After sixty minutes of eating and drinking (mostly drinking), the German females began shouting for Dan to get up front and pose, the Olympian sheepishly moving to the center of the tented area and flexing - his grin lighting up the room with laughter.
"Zieh es aus" came from across the room. "Take it off" the request from her German teammate. It didn't take long for the entire room to begin shouting in English, Dan dropping his chin and shaking his head, the smile still quite apparent.
Suddenly his head came up, the shirt was pulled off and spun in circles overhead, one lucky female athlete grabbing the US gear tossed like a wedding bouquet. The tent exploded with applause, the upped ante from everyone, "take it all off" met with a shake of his head. It was the highlight of the evening and a great way to end the week.
Although the females continued to demand Dan go further, they were unable to convince him that night - even with the German currency they held overhead, the former Olympian drinking the rest of the night shirtless, and with a big smile on his face.