Several American athletes became Olympians by training in New York City’s parks and clubs. Many still live or have family in the metropolitan area.
With the pandemic bearing down on Tokyo, spectators are not allowed in the stands at the Olympics this year, not even parents. This means that family members and friends have been on their own to watch and commemorate the Games, especially with the 13-hour time difference. Some are having viewing parties, while others are watching in their pajamas. Here are their stories.
Fencer Daryl Homer’s Mother
Juliette Smith, Hudson Heights, Manhattan
Where did you watch the first match? I flew into Orlando, Fla., hours before my son was up. The U.S. Olympic Committee sponsored a trip for the family and friends of athletes to attend watch parties there. They covered everything from airfare to dinner every night with an open bar. They’ve created a festive atmosphere, like the Olympics but on a smaller scale. This has never been done before; parents usually have to pay for themselves to get to the Olympics.
Who did you bring? I brought my 72-year-old mom. Believe it or not, we did all the water rides at Universal Studios today. My daughter lives in Harlem. She was supposed to come, but instead she did a watch party at her place with her and Daryl’s mutual friends.
How did Daryl get into fencing? When he was 8 he saw the word “fencing” in a dictionary and asked if he could do it. I thought it would be too expensive, so I waited until he asked about it again, a year later, after seeing it on television. I looked up places in the yellow pages, and walked into the Fencers Club in New York. They told me about the Peter Westbrook Foundation that organizes fencer opportunities for inner-city kids. We signed him up, and he blossomed from there. Now he has sponsors that help pay for the sport.
When did you know he would go to the Olympics? I would say it was when he won the Junior World Championships. My daughter remembers me running through the club yelling, “He won, he won!” I was like, “OK, this is possible.”
What do you do before a bout? I text Daryl and tell him I love him no matter the outcome. I also might close my eyes and say a prayer for myself. That’s the only quiet moment. Anyone who has ever watched with me says I am very vocal. I have been told the TV doesn’t talk back.
Soccer player Crystal Dunn’s Father
Vincent Dunn, Rockville Centre, N.Y.
Where did you watch the first match? The first match was at 4:30 in the morning. My wife and I woke up to watch; you don’t wake up that early on a weekday unless you have some skin in the game. I set my clothes out the night before because I knew it would be so early. Our dog woke up around 5, so I did doggy duties at halftime. I let him out, gave him food, took him for a walk and brought him back in to watch with us. He was still a little groggy.
How about the next one? The second match started at 7:30 a.m., which was much more reasonable. It was also the opening day qualifier for the championship at my golf club. My friend told me I should just tape it and put it out of my mind and watch later. I’m like, “Dude, do you think I can ignore my daughter’s game?” So I ended up going early to the club and watching it alone in the restaurant. People were probably like, “Who is that crazy nut sitting there?”
When did you know Crystal was Olympic material? My daughter was born in Queens, but we moved to Rockville Centre when she was little. Unbeknown to us, it’s a huge soccer town, so she played. When Crystal was 8, one of the parent coaches said, “When she goes to the Olympics, get me tickets.”
What do you do before a match? I always talk to Crystal and tell her to enjoy the experience. We also talk after. If she has a tough one, like the first one this Olympics, I say it’s just one match, and there will be the next one. If she does well, I say nice things about the team, and I tell her to get some sleep.
Rower Charlotte Buck’s mother
Sharon Quayle, Nyack, N.Y.
Where did you watch the first race? The first race was 11:30 p.m. our time, so me and Charlotte’s dad watched at home. It was a little past my bedtime, so I took a nap first and watched in my pajamas.
How did it feel to not be with her? I didn’t feel sad about not being in Tokyo until the day of the opening ceremony and saw all the empty stands. It was just a reminder of all the trauma we’ve gone through in the past year. As a health care worker — I now work at Montefiore in the Bronx — I saw it first hand.
Where will you watch future races? I am a member of a rowing club where Charlotte also rowed and coached, so we are going to have a watch party on the day of the finals. We made T-shirts that said “Tokyo Olympics” on the front and “Buck” on the back.
I bought a couple of Olympic flags to use as decorations. One is hanging outside our house, and our neighbors have been very excited about it. One said she posted a picture on social media so everyone would know she lived across the street from an Olympian.
When did you know that Charlotte loved rowing? Charlotte didn’t try rowing until she attended Columbia University. She walked onto the team and kept getting better and better. She started breaking university records, and between her sophomore and junior year she decided this was her thing.
Basketball player Tina Charles’s Parents
Rawlston Charles, Canarsie, Brooklyn; Angella Murry, Baldwin, N.Y.
Ms. Murry, where did you watch the first game? The first game was actually at 12:40 Tuesday morning. I came home from work at 5 or 6, took a shower and a nap, and then set my alarm. I cannot tape a game; I’m too much of a nervous wreck. I have to watch it live, and I was right in front of the TV in my jammies. I even slept in my Team USA shirt, so I had it on. A big contingent of my family is in Florida, so if they make it to the gold medal round we will probably do a Zoom party.
How about you, Mr. Charles? I watched it in my recording studio on Fulton Street. I work in entertainment so I am used to staying up. I hosted friends from the neighborhood. Tina is a household name around here; everyone knows me as her dad.
Mr. Charles, do you get nervous before a game? It’s not that I’m nervous about injury or performance, but I don’t sleep well before a game. I don’t really know why, but I don’t think it will ever stop as long as she is playing.
How about you, Ms. Murry? I eat about two hours before, because I’m too nervous once it starts. She’s been playing since she was 5, but I still get the jitters. I don’t calm down until about the third quarter and they are all in the flow.
Ms. Murry, when did you know Tina loved basketball? We lived in East Elmhurst, and there was a school park that was close to our home. She used to play basketball with friends after school. I just remember telling her to be home before the streetlights came on. She got really good at Christ The King, one of the top girls basketball schools in the country, in Middle Village, N.Y., but I didn’t really know how good she was until the letters started coming from colleges wanting her.
Table tennis player Juan Liu’s friend, business partner
Shao Yu, College Point, Queens
How do you know Juan? We opened New York Indoor Sports Club in College Point, Queens, together in 2012. I am a Ping-Pong player too, so we knew each other from the tournaments. When she moved here from China about 10 years ago, she wanted to open a place, so we did it.
Where did you watch her first Olympic match? I invited everyone to the club: her parents, her husband and her son and a bunch of our members. We are like a family here, so everyone knows her.
I spent an entire day setting up the TV. It’s not so easy to watch Ping-Pong, because it’s a minority sport in this country. You have to find a way to watch Ping-Pong, and then each table has its own channel, so she had to text me which one would be hers.
How did you know Juan was going to the Olympics? She was a top player when she moved here from China, so we already knew that she was good enough to make the U.S. team. The rest of our members come to the club for exercise and to play as a hobby, but not Juan. She is here all the time practicing. Let’s just say she doesn’t drink beer like the rest of us.
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