Many of us believe that it is a once-in-a-lifetime, incredible opportunity to be able to go to the Olympics, the largest sporting spectacle in the world. However, Collegiate Upper School dance teacher Kara Priddy has been able to go more than once, since her older brother, Reid Priddy, was on the United States national indoor volleyball team for 16 years. The team won a gold medal in Beijing in 2008 and a bronze medal in Rio in 2016, prior to his retirement last year. During her brother Reid’s 16-year career, he played in four Olympic Games: Athens, Greece in 2004; Beijing, China in 2008; London, England in 2012; and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in 2016. Starting on the 2004, 2008, and 2012 Olympic Games, he suffered a potential career-ending ACL tear in 2014.
With hard work and determination, however, he was able to return to the 2016 Olympics and help the team win the bronze medal in his last ever Olympic match for the indoor team. In fact, according to Priddy, it was one of his best games, and according to captain David Lee in an NBC article, “Reid Priddy was on fire. I dedicate this match to him. He’s one of the reasons we got this medal.” Reid Priddy currently lives in Southern California with his wife and two kids. Also, according to NBC, “he will try to make it in beach volleyball. And, if his body cooperates, he will try to compete in Tokyo for one more Olympics.” Priddy attended all four of the Olympic Games that her brother played in and has had countless incredible cultural experiences in each country.
When asked which was her favorite, Priddy says that the Olympics is “such a unique experience,” and each place was drastically different from any another, so she doesn’t really have a favorite. While London was her favorite city, she loved Athens because it was her first trip to the Olympics, and she was able to see lots of different events. Similarly, while she loved Beijing because of the extremely nice and accommodating people, she enjoyed the beautiful and laid back ambiance of Rio. Each trip to the Olympics was an amazing experience in its own way.
In terms of culture, each country that she visited was drastically different. For example, in Rio, media coverage prior to the games put Priddy and her family on edge due to all of the discussion about the Zika virus, robberies, and attacks. However, once they got there, Priddy said “it was so beautiful.” She described the beauty of the architecture, as well as the kind people and the serene atmosphere of the beaches. Priddy claimed that she “never felt unsafe” while she was there.
Beijing was another culturally interesting city that Priddy visited. One memorable experience that she recalled was visiting the night market that was there, where one could try new and exotic foods such as centipedes, scorpions, and grasshoppers, all fried on a stick. Priddy also remembers the interesting experience of taking pictures with Chinese people, who enjoyed getting pictures with foreigners. According to Priddy, this was something that she didn’t experience in any other country. Priddy also recalled other defining cultural characteristics of the countries that she visited, such as the great subway system in London. She said, “traffic was not good, particularly in Rio, but it was not bad in London because of the great subway system.” She also remembers reckless motorcycle and moped drivers in Athens.
The sportsmanship of the various countries’ competitors is also a very defining feature of the Olympic Games. According to Priddy, the United States got booed a great deal in Rio. When she asked a woman sitting near her at one of the events why the U.S. always got booed, the woman responded that the people like to support the underdog, and the U.S. is always the “top dog,” having the strongest athletes and the best teams. She noticed that the booing was not as prevalent in the other countries. According to Priddy, “all of the games are very competitive, but at the same time, each spectator is there to have a good time and enjoy the experience.” She says that overall, what is most incredible about the Olympics is how it brings together different people and cultures from all around the world.
All photos courtesy of Kara Priddy.