They spoke hardly any English (although they knew more words than they would let us know) and we didn't know Russian. That night we just were with them watching them watch TV, play ping pong, and Nintendo. Aleksei at Coliseum The night at the Coliseum was magic. They were incredible.
A gymnast named Aleksei Grigoriev wowed the crowd with his "one arm" move on the high bar. Another gymnast, Aleksei Nemov did a magnificent "Floor Exercise". Randy asked me to emcee the event, and I readily accepted. The evening of the exhibition I could hardly believe my eyes. Macon had never seen gymnastics like that. It was very close to the last night of Gymnastics at the Olympics. Very fun, very upbeat. Naturally, the crowd was won over by their talent and charm. The next day we were on a bus to Atlanta to the Georgia Dome to get a first look at the site of the Olympic Gymnastics events.
On the way home we stopped at a K-Mart to shop. Imagine, non-English speaking Russians and Americans shopping til you drop in two different languages! (I almost got my new friends in deep trouble when we were five minutes late to the bus.) The athletes were to be back at the bus at 4pm exactly. After about an hour and a half of shopping it was time to go to meet the bus. My watch was apparently five minutes behind the Coaches watch. We were five minutes late and she was not pleased. The guys were laughing about the expression on my face when she shook her finger in it. When we arrived back at the dorm, Aleksei Gregoriev walked toward the door of the dorm, stopped, and turned around. Making a "steering wheel" motion with his hands, he pointed to my car. He wanted to drive it ! There was an empty field behind the dorm. I had a world class athlete in my car teaching him to drive a five speed.
Lots of stories to tell, but I'll spare you. We can't keep in touch like we used to do. But the place they hold in my life will not diminish.