STORRS, Conn. -- Roughly two out of every three people in the world watched some portion of the Olympics, but few had a better vantage point than University of Connecticut senior Stephanie Labbe. One of the top goalkeepers in the college game, the Stony Plain, Alberta native was the third-choice keeper on Canada's Olympic roster.
Soccer was spread out over a number of venues around China, but she spent most of her time near the central hub of activity in Beijing, either staying in the Athletes' Village itself or in other accommodations within the Olympic security zone.
"The situation I was in, being an alternate, I had a little more freedom, and I was able to go watch a lot of the events," Labbe said. "So to be able to experience that and see all the other athletes compete and to see gold medals be won was definitely quite the experience."
While Kobe Bryant and LeBron James seemed to have little difficulty finding their way in to watch Michael Phelps, tickets for swimming and basketball proved a little tougher to come by for Labbe. But she was able to sample a wide range of other events and ended up finding her own signature Olympic moment in a slightly more unlikely setting.
"Weightlifting was definitely exciting," Labbe said. "We saw the female weightlifters, and to see the Chinese girl -- she broke three world records when we were there -- and for her to be doing that in her home country and to be surrounded by all the Chinese fans was amazing. I can't even describe it."
Being part of her first Olympic experience only reinforced a desire to remain in the mix for Canada leading up to the 2012 competition in London, but for now, the rolling hills of rural Connecticut have been substituted for urban China and the odds of seeing someone in the dining hall who has their own Wheaties box have significantly decreased.
And while her excuse is better than most on a college campus, waking up in time for class has again become an Olympic-sized challenge in its own right.
"I'm actually still adjusting, sleep patterns and everything like that," Labbe said. "And even adjusting to get back into an environment where it's not just specifically soccer. You know, there's other distractions here, so to be able to eliminate those distractions when we step on the field here, it's a lot different of a mentality. I'm still kind of adjusting -- it's only been a little over a week -- but it's getting better."