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August 06, 2016

It's a dream come true to be an Olympic alternate... until you're without a swag bag living near a drug lord with a mysterious rash spreading up your body.

Joshua Holden’s Facebook Status Updates:

Monday at 8:05am

Just landed in beautiful Rio de Janeiro – or as I call it, my home away from home for the next month. That’s right – in case I haven’t had a chance to tell you I, Joshy, am a proud Team USA canoe alternate for the 2016 Olympics! OMFG.

Tuesday at 5:29pm

The Olympic Village truly is just as spectacular as you might imagine. There are these really tall, thick metal gates on the outside, some green plants, a cement floor, about twenty-nine security guards, seven guard dogs and an impenetrable security system. That’s about all I’ve seen since I’m not allowed in, but since it’s still under construction and has no running water, I have a feeling a lot of guys on the team might be calling me soon to crash at my sweet pad. Since the team could only afford to pay for my $25 baggage fee on the flight over, I was on my own for housing – and boy did I get lucky! I found a small empty plot of land a few villages over that appeared to be part of an abandoned habitat for a local squirrel monkey troop. I bought a tarp for $8 off a guy selling organs from unclaimed dead bodies down the road and some plywood outside of one of the unfinished stadiums. A few hours later, I had myself a DIY tent. Not too shabby!

Buying material from the locals is good for two reasons: I’m supporting the economy in the midsts of a financial crisis, and secondly, I’m technically now considered a “client” by the drug and organ traffickers occupying the north-east territory outside of Rio, which means there’s a good chance they won’t mug or murder me. The plot of land I found wasn’t abandoned after all but so far the monkeys have been pretty cool. We play a game together called “let’s pretend we’re eating Joshy’s face!” where they start nibbling on me. It’s a little annoying but it’s all in good fun. Weirdly, the monkey habitat has great cell service.

Wednesday at 6:07am

Appreciate all of the comments and support you have been posting! I read them all! A lot of people have been asking me, “Joshy, don’t you find the experience of training 10 hours a day 365 days a year for the last twenty-six years of your life only to almost make it to the Olympics in a sport that nobody watches – at possibly the worst Olympics in recent memory – a frustrating and mentally excruciating experience?” And to those people (mainly Dylan Hobert who I haven’t talked to since middle school. Great to hear from you!) I say, just you wait until the day you’re stranded somewhere without access to today’s modern transportation – but with access to a calm body of a water and a tiny narrow wooden boat. You’ll be saying, “damn, I wish I had Joshy’s canoe skills!”

Thursday at 2:45pm

Thank you everyone who has been posting articles about the Olympian who contracted the Zika virus on my wall. To respond to a comment from Blake Hobert (Dylan’s older brother! Thanks for accepting my friend request!) who wrote: “Tell me that guy was on the canoe team OshKosh B’Joshy! Make that Zika bitch give you his Olympic swag bag.” None of the guys on the canoe team have Zika. For those who are concerned about my health, I guess right now with death looming at every corner (there’s a certain bridge that drops a 10-foot slab of concrete from the sky just inches from me every goddamn single time I walk under it, and most imminently from the drug and organ traffickers occupying the south-west territory on the outskirts of Rio who have gotten word that I have pledged allegiance to the north-east traffickers), mosquitoes are the least of my worries.

Friday at 9:52am

Practice went great today! Olympic alternates in other sports usually help out with things like scouting the other teams or giving the athletes a break in practice, but I’ve actually become a lot more useful. Because of all the hoo-ha about some scary “super-bacteria” in the Rio lagoon where the canoe and rowing events are taking place, the coach has been having me swim laps to test the effects on my body. You know, so in case the other athletes catch it too, they’ll have an idea of how long they’ll stay alive and if they can still compete. I started practicing before I came over here by swimming in the Gowanus Canal (shout out to Paul Hobbs who let me shower at his pad afterward!). Apparently the bacteria is completely resistant to any known antibiotics but so far the only symptoms I have are my toenails falling off and this greenish-purple rash that’s been spreading up my left leg, so, I’ll be fine. The weird thing is that the monkeys have stopped harassing me since the rash started. They’re either concerned for my wellbeing or plotting a way to kill me so that the bacteria doesn’t spread and wipe out their entire monkey colony. It’s hard to tell!

Saturday at 7:43pm

One thing I want to tell you all is how much the guys who made the team really admire Olympic alternates. They’ve even come up with a lot of really fun nicknames for me: The Replacement, The Reserve, The Fallback, The Understudy, The Spare, The Backup Plan, Prince Harry, The Last Resort, The Bencher, and The Stale Granola Bar You’ll Only Eat If You’re Starving And They’re No Other Options. They’re good guys. Sure, people talk about the camaraderie in the Olympic Village but that’s nothing compared to the camaraderie on the Alternate Trail. I don’t know exactly where the other alternates are staying but I’ve run into them at points on the seventeen mile walk back to team meetings at the stadium and they always offer me water when I’m reaching a point of dehydration close to death.

Sunday at 3:01am

One of the biggest questions I’ve been getting recently is, “Joshy, how do you afford to be an Olympic alternate, a job where you train at least ten hours a day but make no money?” As my old roommate Jeff Pishnak remembers, we got through that first year after college eating Top Ramen and couch-surfing, right? So how much harder do you think it is foraging for food and backyard-surfing? (Backyard surfing is kind of like couch-surfing except instead of living rooms it’s your friend’s backyard and instead of a couch it’s a tent. It’s actually where I learned my tent-making skills that have come in pretty handy in Rio!)

Sunday at 3:07am

Look, do I regret missing prom for a two-a-day practice, that time I almost got eaten by an alligator when I insisted on practicing during a family vacation in Florida when I was twelve (remember Mom?!), and dedicating my entire life to a very specific sport that has absolutely no skills that translate in the real world? It’s complicated.

Sunday at 3:09am

When your leg feels like it’s on fire and is constantly throbbing and your head is telling you “cut it off!” but your heart is telling you “stay strong for your team!” it really keeps your mind off of any self-doubt.

Sunday at 3:11am

Sure, when I start to think about the future and what I’ll do when I return from the Olympics, the anxiety of not knowing what skills to include in my LinkedIn profile makes me hyperventilate for a few days. But some of my friends are philosophy majors so I’m pretty sure I’m in a better spot than them…

Sunday at 3:12am

Apologies to anyone I offended in my last my comment.

4 mins

Big things are happening here in Rio, friends and family! My team is about to compete soon and rumor has it there’s a $1,000 bounty on my head from the south-west drug kingpin so I better get a move on it. I don’t actually get to attend the competition but watching on a TV through a bar window while hiding under a bush across the street wearing a disguise I made out of clothes I found on a body floating in the river… is basically the same thing. It’s taken me a lot longer to make the journey back to Rio recently since the rash spread to the other leg, my muscles began deteriorating and I lost function of both legs. Three days is cutting close, but don’t worry – I’ll be there to cheer on my team. I carved myself a sled out of a fallen tree and a sharp rock. With my strong upper body strength I’ll just kind of nudge the sled inch by inch with my hands down the dirt road. It’s all worth it! After all, this is a once in a lifetime experience.

Go Team USA!
-Joshy, 2016 Olympic Alternate