Queens for a Day
When Shannon Dishaw left for her trip to the Olympic Games in London she told her parents, Joe and Leslie Dishaw of Salem, to look for her at the soccer game.
“Yeah right,” said Joe. “I’m sure I’ll see you among 80,000 people.”
So, imagine his surprise when he started getting text messages and phone calls shortly following the United States women’s gold medal victory over Japan. Shannon and her good friend Sarah Hans were there, front and center, on television waving the US Flag at London’s Wembley Stadium.
It was the culmination of a dream weak for Dishaw and her close friend, Sarah Hans of Roanoke County. The two rising high school juniors, Dishaw at Salem High and Hans at Hidden Valley, have been buddies since they were kids on the Hidden Valley Country Club Swim team. So, when Sarah was allowed to ask a friend to join her on the jaunt to London, she asked Shannon.
The trip all fell into place for the lucky girls. Sarah’s uncle, Scott Spear, married an English girl, Minu, and they live in, of all places, Virginia Waters in England. It’s not far from London, so Scott invited family members to join him for the games if they were able to get tickets.
“Actually it was a lot easier to get tickets in the United States than it was in England,” said Sarah.
Sarah’s other uncle, Don Spear, lives in Portland, Oregon and he bid on-line for some Olympic tickets and “got a bunch,” according to Sarah. The family plotted their trip as Don, his wife and their three kids planned to head over the ocean with a few friends. Sarah’s sister Kate took her roommates, and also making the trip were her brother John, her mom, and her grandfather, Don Spear of Raleigh. And, of course, Sarah asked Shannon to go.
“I was a little worried about it at first, but this was a chance of a lifetime,” said Joe Dishaw.
“They thought I’d get lost,” said Shannon. “But when I explained who all was going they said sure, you can go.”
Shannon, Sarah, Sarah’s mom and brother flew out of Raleigh for the non-stop trip to England, which took about six hours. Both girls had been over the pond before, as Sarah attended her uncle’s wedding in London when she was five and she also spent Christmas there in 2008. Shannon, a standout soccer player for Salem High and the Roanoke Star, went on a trip to Sweden and Denmark with her Star team two years ago.
“There was a thunderstorm while we were on the plane,” said Dishaw. “I thought it would be scary but actually it was pretty cool. And they kept us distracted with movies.”
After visiting family and splitting up over 100 tickets to various Olympic events the girls stayed in an apartment at Canary Warf in London. From there they took trains to the different venues and got to see swimming, diving, table tennis, beach volleyball and soccer during their stay. They saw the semifinal beach volleyball game and the championship match for women’s soccer, which was the highlight of the trip for soccer enthusiast Shannon.
The girls were all decked out for the championship game, with seats in the fourth row from the field. They had bought t-shirts in London and spray painted them red, white and blue. Then they purchased United States flags at one of the many souvenir shops in London selling Olympic garb and memorabilia.
Of course, the United States won the game, 2-1. That was exciting for Sarah, Shannon and friends, and they were thrilled when the US team came right in front of them on their victory lap, including Shannon’s favorites Hope Solo and Alex Morgan.
“Then my brother said, you have to hold up the flag if you want to get on TV,” said Sarah. “So we held up the flag and, sure enough, we saw ourselves on the big screen. We started jumping up and down and screaming, and shortly after that we started getting texts from people that we were on TV.”
It culminated a wonderful week for the local girls, and an experience they’ll never forget. They were excited so see the warm welcome they received from the locals.
“Everyone was extremely nice,” said Sarah. “We walked around wearing our flags and people would see us and say ‘GO USA’.”
The girls got to do some sightseeing as well. They saw Big Ben and walked to the Tower Bridge, which was adorned with the Olympic Logo. They didn’t see Prince William or Kate, who seemed to be at every event if you watched it on TV, but they did go by Queen Elizabeth’s summer castle.
“And the flag was up,” said Sarah. “They told us if the flag was up that meant she was there.”
The girls learned the ways of the English, as much as you can learn in a week.
“Sarah’s cousin in England would say everything that was good was ‘wicked,’” said Shannon. “And they call their (French) fries ‘chips,’ and you can’t get salad dressing, they just eat it without the dressing. And they don’t put ice in their drinks.”
And, of course, they drive on the other side of the street.
“That was nuts,” said Shannon. “And they drive fast. I didn’t see any stop signs or any speed limit signs. They drive crazy, and I didn’t see a single cop the whole time we were there.”
The girls returned home on Sunday, August 12, with lots of photos and lots of stories to tell. It was a trip they’ll never forget, and if the memory fades they can always whip out the video of themselves waving the flag on TV.