Of course there was disappointment. Committing a year of one's life to a single endeavor and in the course of one day have it all be decided is the true nature of competition. And man can it be harsh. Like running a race, there are endless variables beyond your control, and you hope to rise above. In the afterglow of the day there are many things that can be replayed over and over. But who wants to do that? Instead, let us rest our eyes on the brightest spark left now that it's all over - the relationships.
At some point during the week it stopped being a competition between countries and became a bonding of human beings. It was no longer a bus full of strangers; the shared experience of the work it took to get there broke down languages and barriers. We spent a lot of time with the very cool Japanese team. These guys had been practicing for three years. Through a translator we asked them what they did in their free time. They said bake. Bread was their life. When the results were announced on the last day and neither of our teams made it to the podium, the pain was almost too much to watch. And when I caught that tender moment between Nick and Yoji, the Japanese bread baker, I realized that right there was what this competition was about.
Nicky, Jacob and Jeffrey went in to the competition on the 5am bus every day to show support for the teams competing that day. The dedication and humility of these guys was striking, and a pleasure to watch. They set a wonderful example for the rest of the teams - Americans you can be very very proud of your boys! Now they are part of the family, and can only hope to continue to grow it more and more. Watching the bakers who have been involved in the competition since the beginning - Craig Ponsford, the Irishman James Griffin, Aussie Brett Noy, and many others - as they reunited, caught up and laughed together, it is undeniably a wonderful family to be a part of.