Wes and I returned from Rio de Janeiro yesterday morning after a total of about 12 hours on planes, exhausted, yet we are too happy to care! We are in Marble Falls on family vacation now, but I thought I would give you the run down of our life in the past month.
On the night of June 12th, I walked into our home office to tell my darling husband good night, and as I was leaving the room I called over my shoulder that I would like for him to start thinking of what he wanted to do for our first anniversary, coming this September. Wes responded, “yeah, OK.” I didn’t go to bed believing he’d give it a second thought, that’s for sure.
The following morning, I awaken to the man still on the computer, having never gone to sleep. As could be predicted, I ask him why in the world he was up all night, to which he replies, “I was working on our anniversary. Go downstairs and I’ll show you what I mean.” My eyebrows arched in disbelief before I shuffled downstairs to make some coffee and settle into an armchair for the presentation I could feel coming. You see, this is not the first time I’d seen that look in his eyes, the glimmer of a grand idea determined to convince me of its promise.
Wes appears in the living room moments later a group of papers stapled together, and after a quick glance I can glean that these are the rules to some online game. The legal jargon and prizes to a game I have never heard of hardly peaked my interested. In fact, I was a bit irritated.
“This is your idea for our anniversary?” I asked, my voice low with a mixture of sarcasm and disbelief.
“Did you read it? Did you see the prizes? I can win this!” Wes responded excitedly. I rolled my eyes. The prizes were impressive, almost unbelievable: The top ten won a ticket to any sporting event in their country, and the top two finalists were flown, with a companion, to Rio de Janeiro to compete for the grand prize of two tickets to 16 sporting events anywhere in the world, culminating at the next World Cup there in 2014. Okay, I thought, I’ll humor him. What kind of wife would I be to crush his dreams?
For the rest of the weekend, I watched my husband play this game and climb up the rankings with a slowly changing attitude. This man was determined to win this, and if I know anything about my husband, when he sets his mind to do something, he does it.
13 days and over 200 hours of playing time later, Wes was sent an email from Yahoo letting him know he has been chosen as a finalist and will be flown to Rio to compete for the grand prize. After a hectic week of scrambling to get our Brazilian visas and getting our ducks in a row, he and I board a 9 1/2 hour flight to Rio de Janeiro, still in shock that we are really on our way to Brazil. Unreal.
The following is the e-mail I sent to our friends and family upon returning from our trip:
Of course, the purpose of the trip was for Wes to compete against the other Yahoo Penalty Shootout winner, Omar (from Mexico) in a live shootout for the grand prize of $112,000 worth of vacations until July 2014 (including the next world cup, in Brazil). Wes was in the top two of millions of players in an online game Yahoo put on called the Yahoo Penalty Shootout, and we found out that he was a finalist on June 25th. Only the top two were brought to Rio (with one companion each) to compete.
We arrived in Rio on Friday morning, the 9th, and picked up by a driver (he was waiting with a sign that said “McELROY” and everything!) who escorted us to our hotel. Our hotel was the Arena Copacabana, on Copacabana beach, and was really nice. The view was exceptional,and the location could not have been better! After arriving, we met with the Yahoo people who gave us the $1200 prize money, which was way more than we needed there, so we actually came back ahead! After that, we took about an hour nap to catch up on sleep that we didn’t get while on the plane, and then we hit the town to eat. We went to a place that wasn’t too far from here and had churrascaria (much like Fogo de Chao in Austin/Dallas) type food. It was excellent foot and was fairly reasonable in price. After that we hit the beach and just walked down it for an hour or so. It was really very nice and the temperature was perfect at about 85 degrees. Tons of people playing beach soccer and soccer volleyball everywhere, and many people young and old, fat or skinny, in VERY revealing swimsuits. We met up with the yahoo people again that night at 6pm to go over some media stuff for Saturday’s shootout, then after another awesome (and cheap!) meal, we went to bed early.
Wes woke up at 5:30 the next morning to warm up a bit in the hotel gym before we went down for a divine breakfast setup (complimentary) in the hotel restaurant. Our car picked us up at 7:30 to head out to the location of the shootout, at Marina da Gloria in Rio, which was a beautiful backdrop for the event with Sugarloaf Mountain in the background. When we got there we flipped a coin to see who would warm up first. Wes won and chose to warm up second so he could watch Omar and loosen up a bit more. When it was Wes’s turn, he started shooting very easy and left footed to see how that leg was (it was my reserve). Wes had gotten his right leg rapped but the second warm up shot he took with it put it right back where it was a week ago with quite a bit of pain so he pretty much stopped there and just told himself he only needed it for 5 shots.
There were several other events that yahoo put on also for schools here in Brazil, so we had about a 3 hour break before it was our turn. During that time Wes and Omar were interviewed by several TV, radio, and newspapers here in Brazil…even ESPN!
When it was time to go they did another coin flip to decide the order of the shootout. The goalkeeper for the shootout was David Seaman, the world famous Arsenal & World Cup keeper (who is dating some chick from Dancing With the Stars, but I don’t remember her name). Wes won the toss and chose to go second. Omar was really good and accurate. After the initial 5 penalty shots, Wes and Omar were tied 1-1, so it went into sudden death. Omar was first, and missed. Wes was next, backed up, analyzed the goal, and kicked it square into the bottom right past David Seaman… GOALLLLLLL!!!! Wes had won!!! WE WON!!! It still feels strange to think it, to say it, to talk about it… it is very surreal and has only just begun to sink in.
Wes was immediately swarmed with cameras, microphones, journalists, reporters, and then they did a few sit down interviews with he and David Seaman. They even interviewed me ( I was SO not camera ready!) then we came back to the hotel, and enjoyed the rest of the night indulging in a nice dinner (a churrasceria with unlimited meat and seafood, even lobster tails). We had all day sunday and most of Monday to tour Rio and enjoy the beach, so we took 5 our tour on sunday to see Corcovado (the famous 133 ft tall statue of Christ the Redemer) and several other world famous sights. Monday we shopped and spent a few hours soaking up the sun and sights on Copacabana beach. We never did make it down to Ipanema beach, but our front desk people said it was overrated, anyway. Maybe next time- since there WILL be a next time.
Overall, Rio is an amazing city. Very laid back, beach style, even though it is one of the largest cities in the world, and the people were exceptionally nice! If we didn’t understand how to say something in Portuguese, it only made them want to help us more! The atmosphere in the city was electric, because they had a huge stage and HD screen set up on Copacabana beach to watch the world cup games, so there were always hundreds of people out and about playing soccer, or watching it on the beach. At night, there are tiny cafes open along the beach, where a solo guitarist would be strumming a song that a few couples would be doing a slow samba to… it was very romantic, and peaceful with the waves crashing in the background.
Now, we are in Marble Falls for a couple of days before we head back to College Station to start planning our vacations for next year, because Yahoo wants us to have our trips for next year planned out by July 31st! We aren’t sure yet, but we know we want to do a golf tournament in Scotland, Grande Prix in Monaco, Surfing competition in Australia, the next Olympics in London… maybe the “running of the bulls” in Spain, too!
I hope this is enough of a detailed description of what we’ve experienced in the last few days, and I will have my personal photos and videos up later this week. Until then, enjoy Yahoo’s short video they uploaded right after the event, and if you get bored you can Google “Robert Wesley McElroy Brazil” and come up with a few articles. Wes and I both have been getting journalists burning up our phones with interview requests, and KCEN in Waco might be coming out today or tomorrow to talk to us. Even ABC has asked us for an interview! This could open doors to some great business opportunities for Wes, because even though I have known it all along, this proves that when my husband sets his mind to do something, he DOES it. When he first found this game and saw the prizes, he told me that he was going to be a finalist… and he achieved that after two weeks of pushing hard, getting little to no sleep, and running himself ragged… but he did it, and I am so proud!