Hawaii volleyball trio gear up for Rio Olympics opening ceremony

Published: Aug. 5, 2016 at 2:24 AM HST
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Micah Christenson and Erik Shoji sightsee in Rio
Micah Christenson and Erik Shoji sightsee in Rio
selfie with Serbian tennis star Novak Djokovic
selfie with Serbian tennis star Novak Djokovic

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Tomorrow night all eyes will be on Rio de Janeiro with an estimated three billion people expected to tune in to the opening ceremony for the 2016 Rio Games.

"Just to feel that sense of pride, and that the Olympics are actually starting, that's just going to be a crazy feeling," said Erik Shoji.

Erik, older brother Kawika, and Micah Christenson are part of a U.S. men's indoor volleyball team of which a quarter of the roster hails from Hawaii.  For the trio, this marks their first Olympic Games--- an accomplishment that truly started to sink in en route to Brazil.

"That whole process started in Houston when we started getting all our gear for processing," said Erik.  "We went through Nike, we went through Ralph Lauren.  It was so exciting getting all our gear and just know we were taking off for Rio finally."

The team arrived in Rio on Monday morning upon which they went straight to the Olympic Village.

"The village is pretty amazing to be in," said Erik.  "It's just 32 huge buildings full of athletes and a dining hall full of athletes that are huge."

That includes dining alongside NBA stars like Tony Parker and Pau Gasol, and getting selfies with the best tennis players in the world, Novak Djokovic and Serena Williams.

Of course, the laundry list of problems in Rio leading up to the games has been well-documented.  Australian basketball player Andrew Bogut has chronicled his Olympic Village adventures on Twitter, including a picture of him installing a shower curtain in his room.

"The village did have its issues, but in our building it wasn't too bad," Erik said.  "We didn't have to put together shower curtains or anything like that.  There were some plumbing issues, some of it isn't 100 percent finished, but it's not as bad as you read I guess."

Then there are the safety concerns around the city.

"We're not really allowed to walk on our own too far from our hotel or be by ourselves, but we're just playing it on the safe side."

The U.S. men's indoor volleyball team has played in Rio de Janeiro multiple times in recent years, so sightseeing is on the back-burner this trip.  After staying in the Olympic Village for the first few nights, the team moved to a hotel close to the volleyball venue ahead of their first match Sunday against Canada.

"We're so happy to be here and represent Hawaii and the US," said Erik.  "Hopefully we represent well and win some matches and go for a medal.  We're just super excited to start and get this thing going already."

The opening ceremony can be seen Friday starting at 5:30pm on KHNL.

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