Several days ago, I read about Ryan Jaranilla, senior executive chef at the Olympic Catering Services Project of the Athletes’ Village in Beijing. This comment from Jaranilla piqued my interest: "I got a call from my sous chef at 1 a.m., asking me if he could serve couscous salad to an athlete with a gluten-free diet, since the dietician was not around and I have a Nutrition background."
So who among the 10,500 athletes in the Olympic Village is on a gluten-free diet? Today I found an answer, thanks to a note Christine Egli shared on the International Celiac Mailing List.
In Amy Yoder Begley's online journal, the Women's 10K runner writes that she received a diagnosis of "wheat and gluten allergy" almost three years ago. Since then, her diet has typically been "full of fruits, veggies, rice, potatoes and gluten free substitutes." But in her profile she lists her favorite foods as "Dark chocolate and peanut butter (no wheat...I have Celiac Disease!)".
Last December Begley wrote about how happy she was to eat gluten-free when in Connecticut for the Manchester Road Race.
Thanksgiving was great this year. I ran the Manchester Road Race in Manchester, Connecticut. What a great city and race. I stayed with a wonderful host family - Bill and Carol O'Neil. They were so nice. I enjoyed spending the holiday with them and their family. They even had gluten-free food in the Thanksgiving meal that I could eat. Bill drove the course with me twice before the race.Arriving at the Olympic Village, Begley—and others—found that the food preparation was not appropriate for a medical gluten-free diet.
My parents also drove 12 hours to watch me run the race! They are really dedicated. Manchester had a great pasta dinner the night before the race but I could not eat it due to my wheat/gluten allergy (Celiac Disease). My parents and I went to Outback after the pasta dinner. Outback has a Gluten Free menu. My pre-race meal was salad, steak and sweet potato. Yum!
The cafeteria seats 5,000. I can't eat there due to my wheat and gluten allergy (Celiac Disease). The village did get a lot of complaints about not having wheat and gluten free foods so they just added some yesterday. However, they do not prep it gluten free, so I still can't eat it. I have to eat at the USOC camp they have set up for us 20 minutes from the Village. I am not complaining though, I prefer safe food over convenience!Food at the US training camp proved to be delectable as well as safe: "The food here is amazing - Thanks to Chef Adam Sacks! The food is so good we are all over eating."
Begley's participation in the Olympics (her event is scheduled for 10:45am ET on Friday) is the latest chapter in a story full of triumphs and setbacks. Sprinkled amidst her many wins have been a torn Achilles tendon, two stress fractures, a torn oblique muscle, bursitis, a broken ankle, dehydration problems, and a diagnosis of osteopenia, which is common among people who have lived with undiagnosed celiac disease. So are the anemia and "stomach problems" she experienced before getting her diagnosis.
Begley, 30, pursued her passion for running despite her physical and financial woes. She and her supportive friend and teammate Kara Goucher train with Alberto Salazar, three-time winner of the New York Marathon.
Begley's dramatic surge qualifying for the Olympics was a crowd-thriller and a highlight of the pre-Olympic events. Here's wishing her more amazing food this week and a fantastic run on Friday!
And here's Begley after her qualifying run.