At first, the bright lights of London's Olympic Stadium didn't faze Craig Kinsley. It was just another meet for the Fairfield javelin thrower.
But the Olympic preliminary throws on Aug. 8 weren't just another meet for Kinsley.
For starters, it was the 23-year-old's first international competition and the amount of time spent on pre-throw preparations -- from things as innocuous as making sure sponsors logos weren't too big or too small -- took Kinsley out of his routine.
On his first throw, his approach on the runway was askew; the second, his finish was off.
By his third and final throw, Kinsley shook off the nerves and the distractions of throwing in front of 60,000 people -- and millions watching on television -- on the planet's biggest stage for javelin and he put it all together, launching a 78.18 meter throw.
Good, but not good enough to qualify for the finals.
"I wanted it to be a spectacular meet, but it turned out to be just an OK meet," Kinsley said by phone this week from Newport, R.I. "It would have medaled at any other U.S. meet. When you put all the best guys in the world in the stadium together, 78 meters isn't going to cut it."
Kinsley finished 23rd out of 44 and was the best of the three Americans at the Olympics. His top throw was nearly six meters behind the 84.58 toss by gold medal winner Keshorn Walcott of Trinidad and Tobago.
The finish left Kinsley with a bittersweet feeling to cap what had been a whirlwind three months that propelled him from an unknown American training by himself at Brown University to the spotlight of the Olympics after hitting the Games' A-standard and qualifying for the U.S. team in June.
"From the outside it looks like I did a decent job, but I'm personally frustrated because I knew I was capable of better things," Kinsley said. "If I threw my best, I could have been in the finals. It leaves me hungry for more."
Kinsley's uneasy feelings have somewhat melted away. It wasn't until he returned home to Fairfield after a month in England that he realized what he'd accomplished.
"When I got off the plane at JFK and saw the welcome to the United States sign, I fist-pumped," he said. "Coming home has been the best part, coming home to family and friends and realizing the ripple effect. My uncle, who works in New York, tells me he was watching it on his iPad plugged into a big screen TV at Radio City. My grandparents loved this whole experience. It's the things like that were by far the best part.
"It's hard for me because I feel frustrated, but seeing other's people's appreciation I feel better about it."
Prior to the Games, Kinsley flew to England in mid-July and spent time at the American track and field training facility in Birmingham. He said the warmth from the British people was overwhelming, particularly the Games' slogans of "inspire a generation."
He took in the pomp-and-circumstance that were the Olympic Opening and Closing ceremonies first-hand, including a goose bumps-inducing, impromptu "U-S-A" chant started by spectators on the way into the stadium.
He got to meet and become friends with fellow U.S. track and field members, notably hurdler Lolo Jones, who Kinsley called "one of the nicest people I've ever met." Kinsley didn't, however, try to get a picture with all-time Olympic medal winner, swimmer Michael Phelps, in the Olympic village or Jamaican track star Usain Bolt.
"We'd play a game to see how many people will ask for (Phelps') picture before he leaves the dining hall," Kinsley said. "I decided not to introduce myself to anyone famous."
Kinsley did get a brush with fame before he left England, attending the "Expendables 2" premier in London at the behest of star Sylvester Stallone, who invited any remaining U.S. track athletes to attend. There Kinsley got to walk the red carpet and rub shoulders with action movie legends like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jean-Claude Van Damme.
After putting himself through five years of arduous training, Kinsley -- who threw all summer with a torn labrum -- is allowing himself a little bit of time for rest and relaxation, starting with a family vacation in Newport and continuing with a month of hiking throughout New England with his girlfriend. From there, he says he's eventually going to spend some time working at a resort in the Florida Keys. He hopes to be accepted, too, into the U.S. Olympic residency program in San Diego where he can devote more time to training for the 2013 World Track and Field Championships in Moscow.
On Saturday he'll be honored along with other New England Olympians at Boston's Fenway Park and throw out the first pitch before the Red Sox/Royals game that night.
"I've been doing this for five years. I'm taking six weeks off, have some fun and have a good time. I'm going to try to feel great for six weeks and then get right back at it," Kinsley said. "(The 2016 Olympics) would be awesome, but so much can happen in four years. Moscow is 12 months away, that's real easy to think about ¦ it'll be here in no time."