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Phoenix friends share 48-hour weekend with Yao Ming

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LONDON – Within hours of arriving here for the Summer Games, a couple of jet-setters ran into a two-time Olympic basketball star.

He wasn’t hard to spot. Yao Ming stands 7-foot-6 and weighs 310.

The spur-of-the-moment, 48-hour trip couldn’t have started off better for Erin Goheen, 22, from the Ahwatukee Foothills, and Mark Caudillo, 25, from Phoenix. They met and took pictures with the former Houston Rockets center, who is staying at the same hotel.

Yao played in the 2000 and 2004 Olympics before retiring from the NBA in 2011.

“Meeting Yao Ming in the lobby of our hotel was one of the top moments of my entire life,” Goheen said.

“Our goal,” said Caudillo, “was to meet Olympic athletes, and we’ve succeeded.’’

The friends hopped on an airplane and set off on their wild adventure just two days after deciding they wanted to experience the Olympics. They could afford it. One of the perks of working as revenue management analysts for US Airways is dramatically reduced rates for flying with different airlines. The trip on British Airways cost $100.

This isn’t the first time they’ve gone globe-trotting on a whim.

After working for the airline for only one year, they have traveled to Hong Kong and all over the U.S. They have also been to Hawaii four times, and this is the second time Caudillo has been in London.

“Now I travel once or twice a month,’’ said Caudillo. “Before it was once or twice a year. It could be a negative because we might not appreciate it as much as if you saved up for a year.”

Neither was worried about the quick turnaround as they prepared to leave Sunday.

“May not be worth it to some people, but it depends who you ask,” Caudillo said. “The atmosphere, the people from all over the world – it only happens once.”

The friends are already planning their next vacation to Sydney. And they may have to buy some cold-weather gear for their next Olympic fling: The 2014 Winter Games are in Sochi, Russia.