Sunday, July 29, 2012

Summers of Swimming

I have to admit that I am an Olympic junkie.  I love watching both the Winter and Summer Olympics.  I’m a little burned out on the gymnastics and ice skating perhaps because the media thinks that is all anyone wants to watch…but my favorite sport of all is swimming.

My first memory of watching any sporting event on TV was the 1972 Olympics and seeing Mark Spitz win 7 gold medals.  At that point in my life, swimming was part of the way my family lived in the summer.  From the time I was about 2 years old until I was 10 – swimming was large part of my family’s summer activities.  I would love to say that I was a good athlete…but I would be lying.  My siblings competed and won state titles and in some cases junior Olympic titles.  I think that my brothers have a record still on the books – mostly because they don’t have swimmers at that age swimming that particular race anymore.  One of my brother’s best strokes was the breast stroke and the freestyle.  My other brother could and can still do a great butterfly, which I was never able to do.  My sister swam distance races where didn’t have to rely on her legs as much as her arms. 

Myself (Carmen) waking up Danny!
In some ways, many of those swim team days are somewhat hazy to me.  During the large swim meets that we had locally, Mom and Dad were heavily involved with running the meets.  As a young child, I ran around as a chubby little girl in a bikini going from one of the older kids to another one.  They were my baby sitters during these meets.  There was one kid who was quite special to me.  He spent a great deal of time with me and he was a particular favorite.  I can remember riding on his back while he did his butterfly in warm ups.  It must have looked pretty funny to see a little girl riding on a teenager’s back while he swam.  Danny had curly red hair and a temper to go with that hair.  I remember one occasion when the older girls sent me over to wake up Danny because he was really grouchy when he woke up.  As I was insistently trying to wake him, he pulled me down and hugged me.  I kept on squirming until he really woke up and then he asked me who put me up to it!

I can’t really describe how many swim meets where my parents drove a car full of kids to some swim meet or another.  Through the heat, fireworks, overnight camping and sitting and cheering through all of the heats and races that involved a swim meet – my parents were enthusiastic cheerleaders and caretakers through it all.  My mother always related a swim meet that must have occurred near July 4th.  I think it might have been in Cheney, WA but the location is pretty hazy in my mind.  Evidently some of the participants in the swim meet thought it was important to shoot fireworks off all night despite all the exhausted kids and their parents trying to sleep.  Mom finally got up and started cutting up oranges for the kids when they woke up.  One of the other parents came walking down and looked at Mom with bleary eyes and commented that he hadn’t spent a night like that since his last night on Guadalcanal in World War II. 

A carful of kids at a swim meet.
So, when you want those Olympians compete in the swimming pool – remember that there are a lot of early mornings, travel, hot days and nights spent camping out at swim meets.  Most of all, there is a lot of work involved in doing what they do as well as they do. Every one of them has parents or relatives who have made sure that they made it to swim practice, swim meets both near and far.  Those young people will inspire our next generations of swimmers.  Someday, some swimmer will talk about the Olympics that he saw on TV when Michael Phelps got 8 gold medals in Bejing or perhaps they will talk about Olympian who is yet to make their mark in London.  When I watch those athletes compete – I think of the enormous pride that their families feel and know that those families have been with them every step of the way.