Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Olympic Reading

I have the best intentions of posting weekly on this blog, but sometimes the rest of life interferes with those plans. The past 10 days have been full of those. I'd really wanted to have blow-by-blow coverage of Olympic swimming, with Phelps's incredible 20-medals' performance. But it took him a while to find his groove. I had mixed feelings about Lochte beating him (and so decisively) in the 400 IM. Hurray Ryan! But how sad for Michael. Were we going to watch a total implosion over the next 10 days? How could that be? That worried and demotivated me. I wasn't sure what to write. So I didn't write anything. 

Instead, watching the amazing Olympic swimmers inspired me to go back and read some of my favorite swimming books of all time. They motivate and excite me, keep me going back to the pool, not for any competitive glory, but because of a renewed sense of wonder and awe at the sport and swimmers and the physics of bodies in the water.

Dara Torres's Age is Just a Number (http://tinyurl.com/8qc9blq) is a great read for anyone, but particularly for those of us of a certain age, wondering what's left. I love her opening: I've been old before. I was old when I was 27 and I got divorced. I was old when I was 35 and couldn't get pregnant. I was really old when I was 39 and my father died.  I know those feelings. I've expressed the same thoughts myself. I'm sure I was never older than I was at 27. (Those of you who know me know I'm certainly far less mature now than I was then!) She goes on: But when I was 41 and woke up in a dorm in  the Olympic Village in Beijing, I didn't feel old.

Her journey and her determination inspire and motivate, let us see that we're never too old to pursue a dream. Age gives us one benefit over youth. Perspective. What's the worst thing that could happen? We might fail. With perspective, we see that's not so horrible. The beauty is in the journey, the attempt, not in the destination.

Amanda Beard's In the Water They Can't See You Cry" ( http://tinyurl.com/9mjnen3)  is the heartbreaking, and ultimately uplifting journey she went through during her years of athletic fame. Hers isn't an uncommon story among world class female athletes. Despite being an incredibly beautiful and talented woman, she felt unworthy, lashed out with self-destructive behaviors. She had problems with bulimia--very common in athletes, and particularly swimmers and divers. Shame on coaches, parents, and spectators feeling the need to comment on these girls' and womens' bodies. Let anyone of them stand on a pool deck in a Speedo in front of thousands of people and see how they stack up. Then get them in the pool and REALLY see what being in shape means! Beard's book is a must read for parents of female swimmers. The pressures she faced are common in the sport. In her case, no one noticed her battle with depression for years. Luckily, someone (her future husband) finally did and she got help and overcame her problem. Knowing all she's gone through makes her that much more of a star in my book.
Amanda Beard (photo from Brooks International)

If you're an Amanda Beard fan, you'll love her blog, Swim Like a Mom too. http://www.swimlikeamom.com/ 

My all time favorite swimming book is Gold in the Water by P.H. Mullen (http://tinyurl.com/bplc822 ). This is a fantastic read for parents and swimmers both. Mullen chronicles the journey of a group of swimmers at the Santa Clara Swim Club trying to qualify for the 2000 Olympics in Australia. He captures the emotional and physical pressures of that journey, and the highs and lows of the athletes as they reach for new heights. If the Olympics got you pumped and ready to up your swim workouts, read this. It'll keep that motivation alive!

In the end, Michael Phelps didn't let us down. He managed to get his head into the games and have some outstanding performances. He, Lochte, Missy Franklin, and all the USA swimmers were outstanding. With a total of 30 medals (16 gold, 8 silver, and 6 bronze) we showed once again that swimming is our true power sport, the one we always and consistently dominate.

I stand in awe of the greatness our swimmers have achieved, and the greatness they inspire. For more inspiration, read these three books. They'll  make you want to dive right in and start swimming laps!

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