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My Favorite Olympic Moment

4x100Most people pick USA vs. USSR Hockey or basketball.  Now, my mom wasn’t even born when Jesse Owens rubbed that whole “master race” crap in Hitler’s face in Berlin, 1936,  and I wasn’t quite two years old at the time of the famous “black power” salute in Mexico City, 1968.  Those were big, historical moments.  The most exciting moment I’ve experienced was, admittedly, a whole lot smaller and lacked any real political subtext beyond the usual, benign disrespect between Americans and French–you know: we’re lazy and tacky and like ketchup and peanut butter, and they smell bad, breathe arrogance, and habitually surrender to Germany at a moment’s notice.

Allies who love to hate each other make perfect rivals, especially when Alain Bernard, the superstar French swimmer, derisively dismissed his USA counterparts before the 4×100 Freestyle in the 2008 Beijing games.  “The Americans?” Bernard sneered, “We’re going to smash them.  That’s what we came here for.”

While the cameras focused on USA Star Mike Phelps and Bernard, in the end it was veteran Jason Lezak, the oldest member of the team who was, for the most part, largely unknown outside the swimming world, who took down the haughty Bernard.

http://sports.espn.go.com/oly/summer08/swimming/news/story?id=3528865

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An Exhausting, But Damn Fine Weekend Part 1: Swimming District Championships

I don’t keep a diary or journal all that often–scrawled notes, here and there–of things I want to remember, but the majority of my life I’ve confined to the dark recesses of my increasingly lethargic memory.  Occasionally, I take an exception and inflict the journaling on you, gentle readers.

Cardiac_Hill; Michael Rosella 1953
That’s me in the skirt.

At the end of last week my kids and their team-mates traveled to Trees Pool at the University of Pittsburgh for the WPIAL District Swimming Championships. It’s a love-hate thing–we love our swimmers, but this event is perennially noted for sub-zero temperatures and nearly impossible parking.  The Pool is located at the top of a step hill, and the University parking lots are reserved for faculty and students, the hospital and business garages are posted “lease only”–some have even made special signs, just for us “NO SWIMMER PARKING.”  Pittsburgh is a very friendly town, but UPMC –whose garages had those signs–is another matter.  Their signs pretty much screamed “Fuck You.”  Big surprise.

trees-poolIt seemed hellacious at the time–we parked about a mile away–and half a mile vertically–in the bitter cold.  Afflicted with a nagging cold and what turned out to be bronchitis, my throat seized shut the moment I began exerting myself in those temperatures, which was scary but gave me new understanding of what it’s like to deal with asthma.  It sucks, by the way.

FFH-FullHouseFortunately, I survived, as did my friend Skip who, wearing just a thin leather jacket, stuck with my slow progress up the hill, didn’t flinch at my frequent stops for binges of disconcerting hacking-coughing-gurgling-convulsing. The guy had to be freezing his ass off–and he also dealt with navigating his Suburban through all that city traffic.  Kudos to Skip.

IMG_6573The meet went well–our girls finished high in both relays–200 Medley and 200 Freestyle, qualifying for the PIAA State Championships, with both of my daughters posting significant time drops.  One of the girls did very well in an individual event, also, nailing another spot at States.  On the boys side, the results were similar. On day two, the girls qualified a third relay and one of our other swimmers finished second overall in her premier event.  All in all it was a spectacular pair of days in what was supposed to be a “down” year with a diminished roster–the boys finished IMG_7375fourth overall, the girls fifth, and the only that lack of depth kept us from contending for the District Championships, but we won our Section handily–as we usually do–something none of the marquee teams (football, basketball, etc) can boast.

We stopped for a celebratory visit at a TGI Fridays which was fun, but not awesome.  They refused to take reservations for our party of 40 parents, coaches, and athletes, so the kids didn’t get to sit together or even get seated or served at the same time–but those of us who weren’t behind the wheel got to down a few cold Yeunglings while we waited for tables to open.  The great thing about swimming is that the parents and athletes are all pretty great–not just on our team, but in general.  I think it comes down to the fact that it’s all about quantifiable results.  If your kid makes a relay over my kid, it’s generally because your kid is faster–it’s difficult, and counter-productive, for coaches to play favorites.  We cheer for our kids as individuals, but the big accolades come from team success, which also helps.  Finally, swimming is AWFUL–it’s grueling, mind-numbing, exhausting, repetitive, and somewhat lonely.  Success requires great discipline and sacrifice, which more than anything else serves to weed out the assholes.  Even the most naturally talented kids ultimately fall short if they don’t do the work.  Those left are quality–though sometimes quirky!–individuals, an almost literal crucible.

 

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Bonus Photo: Swimming Ladies

How fast time flies….

IMG_6573