Inspirational Olympian

As Joanne noted in Thursday’s comments, I am not the world’s biggest fan when it comes to the Olympics. It’s no surprise, really, given that I am not a huge fan of televised sports overall. And besides, a lot of the sports are just crazy. Synchronized diving? Skeet shooting? Handball? I’m sure these are really fun things to do, and even compete in, but must-see tv, they are not.

All that said, however, I’m finding that I’m watching a lot more of the coverage than I expected I would. This is mostly due to the record-breaking victory machine that is Michael Phelps. After reading this incredibly whiny-baby interview* Mark Spitz gave about Phelps possibly breaking his medal record, I really want him to get all eight golds, so I’ve been watching and rooting for him all week. The unexpected side effect of watching the Olympic swim meet, though, is that it is making me realize that I really miss swimming.

Yes, once upon a time, in a galaxy far, far away, I used to swim. I was pretty terrible — the only time I was ever allowed to compete as the top seed was against the worst team in our division, and I don’t recall that I ever actually won even then. My naturally pigeon-toed legs made swimming the breaststroke virtually impossible, and my general lack of coordination made the butterfly endlessly mystifying. I had decent enough technique in the crawl strokes (backstroke and freestyle) but just wasn’t fast. I could swim forever, though, so my event was what passed for an endurance race at the junior varsity level, the 200 free.

I stopped swimming at the end of 9th grade, when I would have had to make the switch to varsity. My school’s teams were of state-champion quality, so having fun and trying hard were not really enough — I would have had to actually not suck. Until now, I’m not sure I ever regretted giving it up, but I’ve been feeling rather wistful as I’ve been watching Phelps & Co. at work. There is absolutely no chance, of course, that I would ever have made it to the Olympics, but it would be nice to still have a certain amount of skill left.

Other than not being sure I can, in fact, still swim, I suppose there is nothing stopping me from getting back in the pool — there’s a free, indoor one in my neighborhood. And given that I’ve been thinking a lot lately about needing to get more exercise, this might be just the inspiration I need. Perhaps I’ll swing by the pool over the weekend and take a look. I’ve lived within walking distance of it for nearly ten years and have never been inside.

And while Michael Phelps will never know of it, inspiring me to off my ass and back to swimming is nearly as amazing a feat as the whole best-Olympian-of-all-time thing.

(Well, maybe not.)


* Hat tip to Roon for the Spitz article.

6 thoughts on “Inspirational Olympian

  1. Roon August 15, 2008 / 11:13 am

    Thanks for the shout-out.

  2. Joanne August 15, 2008 / 12:14 pm

    Hey, you and me both! Watching the equestrian has made me start thinking seriously about picking up riding again.

  3. common loon August 15, 2008 / 1:59 pm

    So @ this week’s swim lesson, our oldest insisted that he was “Michael Phelps” and only answered his teacher when she called him that name. He says all he wants to do is “eat, sleep, and swim” (to quote Michael), “just like Michael.” He told his teacher that he wants to go to the Olympics, so I asked him if he’d let Molly (his teacher) wear his medal. His response to her: “You can wear my 10th one.”

    Not to be outdone, the middle child, who has refused to swim the modified dog paddle for the past 16 months (I’d hate to tell you how much we have shelled out for it), marched into the pool claiming to be Cullen Jones. No kidding, he SWAM FREESTYLE. Six different times. He tried to swim a lap of the pool, and his teacher had to hold him back. I was bawling!

    Needless to say, we will record all swimming events and play them before swim lessons from now on!

  4. sionna August 16, 2008 / 4:16 pm

    Unfortunately, this 37-yo body cannot go back to the gym and do the gymnastics that I loved doing so much way back when. I cannot fathom getting back on the uneven bars. Yikes!

    At least you two can get back on a horse or jump in the pool.

    Perhaps I’ll grab my field hockey stick and bat a baseball around the yard or something.

  5. common loon August 18, 2008 / 10:11 am

    I never watch the TODAY show, but DH turned it on and so we saw some of the swim team interviews. Did you notice that “TOWSON” and not just Baltimore got a mention? And the NBAC pool shot was where we used to swim, and the camera was placed where Mom used to sit on the bleachers (OK, not a tough call…near the office & all things electronic…but still).

  6. Sarah August 18, 2008 / 12:29 pm

    @ CL – Great story about the boys. I can totally see S paying attention all that time and stubbornly refusing to show it, only to wow you all once he had the inspiration. Such a middle child thing to do. Ask me how I know. 😉 Better get the DVD they’re selling! And I was wondering if the aquatic club in Baltimore that they kept talking about was the same one you and Sue swam at — too cool.

    I have to say, Mark Spitz was MUCH more gracious in the live interview after Phelps tied his record. Either his comments in the story I linked to were really out of context or he got some media training in between, but either way, he handled it much better.

    Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to start my new swim program today as planned. I fell down the stairs at the Metro on my way to a wedding on Saturday night and hurt in places I didn’t even know I have. I think it’ll be a few days before I am ready to add the pain of working out to this. Ow!

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