I was a chubby tween/teen. I was a nerd. I was a book worm, and I was pre-gay, if there is such a thing.
Then the 1972 Summer Olympics came along. I fell in love with these amateur sports. I felt they represented what was best in an athlete. The women’s gymnastics were my favorite sport to watch. Olga Korbut ruled that year. She was amazing.
And Mark Spitz garnered 7 Olympic Gold Medals for swimming. He became my hero. And, I also would like to point out it wasn’t a gay crush, handsome as he was. It was purely inspirational.
So I joined the jogging club at school. Then I took swim lessons. I joined a summer swim team. I joined the High School Varsity Swim team in 9th grade while I was still physically in Junior High School, but I was eligible. I walked miles to catch the bus to the college for practices. I was never anywhere near being a top swimmer, but there were not enough swimmers that anyone was ever “cut” from the team so I continued to persevere. I even had a school record for 10 days, until the other swimmers woke up! Unfortunately swimming was taken out of our school budget in 11th grade, but I swam on an AAU swim team in 12th grade. I even achieved a 2nd place finish in one intercollegiate swim race. I was so proud. And I don’t care that it was the week the whole of NYS had the flu!
I continued to swim varsity in college! Again, there were not enough swimmers that anyone was cut from the roster, so I persevered. As long as you showed up to practice you were able to stay on the team. One of my dorm supporters came to my swim meets and nicknamed me Mitch the fish. Thank-you Nancy M. for that! I even joined the Swim Team on their yearly sojourn to the International Hall of Fame in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. We raised money at our college’s football games and then drove the 24 hours down south. And I swam at the International Swimming Hall of Fame!
The Olympics inspired this overweight, unathletic, unhappy middle schooler years ago. It helped me to build some self esteem, and it gave me memories I will never forget. I will be forever grateful.
And my son and my spouse both have instructions to bury me with my Ramapo High School Swim Jacket with varsity letter. If it doesn’t fit on me, bury it next to me! That was the most important thing I did for myself, earning that jacket and letter, as a teenager!
As an adult, one of the myriad gifts that I have receive from the blog world is the chance to meet some real Olympians. Below are my pictures with some Gold Medal Heroes, they continue to inspire me today and always!
Swimming – Summer Sanders
Runner – Sanya Richards
Skating – Apolo Ohno
Gymnastics – Dominique Dawes
Track & Field – Carl Lewis
Beach Volleyball – Kerri Walsh