Shootin' the Breeze

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Archive for the tag “National Senior Games”

Something for Dad

I wrote this two years ago. I am re-posting it today because my father’s birthday was yesterday and Fathers’ Day is Sunday, so I am especially thinking of my Dad.

Shootin' the Breeze

We were on the starting blocks.

“Swimmers, take your marks.”

Each assumes the position, poised for the signal.

AAAAAAAAAA.   Rather than a starter’s gun, the signal is an electronic buzz through speakers.  It echoes in the high-ceilinged pool venue.

The swimmers uncoil, fly horizontally for a moment, and angle into the water with momentum pointed toward the other end of the pool.

As soon as the momentum wanes, with arms forward, legs moving together with a rhythmic dolphin kick, I initiate the first arm movement of the butterfly stroke.  The race is on.

In the individual medley (IM) event, all four competitive swimming strokes are employed, in the following order:  butterfly, back stroke, breast stroke, and freestyle.  This was a 200 meter IM in a 25 meter pool, so participants swim 50 meters, i.e., two lengths of the pool, of each stroke.  If it was on a track, the distance is about half-way around a football field.  I don’t…

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Winning for the Gipper

There are times when athletes draw inspiration from friends and family to motivate them to try even harder.  To try their best.  To better their best.  To win as a tribute to a loved one.

There are many examples.  Knute Rockne’s half-time speech urging Notre Dame’s football team to win one for the Gipper (George Gipp, a teammate who had died) is famous.  There was another movie about John Cappelletti, who won the Heisman Trophy in 1973, being inspired by his younger brother, Joey, who was dying of leukemia.  If I recall correctly, it was called “Something for Joey.”  People are more familiar with “Brian’s Song” about Brian Piccolo’s friendship with Gale Sayers and his fight with cancer.

I myself have written in this blog about swimming in the Senior Olympics and thinking about my father and his “do your best” attitude when I felt like slowing down.  See written June 8, 2012.

I am sad to say that a few days ago I learned that a friend of mine is undergoing chemotherapy.   He is an excellent swimmer.  He trains much more diligently than I have.  He used to contact me to chide me by noting when he had not seen me at the pool.  So, when I did not see him there, I sent an email telling him when we could meet at the pool to work out together.  His response was that he cannot swim because he is taking chemotherapy.  That is how I learned of his health problem.

So I am telling myself to swim as hard as he used to train because he wishes he could still do that, but cannot due to the cancer.  I have no excuse to avoid the pool.  When I don’t swim, it is because I am lazy.  When I don’t swim it is because I choose not to swim.  When I don’t swim, I am not trying my best.  (Sorry, Dad).

Last week I was back in the pool daily.  This week I will try even harder.  I will swim longer.  I will swim faster.  In part it is because I can.  In part it is because my friend can’t.  I am doing this for both of us.

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The medals I will win won’t be mine.  They will go to my friend.  And to God goes the glory.

Senior Olympics

The REAL OLYMPICS will be in London this summer in just a few weeks.  Those competitions between the best of the best athletes inspire many of us to do our best in our own athletic endeavors.

A few years ago, very few, I reached the age which allowed me to participate in the Senior Olympics.  I have been very impressed by the national and state organizations which put on these senior games.  I have met some great folks as I participated in swimming competitions.

The way it works is that the top three finishers in each event in state competitions qualify for the National Senior Games, which are held every other year.  As you would expect, many of the senior athletes are former college athletes and some even former Olympians.  When I swam at Stanford for the national games, it was intimidating when they announced, “In lane three, former Olympic medalist, Gary Hall.”   I will break the suspense right now and tell you that this is not a story about how I beat him.  I did not beat him.  We were not even in the same heat.

Another fellow I did not beat was a former NCAA breaststroke champion, who was only one second off his record time.  I was warming up when I heard him and another guy in my event talking.  They were both from Big Ten schools.

I also watched some of the other sports.  I saw old pole vaulters who could still go what looked high to me.  I don’t know how many feet high, but I watched an official get on a stepladder to raise the bar with a tool that must have put the bar over ten feet high.  Three athletes went over the bar at that height.  Maybe it was twelve feet.  Think of the acceleration, upper body strength and coordination required.  Very impressive!

Another man who impressed me was someone who did not qualify for the national championships.  He finished all his swimming events at the state games in last place.  He did not dive in off the starting block.   He had to be lowered into the pool from a wheel chair.   He started in the water, just pushing off the pool wall.   He was very slow but kept going until he finished.  He needed help getting out of the pool and into his chair.  I am embarrassed to confess that I was a little irritated at having to wait for him to finish, which delayed the next event of the meet.  Didn’t he know that he didn’t have a chance to qualify for the national games?

After two days of state competition, there was an award banquet.  The slow swimmer was one of the speakers.  He told his story that he was a wounded veteran and was competing in the Senior Olympics to try to get prepared for other games especially for disabled veterans.  He also told us how these athletic competitions changed his life, even saved his life.  He described his health problems, including that in the past he had weighed over 500 pounds.  He had some medical emergency a few years ago.  He said he did not fit into the MRI machine.  He nearly died.

As part of his recovery he started swimming.  He started shooting basketballs from his chair.  He said, “I’m not very good, but I like to do these sports.  The exercise has helped me lose 270 pounds.”  He got a standing ovation.  He was a winner after all.

Bless his heart!  And bless the many volunteers who put on these events for us old folks.

If you are over 50 years of age, check out the Senior Olympics.  You might have some fun.

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