13 August 2008
I've probably spent more time sitting and watching Olympic events in the past two days than I would have normally, if I hadn't been feeling out of sorts. Just blown away by the incredible strength and agility of the human body and the enormity of the human spirit. I loved it this morning when Matt Lauer was talking with Michael Phelps mother and asked her about this "8 gold medal" thing and she said that Michael has never once mentioned wanting to win 8 golds and Matt admitted that it was a media driven goal.
Last night I watched the men's synchronized diving, as I had the women's earlier in the week. What a gorgeous sport. As I watched the Chinese team's first dive, a forward in the pike position, it just took my breath away. I don't know that I'd ever seen a tighter pike, and to watch them do it as mirror images with each other, entering the water with hardly a splash. Well, it just doesn't get better than that!
I couldn't help but think of the years that we spent poolside watching bouncing bodies.
It all started when Ned was about 8, I think. His friend, Matt, was on the Davis Diving Team (coached by Brett Evans who was, it was rumored, on an Olympic diving team in his youth). Ned would watch Matt on the diving board and then try to imitate him. Matt's father thought Ned was pretty good and suggested he join the diving team.
And the path of our lives was changed for the next 4-5 years.
Originally it was just Ned and Paul who signed up for diving lessons, but soon all five kids were going to Manor Pool every day and spending hours learning how to leap up, out, and off of high platforms. And of course there were the swim meets, the "rec meets," where they dove in competition with other amateurs, and the meets where they dove in competition with other Olympic hopefuls. Not, of course, that most of the kids on the Davis Diving Team were actually Olympic hopefuls (though I think one did, eventually, get onto an Olympic team). But they were, like today's athletes, all after that elusive prize.
The difference between having kids on the swim team or on the diving team is that when you go to a meet, the swim folks are there all day. All you have to do is look at the Olympic swimming events to see that there are relays and individual competitions in various swim strokes. With diving, there are age divisions. When your age group finishes its competition, you're free to go home. We really liked that!
But nevertheless we spent a lot of time poolside, whether at practice sessions or driving all over No. California to meets. I was in charge of publicity for the group (of course--that seems to have been my role in most organizations I was involved with!) and even got the team some TV time at least once.
We had our share of difficulties. Swimmers' ear was always something we had to be aware of, and once, when Ned was practicing on a 5 meter platform, he hit the water so hard he broke his ear drum and was out of the pool for several weeks. But I was always so proud of him that no matter what the adversity, he always seemed to get up and continue on.
The kids learned a lot about diving, about self-confidence, about being part of a team. But Walt and I learned a lot too. I often worked the scoring table at meets and we both learned how to judge dives.
Oh we didn't judge dives well. I still can't look at a turning, twisting dive and figure it all out without a slow motion replay. I listen to the instant commentary by former divers during the Olympics and wonder how they can see those small imperfections when I'm not sure if it's 2 twists or 2-1/2 twists. Walt remembers the time he sat by another father, judging dives. They decided that one would count the sommersaults and the other would count the twists and between them they might come up with a proper score for the dive.
(I don't think they do that in Olympic scoring!)
We met a lot of interesting people during those years. I still remember the mother of twins who drove about 30 miles to bring her kids to Davis to practice. She was a large woman and drove a Volkswagon bug with a Great Dane in her lap. Quite a sight, lemme tell you! I was glad I was never on the freeway with her.
Ned even got to dive against Greg Louganis once. It was at a fun meet in So. California and at the end, the winners in each age group dove against each other. Greg (then 16) had just come from winning the silver medal in the 1976 games in Montreal. Ned had won the 10-and-under competition, so at the end of the event, he got to compete with Greg (and the winners of all the other age divisions). (Uh...Ned didn't win that competition!) I still remember watching Greg do a back dive in the pike position. He seemed to go up in the air forever before he finally headed toward the water, straight as an arrow, entering with barely a splash. Amazing.
Those were good years, or at least I remember them as good years (I never know if the kids share my memories). But it all ended rather abruptly when the coach decided go to pro and we couldn't afford his fees any more. Ned continued for awhile after that with the rec department coach, but his heart wasn't in it any more and I don't think he finished out the season. I've always felt a bit angry about how it all ended, but that was a long time ago. I haven't seen Ned dive in...probably decades.
PHOTO OF THE DAY
This has nothing to do with diving (but does
have an Olympics tie-in),
MILES TO NOWHERE: 66 miles