Sunday, August 17, 2008

pursuing victory with honor in the Olympic pool

With a title like this I am sure you are thinking this is yet another Michael Phelps article. It is not. Oh sure I am just as blown away and proud of what Phelps did in this Olympics but believe it or not, his 8 gold medals is not what I will remember the most from the "Water Cube" in Beijing.

What I will remember are the actions taken by Dara Torres.

My admiration of Dara goes well beyond the fact that she has won 3 medals in her fifth Olympics and that she is doing what she is doing at the age of 41. What impressed me the most was what she did on Saturday in the semifinals of the 50-meter freestyle and it had nothing to do with the time she reached.

As all the swimmers were coming out of the ready room for the heat, Therese Alshammar from Sweden noticed that her suit had ripped and was hastily trying to fix it but just made it worse. As she raced back into the locker room to change, Dara frantically waved the other swimmers down from the starting blocks and explained to the people in charge that one of the swimmers was having to change. She was pretty adamant that it would not be fair to race until everybody was ready to give it their all. When Therese emerged with her "wardrobe malfunction" fixed, the race commenced and Dara came in first.

Here is this 41-year old athlete who put all of her individual medal hopes into this one event and would have been justified in totally being "in the zone" and only focused on the race. But instead of thinking only about winning, she was more concerned about doing the right thing. Therese Alshammar may not have been a major threat to Torres but in a sport where people win (or loose) by only one-one hundredth of a second, having one less competitor always improves your chances to win.

Even though Dara came in first at the semis, she ended up with a silver medal in the finals missing first place by that mind-blowing .01 seconds. For this event, though, a silver represented the true champion of the race.

So yes, I am very proud of Michael Phelps and all of the gold medals he won (you should have heard me yelling and screaming at the TV last night cheering the American team on). But when I talk about the Olympics in my class on Monday I am going to make sure all of my students are aware that the true Olympic "gold" was won by a 41-year old mom and it was represented by a silver medal.

Dara Torres is an athlete who truly knows the importance of pursuing victory with honor.

[For a great blog on Dara Torres and everything she has accomplished, visit the LA Times. Photo Credit: Scott Strazzante / Chicago Tribune]


onteaching said...


Her story is amazing, on so many levels. That she even had the dream to go to the Olympics at her age and did it is so inspiring, and what she has done there, athletically, is astounding. However, my favorite part is seeing her face at her events, seeing her chatting, smiling, even when she lost the gold by one one-hundreth of a second, she smiled and congratualted the winner. How many people can do that?

What she did for Therese Alshammar is so above and beyond: not just because she should have been focusing on her own race, or focusing on herself instead of what her competitor may have been doing. How many people take the time to speak up for someone else when we see that person in need? How many times do we just walk on by, either because we're in a hurry or because we don't want to "butt in" or because we don't want to embarrass ourselves by making a fuss.

But she did it. And you're right, we do need to point this out to our students and encourage them to follow her example.

(Shucks... too bad they don't give out gold medals for Miss Congeniality... :P )

Mrs. T

Dennis Fermoyle said...

Great story! We hear so much about how in athletics you must be cut-throat toward your opponents--winning is everything, and all that crap. On the American Idol finale, Simon Cowell even told two SINGERS that they had to hate their opponent. I've always thought that stuff is a bunch of baloney. Therese Alshammar makes that point better than I ever could.