25 September 2009

This might get interesting

CK .... wait, scratch that, I'm giving her a blog nickname {blognick if you will}...I'll try Chopstick. So, re-start.

Chopstick's first meet of the season is this weekend so I'll serve up a story of my favorite race at this particular pool. It was a relay meet, a format which is very very different than a regular meet. You know, because they're relays. And because there is a ton of team spirit; kids watch their team-mates, more eyes are on the pool at any given moment and you really see the kids step it up if others are counting on them.

This particular race was one of those crazy formats where each kid did two different strokes in some incomprehensible order so that you can be absolutely sure that none of them had ever practiced the turn that they needed. Chopstick was doing free to fly, 25 yards of each.

One thing about Chopstick's team is that they never ever have enough 8&U girls to make up a relay team so she was only doing the mixed events. She was the anchor of this relay, finishing up free and fly as previously mentioned. As her team-mate was coming into the wall for her to start her leg, I looked up and saw that the other 3 teams in the pool were just about to finish their freestyle leg and had about a 25 yard headstart on Chopstick.

Up on the block, her arms followed her team-mate into the wall just as she'd been taught, then, BANG, she was off with one of the best dives I've ever seen her do. As she popped out of the water, arms stroking, legs kicking, her competition had finished their turns and were starting the butterfly, all pretty even.

I was standing behind her coach and I saw him slowly scan the pool, first looking at the three boys starting their butterfly, then Chopstick doing her freestyle and he calmly said to nobody in particular, "This might get interesting.".

That comment totally took me by surprise; when I looked at the pool more observantly I realized what he meant, Chopstick was reeling these kids in more and more with every stroke. For a moment it seemed like they were swimming in molasses and she'd picked the only lane filled with actual water. She made her turn and they were only a little more than half the pool length ahead of her.

And it was time for her butterfly. When Chopstick swims the fly, she is always moving forward, sometimes I think something is pushing her from under the water but there isn't that up and down motion you usually see in kids this age. It felt like the whole freakin' meet was watching as she just kept getting closer and closer to these three boys. It was getting interesting for sure.

It was coming down to a photofinish, she was almost caught up as the timers stood up to go peer over the side of the pool; I was suppressing screams and whoops and hollers at the side of the pool as it looked like there was a tiny chance that she'd catch these kids. And then they all touched the wall bang-bang-bang-bang.

I looked up at the board and her lane wasn't first. Or second. Or third. Her team had come in fourth. 0.2 seconds behind the kid in first. It was the absolute happiest most amazing fourth place finish I had ever seen.

Chopstick had shown the first glimpse I had ever seen of a competitive spirit that went beyond just wanting to do well. She had seen how far behind her team was and swam the race of her life to get them back into it. It had gotten interesting and beyond. I didn't have a stopwatch on her, I have no idea how fast she went, I have no idea if those other kids had lead weights on their ankles, I just know that she didn't see a 25 yard headstart in a 50 yard race as anything other than a challenge.

Every once in a while we talk about our favorite races and until a month ago, this was always the top of the list. For the simple reason that she had made it interesting.


  1. If you could only see the goosebumps on my arms right now..... No joking! Stories like these are one of the things that keep me getting into the water. That feeling she must have felt during that race... I can't even think of a word for it! Amazing doesn't do it justice. I LOVE that feeling. Thanks again for a great post SwimDad. Have fun at this weekend's meet!

  2. Thanks for sharing - this was a great story! I hope she had as much fun swimming it as you had watching.

    (I found your blog via "See Joe Swim" - thanks for starting it.)

  3. I don't know how you did it, because I've got the speakers muted, but I definitely heard the theme from Rocky playing in the final lap.

    I found your blog because I just like good writing.

  4. P.S. I love the blognick. Especially since she wears a sushi swimsuit. LOL!