“A lot of Olympians are overachievers.” Meredith Vieira, August 5, 2016
Perhaps this explains it. Perhaps, this is the single best reason I never made it to the Olympics. Well, along with personal drive, access to coaches, money to make it happen, practice facilities, and an addiction to Oreos. Oh wait – one more thing. Talent.
But a girl can dream, can’t she? Dreams fueled by memories, I’ve decided to reflect on the summer olympics of my youth.
Swimming was my sport, and I remember riding a bus to my first lessons when I was seven years old. Katie Ledecky started at six, so I was only one year off! When my family moved the next year, I would spend hours in the summer afternoons jumping and splashing and playing with my friends at the community pool in my new town. As I got older, I developed a mean jack-knife dive off the low board, but never from the high dive because my fear of heights was well established by my teen years. I could have been a swimmer, except, our pool was only open for ten weeks each summer. I also suspect Katie had a different training regimen. But in the 60’s, I would be the next Donna de Varona!
When I was around 10 years old, I sold Christmas cards, door to door, and I’d earn points depending on how many I sold. I would then redeem my points from the company’s gift catalog. And my choosing? A bow and arrow set, WITH quiver. My dad set up a target in the field behind our house and I was good to go. I got extra practice every summer at Girl Scout Camp as well. That’s it, I could have been an archer, until the snow drifted over the target each winter. But archery wasn’t in the Olympics between 1920 and 1972, so I didn’t even have any Olympic hopes.
By junior high, I started to play tennis and fell in love with the sport. I could be the next Billie Jean King! Except, I had a hard time finding partners in my small town, and there’s only so many times I was going to play against the backboard. Sadly, I haven’t picked up a tennis racket since before the Williams sisters were born.
High school introduced me to track.
“What were your events?” my friend, Kathy asked.
“Anywhere they needed me.” Code words for “I was so lousy, I was often plugged into the third slot in meets just to earn more points.” Shot put one meet, long jump another. But I ran a reasonable 100 yd dash and was in the 440 relay. Seriously, we weren’t bad. But elite coaches still didn’t call.
So I became a bicyclist. I’d inherited a decent bike from my brother and would ride several miles out of town on narrow, hilly county roads. There was an exuberant farm dog on the route that always provided me an extra push. This was long before helmets and cell phones, and the thought of that ride today exhausts me when I recall it. Mara Abbott, a member of the Team USA didn’t even begin competing until college, so age wise, I could have done it. All I’d need to do was add snow chains to my bike tires, and I could have trained year round.
Nope, I didn’t have it in me to become a world class athlete in anyone’s imagination but mine. And I’ve never been an overachiever at anything. Except dreaming. And for that, I earn a gold.