Thursday, August 14, 2008

Loving Beijing

All photos, courtesy of the Internet. If I had a camera

Men and women weightlifters, gymnasts, track and field, and equestrian events – I love it all. Whenever I have a few minutes I park myself in front of the TV and watch the competition to enjoy the vivid colors of China and its people. Good blog friend TR at From the Faraway, Nearby, has Olympic-related business in Beijing for several weeks. You must visit him and see his amazing photographs of a country most of us won't see. And, be sure to scroll to his post And Everybody Was Kung Fu Fighting.

The sport closest to my heart is swimming but I miss most of the finals at the water cube because they air too late in the evening. After Gina stopped competing in college I haven’t been on a pool deck so watching Olympic swimming is a real treat for me.


If you haven’t heard of Michael Phelps, you’ve been living under a rock. Gina and Michael both swam in Maryland on different teams. We saw him at meets now and then and I remember him as a ten year-old. He was a silly, small, and scrawny kid - no different from anyone else except he rarely lost a race. His sweet Mom, Debbie, taught Gina home economics in middle school. So, I guess you can say we know the Phelps family, a little bit.

Age Group 2

Kids in U.S. age group swimming (6-18) experience a lot of peaks and valleys during early years of training. Their bodies change and growth spurts happen at different times that affect their strokes and slow them down for a while, or those same changes can result in personal best times. In Michael’s case, he kept getting bigger and better. By the time he was ten or eleven, his freestyle times were faster than a lot of girls’ times who were three years older than he, including Gina.


At outdoor meets in the summertime, Gina and her teammates stood on the pool deck to watch Michael swim a race. Hands on hips, silicone swim caps tight around their hot heads, eyes squinting, wrinkling sunburned noses, they’d whimper with disgust, “Geeesh. How does he do that? No one is even near him!”

They liked Michael and cheered for him then as they do today. But…

Age Group 3

(snitty remark) “Yeah! Look at him. It’s no wonder! Look at his duck feet. They’re huge!”

(another snitty remark) “Yeah! They’re bigger than our swim practice fins!”

(snitty and snarly) “Yeaaaaah! And he’ll never grow boobs or hips to slow him down, either.”


These girls were good swimmers. They forgot how good they were when they watched Michael. Gina knew of other girls who feared a breast or fly race with her being in lane four but that didn’t matter. They really wanted to know why Michael always looked like he was shot from a cannon at the start and left everyone in his wake.

Few people in this world have everything it takes. You can have the perfect body and natural talent but 99% of what you need is upstairs, and, in your heart. Medals are nice, but I’m much more impressed with Michael’s perseverance, attitude, and devotion to his sport for so many years. Kudos to all of the athletes from around the world.



Balisha said...

Hi Mary,
This post is so interesting. We are avid olympic followers. I sit and watch whenever I need a rest. We watch prime time every night and never tire of it. Your kid pictures are really sweet. Lots of wonderful memories, I'm sure.We get so excited you'd think one of our kids was involved.

NCmountainwoman said...

Kudos indeed. And kudos to all the parents who attended those endless swim meets for all those years. Both our kids swam for community teams when they were young, and our daugher swam varsity in high school. Summer seemed filled with practices or meets.

I love the Olympics, and being retired, I can watch until midnight and sleep in.

BJ said...

Great post Mary! And that is so cool that Gina got to swim with Michael. He is one exceptional young man. I know his family is so proud of him. I'm proud of him myself.....I mean he is representing the state that you have lived in and that I still live in. And who wouldn't want their kids to follow in his footsteps. He is a role model to behold. Go Michael, GO! I hope you break every record there is to break! Watching you win the GOLDS is just the best!

Beth said...

thanks for that great post--I am enjoying watching him swim so much and every time they cut to a shot of his proud mother in the stands, I cry. Thanks for sharing that great memory.

KGMom said...

Awww, Mary--a great post. Nice to read about your days watching daughter swim, and how cool is that that she swam where Michael Phelps did. He does seem like a nice kid, who just happens to be part fish!

Carol Michel said...

Hi Mary, I've been watching some of the Olympics, too. And I swam on a swim team when I was a kid, from about age 9 to 13, every summer. My specialty was the breast stroke.

It's very cool that you "kind of" know Michael and his family.

U.S.A! U.S.A!

Carol, May Dreams Gardens

Donna said...

I think that's pretty special that your Gina and Michael swam together and that you know the family.

It's been enjoyable watching the olympics.

JeanMac said...

Sending love your way - hasn't it been great to watch these athletes?
You must fell lost without your camera!

Cheryl said...

Hi Mary.......

I to watch the swimming....we have a gold.....our little 19 year old Rebecca Adlington did us proud...., not only for a win but for being a beautiful person.....BUT I have watched Michael with nothing but admiration and respect....I congratulate all Americans and particularly his parents for the hours spent training and the dedication........I wish him success in achieving the record and as far as I can see it could not go to a nicer person......

Unknown said...

Hi Mary, yes it's me catching up with you. Sorry to read about your camera. ouch. Looking forward to reading about your new one when it comes. Love the hummingbird photos. And you were so worried about not getting any. I love the Olympics and get excited over everyones wins and just the sheer joy seeing all who made it there. I can picture you there at the pool cheering Gina on and how amazing to have watched Micheal Phelps early on in his career. Your post makes it all seem so much closer to home and real.

Jayne said...

He has been a joy to watch. He is so unassuming and humble when he smokes the competition. I know his mom is so proud of him. How cool that you all know him and his family!

TR Ryan said...

What a great post! i woke up to lot's of "traffic" from "Mary's View". Now the pressure is on to blog something interesting on no sleep. I think I am going to Athletics tonight - my favorite after swimming. What a small world that you know Michael Phelps! He is amazing and a marvel to watch.

Unknown said...

Hey Mary me again. I left an award on my blog for you. Stop by if you get a chance. No obligation to participate unless you want to.

Rose said...

How exciting that you have a personal connection to someone in the Olympics, especially someone like Michael Phelps!
I haven't been able to watch a lot of the competition, but I was completely enthralled by the opening ceremony--wasn't that just amazing?!
I'm still trying to figure out the schedule, but I will be watching all the basketball I can--all Illini fans will be cheering on Deron Williams. Oh dear, you're not a North Carolina fan, are you?:)

Annie in Austin said...

Thanks for sharing, Mary! I had to send on the link because the story is so cool - especially the feet as big as swim fins.

Annie at the Transplantable Rose

dmmgmfm said...

My life's so insane right now I've not even turned on the TV. How's that for Olympic spirit.

I'm glad you've got my back on it though.

Big hugs,

TR Ryan said...

Wow! You must be so proud - he just won the 8th and the all time record. This building is shaking with so many Chinese celebrating for him. He is much beloved here as at home.

TR Ryan said...

Oh now he just ripped throught the crowd to give his mother the flowers -- I hope you are getting this live at home!

RuthieJ said...

Hi Mare,
Like you I can't stay up late to watch Michael swim, but thankfully the internet is available for all the playbacks! It's neat to hear about your background with the Phelps family and even neater to know that Michael is just a really decent guy. It's fun to watch his mom & sissies at the Olympics and how proud they are him.

Crayons said...

Hi Mary,
What an uplifting post. I'm having fun watching the excitement too. I visited TR's space and found some lovely shots.

I watched the women's marathon last night and found tears trickling down my cheeks as she cantered into the stadium.

Prêt à Voyager said...

Great post. I too was a swimmer back in the day (and an uber Michael Phelps fan today). So many lessons to be learned from it all :)