It was forty years ago, in July of 1976, that the dream was born. I sat as a small girl on the floor of our den, bare legs outstretched, fingers clutching the green shag carpet. Canada’s Nancy Garapick was churning her way to Olympic bronze in the 100 metre backstroke in Montreal – a mere three hours away from where I sat.
Her exploits, at only fourteen, seemed very remote on the small black- and-white television screen. But when she stood on the podium in her oversized terrycloth bathrobe, next to East Germans Ulrike Richter and Birgit Treiber, I could feel my mother, a Maritimer like Nancy, radiating the pride of many Canadians. “I’d like to go to the Olympics one day,” I said, not even knowing what it really meant. “You could,” said my mother, her eyes fixed on the grainy screen. “But what would I do?,” I asked. She looked at me resolutely. “You could swim,” she said.
My father had been a swimmer before fleeing his native East Germany – so perhaps it was a logical choice. Two years later my younger brother and I joined our local swim team in Kingston, Ontario. I jumped into the pool and never looked back.
Excerpt from The Allure of Sports in Western Culture, Chapter 10, Swimming
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