Proud to have a chapter in this impressive volume, The Allure of Sports in Western Culture, edited by the intrepid duo of John Zilcosky and Marlo Burks. After organising a successful symposium on the subject back in 2016 at the University of Toronto, they decided to collate the various contributions into a book.

The result is a labour of love that brings together the work of historians, philosophers, literary theorists, and yours truly for an athlete perspective in an exploration of our collective fascination with sports from classical antiquity to the present day. Critics were resounding in their praise for its depth and broad variety of perspectives, with one noting, “the essays in this volume address the entangled forms of desire – for beauty, for ugliness, for losing one’s individuality – that combine to make sports one of the most significant cultural activities of the West.” Double pump to that!

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
© 2019 University of Toronto Press

Go to book page

“This fabulous, although in places demanding, set of essays does an extremely good job of getting a hold of this question, in part because it does not limit itself to any specific disciplinary frame or any specific time period or conceptualisation of sport as a practice …”

from a Review on goodreads

See full review