April 28, 2013
50 of 65
Greg Louganis and Me
Greg Louganis has long been recognized as America’s greatest diver. He won gold medals in both platform and spring board in the 1984 and 1988 Olympic Games. Until his retirement from competition, much of his life was spent in or above the water. More recently, he and his pets have been accomplished participants in dog agility events.
And me? I am a Pisces, the symbol of which is two fish swimming in opposite directions. Yes, they are definitely swimming through the water.
Nevertheless, when I get into the water, I am like a fish out of water. Oh, I have been snorkeling in Hawaii and Mexico and have swum with the sharks near Tahiti. I tell people about those experiences and they ask if I ever considered getting certified for SCUBA. I haven’t. First I would need to get certified to tread water. Had it not been for the magic of flotation devices, I would have been drowning in the pristine snorkeling waters and drowning with the sharks.
My parents enrolled me in childhood swimming lessons. However, we lived in a rural area, several miles from the pool, and whether I actually attended the lessons or not depended on my parents’ work schedule. I learned to float and tread water and I could sort of move around the pool. It never seemed important whether I really swam or not.
In college, Physical Education credits were necessary to graduate. To pass PE, each student had to swim one length of the pool and back. Suddenly my ability to swim became more important. The PE Department provided me a swimming class, and I enjoyed being in the water three times a week. By the time the session was over, I confidently did the elementary back stroke for the required lap.
For the next several years, the need to swim never seemed to arise, and I forgot most of what I had learned. Shortly after we were married, Cathy (who is a little better than me at avoiding drowning) and I decided to finally learn to swim. We enrolled in a beginner’s class at the local YMCA. The instructor, a lady named Bunny McPhee, was one of the best and most experienced adult swim instructors in the Denver area. After only a few weeks under her tutelage, she told me that I was able to sink more naturally than anyone she had ever taught.
By the time the class was over, I could once again tread water and move around the pool a little, just like in grade school. Again, though, I didn’t practice, and over time, as e. e. cummings would say, down I forgot as up I grew. My most recent snorkeling expedition was two years ago in the Dominican Republic – in deep water. I was again thankful for flotation devices.
A few weeks ago, I was reviewing scholarship applications as a member of a committee of the Arvada West High School Foundation. One of the applicants had outstanding grades, impressive community service, was active in many extracurricular activities. He seemed nearly perfect. I saw that he was even on the varsity swim team. “Of course he was,” I thought. “He is nearly perfect.”
As I looked further at the student’s essay and the letters of recommendation he submitted, I learned that for some reason he went out for the swimming team as a freshman even though he could not swim at all. He actually learned to swim while trying to make the team. Now here he was on varsity.
I was impressed. And you know what? If a guy can learn to swim well in high school, I should certainly be proficient by the time I am 65 years old. I am presently enrolled in swimming lessons each Tuesday and Thursday, beginning next week and continuing until Cathy and I go to Costa Rica in a month or so. I hope to be a little more prepared for snorkeling on this trip.
Now, back to Greg Louganis. Cathy and I, with our 10 month old son Michael, went to Los Angeles for the 1984 Olympics. As we boarded a bus to travel between venues, we saw two young ladies sitting toward the back, one of whom held a sign saying, “Greg Louganis is my cousin.”
I knew Louganis was adopted, so I wondered whether this was a real cousin or a relative through the adoptive family. Cathy, who was both polite and feeling camaraderie with fellow attendees, asked her if she was going to watch her cousin compete when the diving got underway the following day. “No,” the woman said, “we weren’t able to get tickets.” We did have tickets, so to continue to be polite we sold them to the Louganis cousin for just what we had paid. I hope she enjoyed the seats.
The point of the story is that Greg Louganis can swim. Mark Spitz can swim. Our children, Michael and Suzanne, are both good swimmers. Almost everybody can swim – and I am just like them (or will be sometime soon).
Also, I think that my dog Darcy, though an amateur, is just as agile as Greg Louganis’s dogs are. Darcy can swim, too.