Monday, September 30, 2013

Valiant Liars in the Pool

My dad, who is 86.
Every competitor you meet at the Senior Olympics, every Speedo-d, grizzled, white-legged swimmer, will say the same thing. You will be introduced to that person, and he will say "I just do this for fun."

Every one of them is a liar.

No one is more serious about winning than the steely-eyed individuals in this group, many of whom who have driven in from several states away. These athletes are serious about winning whether they are 55 years old and the youngsters of the group, or almost 87 and the most senior of these Olympians.

And still, to a person, you will hear every one of them say, "I just do this for fun." Oh, they may put a spin on the lie by saying "I'm just hoping to stay in shape," or "I just do this to keep off the couch" or some other variation that boils down to "I don't care if I win or lose."

They are lying. Every single one of them.

That's why an hour before the races began on Saturday my father was checking his list of races. His variation of "I just do this for fun" is "I just want to let people know that they can still do something like this at my age."

This is not a complete and total lie, but if he did not want to win, my father would not be scrutinizing the list of heats to see if anyone else has entered in the 85-90 year category, and if there is competition whether that man is liable to beat him. Dad is the one from whom I get the competitiveness that prevents me from playing board games with those I love: If I compete, I will want to BEAT YOU DOWN and that is not a trait that endears me to friend or foe. He wants to win.

You know pretty much from the moment they enter the water who is going to win. The woman in lane 3 dives from the starting pad in a shallow arc and doesn't come up for her first breath until she is halfway down the 25-yard lane. She laps her slower competitors before the race is half over. She has a personal coach on the side of the pool correcting her stroke.

She is valiant and awesome.

The woman in lane 6 barely appears to be moving. Her stroke turns over slowly, slowly--if there were any current at all, floating probably would carry her along faster. But the stroke keeps turning over and she makes progress. When she finally touches the finish line the crowd applauds.

She is valiant and awesome.

All of them are awesome, these swimmers who are grandparents and great-grandparents. Every day they climb into the pool and swim lap after lap as they practice for this state meet, and they climb out of the pool smiling.

These valiant, awesome liars are winners.

To be continued.

1 comment:

  1. I figure anyone who is competing in an olympics of any kind is competitive and wants to win. Let's fact it, people like myself who think sports are just ok and exercise should generally be done to dance music so it's entertaining, do not make it to Olympic competitions at any age.