I sat down with 2-time Olympic medalist Elizabeth Beisel. Sometimes interviews take on a life of their own and get AWESOME!
We talked about lululemon, Olympic medals, Vancity, tough races…she even showed me how to do the Gator Chomp. Check it out!
The 28 days until May 14th were a lot of fun! I had the chance to follow very closely the BC Provincial Election, and it was compelling from start to finish.
BC politics are rarely boring.
Election night proved it yet again.
Christy Clark and her BC Liberals pulled off a surprise win, even taking a few extra seats in Legislature.
This week word spread that Lance Armstrong had made a long awaited confession regarding performance enhancing drugs during a taped interview with Oprah.
Which is no surprise. As a colleague pointed out, Oprah is one tough lady. She’s not going to give you airtime for anything less than the truth.
His full interview will air in a few days and I’m sure it will answer many questions. Did you Lance? For how long? Who did it involve? Why Lance?
I’m interested in the answers. His tale with its storied peaks and valleys would intrigue anyone, sports fan or casual observer.
But I want a lot more from Lance.
When I was a teenager I had big sport dreams. (I still do, they’re just different). For my birthday one year my Mom, a runner and cyclist, bought me Lance’s first book: It’s Not About the Bike.
I poured over its pages, re-read chapters and still finished it in mere days. I felt nauseous when I read about his bouts with chemo, grit my teeth when he described training on the Pyrénées in pouring rain when no one else would. I also liked the details about his family.
I cared about Lance.
One night a few years later I couldn’t sleep and so I pulled out the book again and started reading. I became so enthralled and fired up that I went to morning practice on no sleep. I think I even forgot to eat.
Up until fairly recently I didn’t believe he cheated. I think a lot of people didn’t because we didn’t want to. We accepted his story so organically that the suggestion it might be based on chemical elements was hard to absorb at first. But after time the evidence was just too much.
I hope eventually Lance will say he is sorry, and for more than the appeasement of our broken hearts.
His lie was so elaborate. We all wanted to believe in his ascension to history and he let it happen.
He also made a lot of money. Sure, he has raised hundreds of millions through Livestrong, but he sold the cancer survivor story and was paid handsomely for it.
He killed the bike. At least for the time being it is hard to watch a cycling event of any discipline without the slightest pause for thought. Pause to wonder about who rides clean.
More than anything I hope he apologizes for himself. The weight of such a dreadful scheme must be appalling. And then after some time spent self-loathing maybe he’ll do what I always thought he would and keep fighting. Not against the insurmountable evidence but to fix the sport that gave him so much.
And I don’t care why he does it. Someone who took a lease on our trust like that must be incredibly selfish. If he joins the anti-doping movement for the purpose of his own legacy, so be it.
I don’t believe in Lance anymore. At least what he used to stand for, but I do believe he can stand for something else. And I hope he does.
For me, an apology is just the start.
Chances are that if you’re an age group or collegiate swimmer, you’ve been back in the pool for over a week now. Just long enough to be a little sore and to remember how hard swimming actually is. Also, you’re probably starting to miss what it was like in the off-season, (all two weeks of it), when you were able to act like a real person.
Since I’m convinced that I’ve characterized all swimmers perfectly with my last few sentences, here is a thought for you:
You’re not normal.
A swimmer on an off-season “bender” is not behaving in any way similar to how normal people live. And that’s ok. Obviously, during the swim season, we swimmers lead a lifestyle that is unlike any other athlete. (Except maybe rowers, dude, that sport is hard). Therefore, by the Socratic method, I conclude that swimmers spend 365 days living a completely strange, (but awesome), lifestyle. (Thank you college philosophy. Boom. Just used you).
By that logic, and just because I say so, swimmers are some of the most dedicated people on earth. That means a lot of sacrifice. Doing stuff in the off-season that everyone else can do all year round.
Because you had to give it all up, here’s a list and some advice on how to deal with it.
Chocolate and Candy
After your last big meet of the season you went to 7-11 or the Circle K and bought an enormous bag of candy, two bottles of coke and a chocolate bar. It’s ok, so did everyone else. The worst part is that you didn’t learn from last season and ate it all at once. Then felt sick for hours. Wait, why are you missing this? That’s gross. Go have a granola bar and forget about it.
People think swimmers can eat anything they want. And it’s true. Hallelujah. We can. But it doesn’t mean we actually do. Except for the blessed off-season. Ignore the news stories about e-coli and Jack in the Box. Who cares that Carl’s Jr. is sort of overpriced. Inn-n-Out is 30 miles away!? N.B.D. What about every single nutritionist and health study reporting on wacky chickens at KFC. Those people cray. Swimmers eat it all. Here’s my advice friends: imagine putting a Big Mac meal with fries, ketchup, mayo and root beer in a blender. Then pour it into one of those long balloons, (the ones they make balloon animals with), and tie it around your waist. It’s a small intestine belt! Now try swimming fast. That is equally gross and not at all hydrodynamic.
Let’s all hold hands and mourn our collective loss of sleep and sanity. This is a big one. That first morning is SO WEIRD. Your alarm goes off playing Maroon 5 and you CANNOT figure out why anyone would get up at 4:45 AM. (Or listen to Maroon 5). Then you remember. Swim practice. It’s heartbreaking. Not only can you not go back to sleep but you have to force food into your mouth and get in a cold pool. Plus, there’s probably a back-to-back hits thing on the radio and Adam Levine with still be playing when you get in your car. (Damn that guy). The cool part is that by the time the rest of the world wakes up, you’ll have swam 6 k. And you’ll feel energized the rest of the day. And since you went to practice, you’re actually going be closer to accomplishing something awesome. Not so bad after all. PLUS: Naps are AMAZING!
I love doing nothing in the off season. Especially when you’re watching TV, or at the beach, or having a bbq EXACTLY when you would have been at practice. It’s sweet. Swimmers do weird stuff however. Like when your coach tells you to do ‘conditioning swims’ to keep ‘feel’ for the water and you actually do it. WHHHY!? BUT, it’s pretty satisfying swimming 400m and then just peacing out. Here’s some solace: swimming is pretty tough, but you get to hang out with your friends and if you’re lucky one day experience pure satisfaction when you swim a PB. Plus if you didn’t swim, what would you honestly do instead?
From doing nothing to doing everything. (I love when I write a direct contradiction into a post. That’s talent. Wait…NO IT ISN’T). But seriously, doing everything you want to do whenever you want to do it is the best. Staying up past 10:30 PM. AMAZING. Not smelling like chlorine all the time. AMAZING. Hanging out with your ‘non-swimming’ friends. AMAZING. Coping with this sucks. Just remember that nothing ‘positive or inspiring’ ever really happens after midnight, smelling like chlorine is a conversation starter and your ‘non-swimming’ friends will still be alive next August.
Have a GREAT season and don’t forget to stretch.
It is entirely possible that for the month of August, my television will contribute to at least half of my electricity bill. That’s because it was always on. Right up until the closing ceremonies on August 12th my Samsung burned in the background, filling my office with the athletic feats of the world’s best.
I have to say, it was easy to get wrapped up in the rings. CTV’s coverage was visually stunning. Across all their networks and platforms, (fancy words for channels and internet), there was always something on. People loved it. According to the TEAM 1040’s Tom Mayenknecht, Canadians actually watched more Olympics on a per capita basis than our US buddies. We were into it and I definitely was.
But as my old Ma always says, everything good has to come to an end. She was usually throwing that around when my Dad was letting us watch hockey way past bedtime. In the case of the Olympics, it meant that I had a mini frazzleout on August 13th when I flipped over to Sportsnet and there was nothing cool on. (Actually I was pissed). (Then sad).
I defaulted to international news. Much less of a friendly friend to my daily work routine. At that time, I noticed something.
I paid attention to the nastiness. Syria blazed across my TV and I was struck by how real it was.
It’s obvious why this happened. For 16 days I was immersed in Olympic sport, a shimmering fantasy world of power and grace.
There were features on Oscar Pistorious, who has carbon fiber between his body and the track instead of flesh and bone. Mo Farrah ran a perfect 15 km over two races to win double gold in the 10,000 and 5,000. Then he did that heart thing with his slight runner’s arms bent over his head and charmed the world. Like every Olympiad, this paragraph could be a book, filled with the elation, tragedy and nonsense of the athletic pinnacle. Leading nonsense in my mind has to be the twitter indiscretions that led to Voula Papachristou’s ejection before the cauldron was lit. And of course that other Swiss fellow.
The days after the Games forced me to consider my awareness. It felt like an art gallery in a partially gentrified neighbourhood. Inside the gallery, under the lights and artistic impression everything is so beautiful and dazzling. Then imagine yourself later on street, the low income housing and ‘broken glass’ seems more ugly and real.
However, I don’t believe it is that simple. For me, it isn’t just the contrast. It is the slight shedding of my own insensitivity. My empathy is on higher alert. Taking Syria for example, I am more inclined to imagine what it might be like to lose my home, to sleep on the floor at night in fear of shelling, to carry the body of my brother through the streets. Holy hell that is sobering.
Under the lights of the Olympic Games I see faces and personalities from around the world, in the smoke of Syria I can see nothing but I know that humans are there, suffering and struggling. And I can feel them a little more.
Sport is often lauded for being a powerful vehicle for change. I’ve said this myself. The truth is that it isn’t really clear what that means. Sport can’t directly solve the Syrian conflict. Of course. Nor can it offer even a glimpse of how you might stop what is happening. Syria is a complex political situation, from a foreign policy standpoint, and inside the country’s borders religion and power are catalysts of sickening destruction. But, (and there must be a but), sport can teach us something about our humanity and what happens when we best relate to each other.
The Olympics reminded me that real people live utterly different lives. Whether or not that means I can do anything about Syria is both relevant and depressing. Nonetheless, getting lost in a sporting event helped me find something I’d forgotten, and I don’t think that is entirely insignificant at all.
Originally posted SwimSwam.com
Storylines abound in the women’s category. There are young stars in the making, and veterans seeking final glory. Here are a few women’s races you just can’t miss.
Day 2 – Women’s 100 Butterfly
VOLLMER VS. SJÖSTRÖM
Every swimming fan loves a heavyweight tilt. (By heavyweight we mean swimming credentials of course). In one corner we have Vollmer, as the 2011 World Champion and current world #1, racing the current World Record holder Sjöström. The young Swede, (who won’t turn 19 until shortly after the Games), is creeping closer to her mark from 2009 Worlds. She swam under 57 in March, going a healthy 56.79. Posting that early in spring means she might have been able to fit in another shorter cycle before London. Vollmer looked poised in Omaha, swimming a PB 56.42 to register the top time in the world. Both have similar powerful strokes, so this one could literally come down to the touch.
Dark Horse Medal Threat: Alicia Coutts, AUS
Day 3 – Women’s 100 Backstroke
FRANKLIN VS. ZUEVA
The Russian national is a consistent big meet performer, with a tendency to break records in preliminary swims. At 2009 Worlds, aided by a rubberized exterior, Zueva swam a WR 58.48. That mark lasted less than 24 hours as Gemma Spofforth, GBR reduced the record to 58.12 in the final, Zueva was second. Also the silver medalist from 2011 Worlds, Zueva will battle Missy Franklin, and the young American’s first shot at individual gold. Barely a hair separates their season bests, and it could take a 58.low to win. It will be Franklin’s youthful poise against Zueva’s experience in a big final. Also, there will be an element of fitness at play, considering the Franklin will likely swim the 200 Freestyle semi earlier on.
Dark Horse Medal Threat: Aya Terakawa, JPN
Day 3 – Women’s 100 Breaststroke
SONI VS. LARSON
Google ‘Breeja Larson’. Go ahead, do it. On the first page of results you’ll find the line, “Who is Breeja Larson?” The world is about to find out. As American swimming fans, and teammate Rebecca Soni discovered in Omaha, Larson can lay down a 100m of breaststroke. However, Larson’s 1:05.92 from US Trials isn’t Championship material. Soni went 1:05.05 to win 2011 Worlds in Shanghai, not to mention 1:04.91 in semis. But considering that Larson, a product of Texas A&M was ranked 42nd in the world last year, you have to wonder if her trajectory is on course to threaten for gold. Soni is seasoned, and she likely has another layer of taper from Omaha which would render this no contest. This one might be reaching, but at the Olympics, anything is possible.
Dark Horse Medal Contender: can Jessica Hardy enter the event for Qatar?
Go enter our Great SwimSwam Pick Em’ Contest! Do it!
The Games start in a few days! Can’t wait? Tell me about it.
Also appearing on SwimSwam.com:
Since Beijing, Ryan Lochte has legitimately swum himself into the same stratosphere as Michael Phelps. Whether or not their rivalry is real, or by definition a rivalry at all, people are talking about Ryan and Michael as equals. But they’re not.
Lochte is currently the bigger star. He has been for some time. He is currently more accomplished, more recognizable and overall more interesting.
In a sport like swimming, we often measure athletes against each other in terms of their Olympic performances. It is the biggest stage. Of course, Michael has 10 more Olympic medals than Ryan. But that only means Phelps has a better Olympic history, not that he is better today. Swimming should be measured like more traditional professional sports, in snapshots, only as good as your last game. Before Wimbledon you could have argued that Roger Federer was the best of all time, but that Djokovic or Nadal were the best in the world. (Of course in the time since, Federer has put his name back in the latter category). With similar reasoning, I would argue that the most recent World Championships, where Ryan swam to 5 gold medals, including beating Phelps head to head in 2, makes him swimming’s world #1.
With the media explosion in the months leading up to London, Ryan Lochte has come out on top. Lochte has sizzled on magazine covers such as Vogue, Men’s Health and TIME Magazine. He is the US Olympic Team Ralph Lauren poster boy. He gets himself trending with hashtags like #Jeah and nicknames like Reezy. Michael has more followers, but that is changing pretty quickly. (Phelps also frequently uses the word ‘tweeps’ but that is content for another entire blog post). It is abundantly clear that Ryan Lochte is just more marketable. In fact, he is a sport sponsor’s dream. Charismatic, likable, cool and now…the best at what he does.
Not disrespecting perhaps the most dominant Olympic performance in history, Michael just doesn’t have the same star power. Sport is a business, especially the Olympics. The burning reason why Tiger still leads golf coverage or Beckham still fills stadiums is because they are stars, regardless whether the reasons are positive or negative. It definitely isn’t because they are the best. But Lochte is, which makes his trajectory steep.
Ryan Lochte will fill your television screen in a few days and charm the world. There is no question. The only doubt is whether or not Phelps can pull a Federer and remind the world how good he is.