Editor's Note: Spider diving coach Erika Matheis will pen a blog over the course of her visit to London for the 2012 Summer Olympic Games. Below is her first entry.
Ah, sweet summertime; the time of year when wedding bells are ringing, textbooks are closed, tassels have been turned and kids are off to camp. This is the time of year when most student-athletes have the opportunity to breathe a sigh of relief that they no longer have to endure long hours of studying and in-season training.
Although we are not "in season" anymore, this summer is certainly not a lazy, beach-going summer. After all, it is an Olympic year! For those who are not into professional sports, this is the end-all-be-all of competitions. It only comes around every four years! The Olympics is a time when we could care less about our differences and come together as a nation.
We were lucky enough to have two of our Spider swimmers attend Olympic Trials this summer, and I know they trained incredibly hard leading up to the event. The dedication it takes for a collegiate athlete to train as intensely year-round is similar to those NBA players vying for that elusive ring. These athletes are looking for rings, too, just of a different kind.
It is extremely inspiring to see the determination of Olympic-caliber athletes. I remember as a little girl watching television, awestruck at the talent being showcased. When I was a young diver, I will never forget Laura Wilkinson's 305c (for those of you who are unfamiliar with this diving terminology, please refer to an earlier blog post) on 10-meter that clinched the gold medal in 2000 to beat out the Chinese divers.
Later in my diving career, I ran into Laura and had the chance to chat with her on the pool deck. She is one of the most humble and inspiring individuals I have spoken to. At this same meet, I also met legendary diver Greg Louganis and had a similar feeling of admiration. How could I have been so fortunate to have met Olympic gold medalists?!?
The amount of poise and experience that Olympic athletes exhibit boggles my mind. Most are extremely modest about their accomplishments and are happy to entertain your questions while signing a quick autograph. As luck would have it, while training in Coral Springs, Fla., this winter, my divers met Olympic swimming great Dara Torres in the hot tub. After a long practice, she gave them advice about being collegiate athletes and working through the cold and muscle aches. She inspired my divers to finish their practice strong despite it being quite chilly outside.
I want to encourage you to be inspired. Let the spirit of the Olympics take hold. Go out and be active. No, you may not be in next Olympics, but at least you know that the human body is capable of doing great things. Encourage your kids, brothers, sisters, moms, dads, aunts, uncles, friends, coaches, teachers, co-workers, etc. to get involved. There are plenty of programs around Richmond that can cure Olympic swimming and diving fever:
- Weinstein Center Masters Swimming
- Capitol Dive club
- Summer League swimming and diving
- Getting in the pool and racing
- Jumping off the diving board and making a "little splash"
Olympic athletes can't help but inspire. What child who grows up playing a sport doesn't say to his or her parents, "I'm going to the Olympics one day?" Every child dreams of it. I know I said it to my mom growing up, and I am happy to report that I will live my Olympic dream this year.
I am traveling to London next week to be a spectator at the Olympic games. This is my dream come true. So, look for my upcoming blogs in August that will chronicle my time abroad as a proud American!