Slice of Life is a weekly event hosted by Two Writing Teachers.
Last week, my daughter had her first long course meet of the season. It was actually the first time the kids swam long course for months, some since last year and for some kids it was their first time ever! For those of you who don't know, long course is when a pool is set up in a 50m length - it's usually the distance you see in the Olympics.
As many of you know, my daughter has a right leg limb length discrepancy. She was born with the femur and tibia bones in her right leg being shorter than the left. She does not have a fibula or a right hip. Her right ankle is fused into a flexed position. She does not have the same range of motion in her right knee that she has in her left. But, she swims with her able bodied peers and does a great job keeping up. What she lacks in speed, she makes up for in endurance and enthusiasm.
My daughter had a pretty intense meet line-up. She was racing about 500m - she had a 200 medley (50m each of fly, back, breast, free), 50 back, 200 free and then she swam a 50m leg of a 200m relay. Did I mention she is only 8 years old? The rest of the 8 year olds were racing about 200m.
After warm-up, she raced her 200m medley and 50m back. Then came the 200m free. It's her favorite event. She doesn't win this event. Not even close. In fact, usually she swims against 10 and unders. But she loves getting out there and just swimming. When we look at her splits, she's usually swimming fairly steady. I've asked her what she thinks about and she said she just thinks keep going. As she was getting ready to line up, I took a look at the heat sheet. Now, this was an intersquad meet, meaning, we were just swimming against other kids on our team (we're a very large team) and it also meant it was mixed genders. The heat sheet told me that my 8 year old daughter was swimming against two 12 year old boys. The boys had never raced this event before so they did not have a previous time (NT) which meant they would swim in an earlier heat. I could see my daughter and she was bouncing around behind her block talking to the timers and other swimmers. I don't think she knew what she was about to go up against.
Time for her event. She gets up on the block and it's almost comical. She's so petite, it made the two boys on either side of her look like giants! The timer goes off and they're in the pool. The two boys take off. They are way ahead of her in no time. But my daughter's stroke stays strong and she just swims. After her first 50m, she does her flip turn and heads back. About halfway back, I hear one of the senior swimmers start cheering for her. He stays on the side but tracks where she is, shouting words of encouragement and telling her to "go, go". Her first 100m complete, she does her flip turn and heads back out. The senior swimmer looks up in the stands and I stand and make eye contact and give him thumbs up - "keep it going" I tried to convey to him! I quick get my phone out to record this. Next thing I know, he has most of the seniors lined up on the side of the pool shouting for my daughter. The boy continues to track her and runs down to the block on the other side, pounding on it, and encouraging her. Not she's on her last 50m. I can see that she picks it up a little bit more and then the crowd starts to yell for her. Swimmers around the pool deck are yelling for her and the adults in the stand are yelling for her. She touches the wall and the senior's arms go up in victory! The sportsmanship of the seniors just floored me.
We were using fly over starts, which means the swimmers that just raced stay in the water until the next race starts and the swimmers dive off the blocks. Next thing I know, one of the twelve year old boys that my daughter raced against reached over the lane lines and gives her a high five. One of the waiting swimmers reaches down and gives my daughter a high five. The other twelve year old she raced call her over and he gives her a high five. Tears are in my eyes. I'm proud of my daughter, but I'm also proud of her team.
On our way home I asked my daughter if she could hear everything and she said yes, but she was a little baffled why everyone was rooting for her. I told her the story and she thought it was pretty cool. In fact she asked me to tell her the story again.
What if everyone showed that kind of sportsmanship? Just wondering...