Sunday, July 20, 2008

Sheila Taormina: 4th Olympics, 3rd Event

Photo of Sheila Taormina, courtesy of the Beijing Olympic Games.

Chinese summary: 美國女游泳名將希拉·陶米納(Sheila Taormina)打破歷史,在4 屆奧運中參加3 種不同項目(游泳,三鐵,現代五項運動),成為史上第一人。她在1996 年奧運奪得4x200米自由泳金牌,在2000年悉尼奧運及2004年雅典奧運參戰三項鐵人賽,而到2008京奧,這位來自美國39歲名將參加現代五項運動。

「同一個世界,同一個夢想」(One world, One dream) (The motto of the Beijing Olympic Games. I prefer the way the Chinese expresses it: "The same world, the same dream".) Let's lay aside our differences and unite together during this great event.

I first heard about Sheila Taormina when she was training to participate in the Olympic distance triathlon at the Athens Olympics in 2004. Little did I realize until very recently that she was now training to represent the United States at the 2008 Games in Beijing in modern pentathlon ( if you would like to refresh your memory on what sports are involved here, please click here). These two events together with swimming, for which she won gold in the Atlanta Olympics in 1996 while competing in the 4 x 200m freestyle relay, mean that she will be an Olympian in three different events, and the first woman in history to be such.

While she is clearly very gifted and talented in sports, it has by no means been easy for her. There is such a wealth of talent in every discipline these days, especially in a vast country like the United States. You can find out more about her own story on her blog (look at Sheila's earlier posts, too) by clicking here.

Of course, some people might wonder why a woman in her late thirties is spending most of her time each day working on the various disciplines that make up this modern pentathlon. Why can't she just live a "normal" life? That to me raises two questions, the first being to ask what a "normal" life is, and the other to ask what is the point of just living a "normal" life. Surely, we should live a life that is more than just "normal". Wouldn't you rather be doing that than living a humdrum existence?

As I grew up, I watched parts of the various Olympic Games on TV, but in my mind I could only be a spectator. I wasn't ver good at sports at school, so for me to ever think of going there was out of the question. So in a way, those people worked on their sports, and I just lived my own life. After university, as organized sporting activities (like cross country running races) came to an end for me, I just did my own thing for a while (like some rowing, biking and running), and then I gradually lost my focus and the demands and pressures of life gradually took over.

I am pleased to say that while I am now in my fifties, due to my getting back into serious training for triathlons in recent years, I at least can see improvements in my swimming. I believe that I am swimming better now than I ever did before. Due to aging and physiological limitations, I will probably never be able to get the form I could have got had I been training like I am training now 20 0r 30 years ago, but I can still improve and have that great feeling after a good workout or race. I hope in a few future blogs to write a bit more about how to "get it all together" (i.e., training in the context of life in general) especially from the perspective of someone getting on in years, unlike most of you. However, that time will eventually come for you, too.

To recap on my recent swimming training, from Tuesday morning to this (Sunday) morning (i.e., six days) I swam a total of 23,550 meters. This was mostly fairly relaxed non-stop swimming, at least for 3,000 to 3,500 meters, and then some short and faster swims with fairly long rests (at that point I needed more of a rest if I was going to push it). I did not do any particularly fast times, but I noticed that I was swimming more comfortably while maintaining similar speeds as in the recent past. I also negatively splitted, partly because I was joined later in the swim by people who gave me an incentive to push the pace, and partly because as I got warmed up I just became more energized. I have been feeling good. Maybe it is time to take it up a notch, perhaps by trying to pick up the pace a bit, or just increasing the distance. I am also doing more land exercises at home. I am limited in terms of the equipment I have, but will probably order some StrechCordz from the U.S. fairly soon. Having been doing some resistance training on my arms is enabling me to feel stronger on these longish swims, especially towards the end, and to maintain a consistent 15 or so strokes per length (25 m). I usually use open turns on the long swims (there are usually others swimming in my lane that I have to constantly watch for), and I am still not very good at getting a good push off the wall. Anyway, I don't want to overdo it, as I want to exercise my arms, too!

I think I can tell when I am tired at home (or elsewhere) during the day: when I drift into semi-consciousness and think I am in the process of swimming laps. It can be scary. I need to get good rest so as not to get into that frame of mind.

It will certainly be interesting to see how Sheila gets on in the Beijing Games. I certainly would not like to have to compete against her in the swim. The shooting will be a test of nerves on the day. The fencing will depend on the skills learned. The horse riding will partly depend on how much the horse you are assigned likes you. The 3k run, the final event, will be like the tail end of a triathlon. That was certainly a distance I liked to run when I was younger. You could run hard, but not too hard, and you could get the whole thing over with pretty quickly.

I also propose inventing a new five-discipline sport for those in Hawai'i: swimming, running, biking, paddle boarding and kayaking, and maybe a Tarzan like swing on a rope into the ocean to finish off. Let's meet at the Kona Brewery to discuss it, and figure out how we want to share the income after we commercialize it. Is anyone out there interested?

1 comment:

Cricket said...

Swimming keeps you young! Keep having fun- I enjoyed your post!