MAYA DiRADO, OYLMPIAN

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What was your favorite story from the Brazil Olympics?  Was it:

Group2

group11) Michael Phelps who has more Gold than Fort Knox and more
Medals than a periodic table?

2) Usain Bolt who teases opponents for the first half of a race, and destroys them in the second half —9 times?

3) Katie Ledecky who defeats everyone at every distance and who, like Secretariat in the Belmont Stakes in 1973, makes the margin of victory larger as the race increases its distance?

4) Ashton Eaton the greatest athlete in the world —again?

5) Mo Farah who wins a long race (5,000 meters) and, for an encore, wins again at a distance twice as long (10,000 meters)?

6) Allyson Felix who has won 6 Olympic Gold medals in Track and Field —a claim no other woman can make?

7) The American women’s gymnastics team who is the greatest —ever?

8) The American women’s basketball team who plays with a standard of excellence the rest of the world cannot image —or duplicate?

Those are all great stories.  Here’s another one.  Maya DiRado is 23 years old, smart, compassionate AND competitive, a fine swimmer, and knows how to set her life’s dorheadpriorities.  After finishing college at Stanford in 2014, her family and friends encouraged her to continue swimming in preparation for the Olympics. She peaked in 2016 and was at her best on the largest stage in the world.  She won 4 medals: 2 Gold, 1 Silver, and 1 Bronze, including a victory against a woman (Katinka Hosszu) who had won 3 Gold medals in these Olympic games and had defeated DiRado in previous competitions.

frankheadThere’s more.  She was a good teammate, thanking friends, family, and fellow swimmers for their support.  And there was her reaction to Missy Franklin, another American Swimmer.  Ms. Franklin was “The Golden girl” in the 2012 Olympics.  She won 4 Gold medals and it was assumed she would have more success in Brazil in 2016.  It was not to be.  Her effort was there, but the winning results were not.  In the 200 meter backstroke semi-final heat, she finished last.  (In 2012, in that event she won Gold in a World Record time that has not been matched since.)  In the pool with her was Ms. DiRado.  She looked at the scoreboard and saw the results.  She moved to Ms Franklin, both of them still in the water, placed her hand, gently, on the side of the face of a defeated champion —and spoke words of consolation, as well as “thanks” for her out-of the-pool leadership for the American women’s swim team.  hand

Later, racing in the final for that stroke at that distance, Ms. DiRado won the Gold medal that Ms. Franklin won 4 years earlier.

There was more.  Maya left Brazil early.  She returned home to her high school.  She spoke to students of her effort and experience.  She gave them encouragement.  She thanked her former teachers for helping prepare her for college chemistry.

Olympics: Swimming-Evening Session

And, lastly, she had already prepared for life after swimming.  Prior to the Olympics, before winning any medals, she had announced she would be retiring from her sport.  This would be her first, last, and only Olympics. She had married, bought a home, and found a job in Atlanta.  (Incidentally, her future employer had told her she could postpone her entrance into the work world to train for and participate in the Olympics.  And when they learned of her success, they informed her: take some additional time off for post-Olympic speaking and endorsement appearances.)

Her final achievement was to demonstrate to all her fellow Olympians how to move on to the next chapter in their lives.  By her actions outside the pool, before the cheering had begun, she had established her post-fame priorities.  All athletes, especially good ones, make this journey.  Eventually, they must —with varying degrees of success.  “This is an assignment for you, Mr. Phelps, should you choose to accept it.  Good luck.” For Ms. DiRado, luck will not be necessary.  Because she had effort, appreciation, and compassion in abundance.

finalswim

*****

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About rcarmean

Two things... First, why have I decided to establish this blog? I like to put essays together. I research an idea or topic looking for information, statistics, stories, quotes, pictures, etc. I enjoy the process and seeing a finished product. I’m told that as I get older, new activities can help maintain energy and keep my brain alert. In other words, I am not doing this for money or fame. Second, regarding the gentleman in the collage of pictures above...it's not me. Those are photos of Christy Mathewson. Why him? When I was young, my primary activity was being sick. It took up much of my time. Eczema (a case so bad I was written up in a medical journal showing doctors what their patients COULD look like), asthma, and allergies. You know allergies: don’t eat this, don’t wear that, and, for Heaven’s sake, don’t touch any of these things (eg, dogs, cats, horses --I only saw horses in cowboy movies and TV shows, dust, swimming pools, my brother --OK, that’s an exaggeration, Rick was a fine brother). In my spare time between doctors' appointments, pills, and ointments, baseball kept me sane. In the 1940s and 1950s, when I grew up, pro footballI and basketball had not yet become extremely popular. Baseball truly was “the national pastime.” I listened to games on the radio (remember it? TV without the picture). I read magazines, books, and newspaper accounts of games. I collected baseball cards. I learned about the game’s history, as well as present. The same with its stars. One man stood out: Christy Mathewson. He was a great pitcher for the New York Giants in the early 20th century. But there was much more to him. At a time when professional athletes made little money (yes, there was such a time) and ball players were considered on the same level as actors, artists, and prostitutes, Mathewson stood out. One of his nicknames was: “The Christian Gentleman.” Most men is baseball drank, smoked, cursed, and fought —with other players, umpires, and fans. The fights were physical, not just verbal. Mathewson did none of these things. But he earned the respect of other players who did them all. Even Ty Cobb and John McGraw. There’s more. He was a college graduate (Bucknell University) when most men were lucky to have a high school diploma. He played other sports, including pro football which you wouldn’t recognize. He was handsome. He played in New York City, then as now, the largest city in the country. Excellence and popularity there meant fame and money. He dressed well. Today, his commercials would rival LeBron’s. And, finally, a hero’s life must have tragedy. After his playing career ended, WWI arrived. He suffered from influenza and was exposed to mustard gas. Chemical warfare. His lungs were damaged and he required treatment for the rest of his life. (Like my Grandfather who also fought in The Great War.) He died in 1925. He was 45 years old. I have his picture here because you need to know more about him than me. He was what an athlete could be. Players like him and their accomplishments got me through a sickly, painful childhood and can still sustain me in difficult times. *****
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