By Bill Volckening
LONG BEACH, Calif., JULY 13. THE Long Beach Cafe is an old diner on Ocean Boulevard in Long Beach. It is a few blocks away from many of the hotels and the Charter All Digital Aquatic Center, where the 2004 US Olympic Trials are being held.
The restaurant serves humungous portions of just about everything, and they have biscuits the size of your head. It's a great place for hungry swimmers and spectators to chow down — and it has been very entertaining watching the disbelief on the servers' faces with the amount of food swimmers consume. Swimmers are just the most voracious eaters! Whenever a table full of plates is delivered, the frenzied activity that follows is something like a shark attack!
Today, I was having breakfast with friends, and we were seated right next to Neil Walker, one table away from Chad Carvin and Larsen Jensen, and one table away in the other direction from John Olsen. Our group included a teenager who has been actively collecting signatures, but we all thought we probably shouldn't bother the swimmers while they were eating.
We stayed long enough for the next wave of seating, and Masters swimmer Rich Abrahams was seated behind us with his friend and training partner Bill Abbott. A few moments later, the table where Carvin and Jensen had been sitting was occupied by a new group, which included Olympians and world record holders Ian Crocker, Brendan Hansen and Aaron Piersol.
After we all picked our jaws up off the floor, we decided to break our own rules about bothering swimmers during meals and say hello. While our teenage companion was getting autographs, I was compelled to stand up and tell Ian Crocker that everyone in his home state of Maine is going absolutely nuts right now. I was in Maine about a week ago, and it seemed like Crocker was on the front page almost every day.
A few moments later, Rich Abrahams went over with his camera and said "My wife would kill me if I didn't get a picture of you guys." Because Rich is a very humble champion and would never tell the Olympians who he was, I stood up and said, "You guys should really know who is taking your picture. This guy, Rich Abrahams is the fastest man ever over 55. He goes 48 seconds for the 100 yard free." Crocker, Hansen and Piersol were all very impressed and wanted to shake his hand.
At that point, I introduced myself and directed their attention to our booth, where June Krauser was sitting. I told them about her involvement with the development of Masters swimming, and once again, they were very impressed. While we were chatting, I made sure to invite the tremendous trio to join us in Masters when they were done swimming at the international Olympic level. Hopefully they will.
Just after I sat down again, Eddie Reese came over to our booth to say hello to June. We all introduced ourselves and talked briefly about Masters swimming.
Needless to say, breakfast at the Long Beach Cafe this week is an experience not to be missed!