As told by Huddie (Walsh) Murray
PHOENIX, Ariz. August 12. SWIMINFO recently invited readers to share their memories about the Olympic experience, including those who strove but didn’t quite get there, to those who may have reached the pinnacle to those who simply observed as a fan.
We were excited by a response from a woman with one of the greatest nicknames in swimming history, “Huddie” Walsh (Murray), a star of the ‘70s from Vesper Boat Club in Philadelphia. She talks of going to one Olympic Trials when she was really too young to know what to expect and of going four years later with a realistic hope of making the team but coming up short. She then expresses the pull of the Games on her heart in describing a memorable Olympic “road trip” and efforts to try again even after having a child, one of many little “Huddies” she’s now brought into the world. Take a minute to hear from Huddie, and, despite her protests otherwise, her memories on the subject are very real…and eloquent.
> My sister sent me this link and suggested I write> to> share my memories. I wish I could say they were> "real"> Olympic memories, but I never did make the team.> (And> it took 20 years of Olympic Trials viewing to> finally> vanquish the tears. ;-)) This tale is probably too> personal and long for your purposes, but it's nice> to> have a place to share it, even if it meets with the> "delete" button.;-) Thanks for the opportunity to> share it.
> Huddie (Walsh) Murray
> I qualified for the Trials in 1972, as a young,> naive 15 year old. I didn't think I had a chance,> and> the fact that I was seeded fifth in the 200> Individual> Medley scared me to death. Though I swam well at> that> meet, the Olympic swim team went to Munich without> my> company. No sleep or tear was lost over the effort.>
Training for 1976 was a different story. My best> friend, Maureen Mortell, was living with our family> and though we swam different events, we had the same> goal in mind. Everything in our lives focused on> that> one meet, the most intense meet ever – Olympic> Trials.
> The story was the same; the team went to Montreal> and we were not part of it, and it was oh, so much> harder to take this time around. We were not alone,> though. So many swimmers who deserved to be on the> team were not on it. That's just the way it is> during> Olympic years. We cried and eventually recovered.>
We tagged along as spectators. On the spur of the> moment, we and another friend drove from> Philadelphia> to Montreal without a place to stay, without tickets> to any of the events, and without much money,> either.>
What were we thinking?! >
We ended up having the most fantastic time of our> lives. We sat for hours to get a prime spot for the> athlete's parade to the Opening Ceremonies. How our> hearts leapt when we saw Gary Hall carrying the> flag!,> and spotted some of our swimming friends on the U.S.> Team – Brenda Borgh, Kathy Heddy, and Tim McKee. >
We did end up watching both swimming and diving> events, thanks to friends and scalpers. (I still> have> the ticket stubs!) We were ecstatic for the U.S.> women> after the 400 Free Relay and when our men went 1,2,3> in 200 Fly! We watched the East German women in amazement….
The only > event that saddened me was the women's 400 IM; Shirley Babashoff > scratched the prelims. I was horrified! I had been fifth in this> event at the Trials. Even though I would not have> been> next in line, I knew that Bonnie Glasgow had been> denied a place on the team. (Three> swimmers> per event were taken at that time.)>
We made some money by collecting coins from the> fountains at the base of the "Piscine Olympique",> which we then used to buy bread from a local bakery> outlet. We literally lived "hand to mouth", stayed> on> the basement floor of a local swim coach's home,> rode> the "Metro" to the Olympic venues each day, even> trained each day with Point Claire Swim Club to keep> up for our next competition.
I traded earrings with> a> German guy we met at the A&W. We had an intense> conversation with Andy Strenk about whether or not> the> East German women were using steroids. (Of course we> know the truth now, but it was harder to discern> then> without sounding like a bunch of "sour grapes")>
Thanks to "friends in high places", we were able> to> visit the Olympic Village three times. Since this> Games followed the horror of Munich, security was> tight. Our companion, RuthAnn, went to school at Univ.> of Miami. Several swimmers who attended UM were on> the> Olympic Teams from other countries. They had extra> guest passes to the village. We felt exceptionally> lucky to visit the village, and saw so many of our> friends and acquaintances.
There was the glaring> reality, though, that we did not really belong> there;> just another reminder that we had not made the team.
> When all was said and done, we got back on the> New> Jersey Turnpike without enough money for the toll> booth. Luckily, we were still young enough to get> away> with such a stupid decision. We did get taken down> to> an underground office, only to speak to an officer> who> knew one of our swimming friends! Lucky us!>
This trip ranks as one of my all time favorite experiences. Our > coach even allowed us to miss an important meet for this once-in-a > lifetime event. I will be forever grateful for the memories. (I> faithfully kept a journal in those days, and it> brings> me tears of joy to read about it again. 🙂 When I> watch the Olympics every four years, my mind jumps> to> those unforgettable 11 days in July of 1976.> >
Follow up note from Huddie (Including the story of how the nickname came to be): >
You may remember my sisters Stephanie,or Maura. Steph is the oldest of our 15 Walsh kids. She mentored me through swimming and introduced me to SO many swimmers and coaches! We both swam for Vesper Boat Club. She's the one who sent me the blurb about NewsMaster….Maura is younger by 5 years, and swam for Vesper, Foxcatcher (after Vesper ended) and USC. She won the 500 at NCAA's (or maybe it was still AIAW) in her freshman year….
In such a big family (I was #7, Maura #11), nicknames were inevitable. My brother couldn't say "Hilary" when I was born, so I became Hud-id-ie, and eventually, "Huddie". It just stuck, and though I still use "Hilary" at the bank, etc., I go by "Huddie".
I kept swimming through 1977, then at Univ. of Florida with Randy Reese. (Thanks to Title IX for scholarship money!) I had my first child, Meg, who is now 25 and married herself. When Meg was just a few months old in early 1979, I thought about returning to the pool, and eventually landed in Austin to train with Paul Bergen. 1980 was what it was, though I didn't qualify for Trials anyway.
I intended to get out of Texas as quickly as I could, but I'm still here after 25 years! I coached at UT with Bergen, and then, Richard Quick, for a few years…. Then I got married and my husband Kevin and I have 7 children. That keeps me pretty busy – doing the "mom thing".
Swimming still rules; I help coach summer league and two of our kids swim year round. They have some talent, but I just want them to keep loving swimming into college, so I try not to push too hard. I know what a wonderful part of my life swimming was and is, and I hope they can discover some of that, too.
Thanks for asking :-)….Sorry it was such a long
We’re not sorry, Huddie. Thanks for telling us how the Olympics and swimming has touched your life.