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Feature by David Rieder
OMAHA, Nebraska, June 30. WHILE many his athletes compete in one of the biggest meets of their careers, agent David Arluck undertook the endeavor of putting together a local stop on the Fitter and Faster Tour.
Around 200 local swimmers gathered at the University of Nebraska at Omaha for two pool sessions and two classroom sessions with six U.S. Olympians. While Gil Stovall and Kaitlin Sandeno worked in one pool, Lacey Nymeyer joined Matt Biondi in another. Meanwhile, legends Jenny Thompson and Gary Hall Jr. told stories of their journeys to Olympic glory and what they put in to reach that goal.
In speaking with one of the younger groups of swimmers, Hall compared the journey to the Olympic Trials and Olympics to that of climbing Mount Everest. Indeed, to many of these aspiring champions-to-be, Trials seems yet more daunting. All of the almost-2000 swimmers competing at the CenturyLink Center committed to their sport for years upon years, went to practice day-in and day-out, and competed in meet after endless meet. They worked harder and harder year after year until finally reaching the top after surely running into plateaus along the way.
Hall's key to climbing Mt. Everest? “Little steps.” From his perspective, no mountain climber can get anywhere without small steps in the right direction. Taking small steps, Hall believes, pushes one in the right direction in any aspect of life. The small steps pile up to create bigger steps and eventually create major momentum towards the creation of a goal. A whole bunch of small steps later, and one may find themselves on top of Mt. Everest or even qualified for Olympic Trials. No need to step out right away and aim for the top; each small subsequent step pushes one closer to the ultimate goal.
In effect, Hall made the competitors at the Olympic Trials human. Hall explains that these athletes that fans idolize and beg for autographs from set goals the same as any swimmer does, and more importantly, Olympians all started off age groupers. Rarely does one swimmer jump into the sport as the greatest and never face adversity.
Hall hoped that his talk today and other similar talks not only inspire swimmers but also help youngsters realize that all great swimmers once swam in the same fins, figuratively speaking. Swimmers share a bond through the sport that greatness cannot change. Even the best swimmers understand the challenges swimming prevents, and even the youngest understand the rewards. Hall wants swimmers to know the similarities between the rewards elite swimmers face and the rewards young swimmers face.