The Moment Coach Dussliere Tripped Over Dream Teamster Kobe Bryant & What Happened Next At Beijing 2008

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The Dream Team at Swimming Finals with Team USA swimmers and coaches, Beijing 2008 Olympic Games - Photo Courtesy: John Dissiliere ("one of over 10,000 images I captured during those life altering 2 months as a Coach with the United States Olympic Team")

The flood of tributes for Kobe Bryant flows thick and fast and Swimming World mentioned a few drops in an ocean of emotion earlier today after the death of the basketball great, his daughter Gianna and seven others – Christina Mauser, Sarah Chester, Payton Chester, John Altobelli,
Keri Altobelli, Alyssa Altobelli and pilot Ara Zobayan – in a helicopter crash yesterday.

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Kobe Bryant, with (l-r) Olympic swimming champions Katie Ledecky, Michael Phelps and Allison Schmitt – Photo Courtesy: Katie Ledecky, Twitter

In swimming context, we recalled how France and world swimming had mourned Camille Muffat, the London 2012 Olympic 400m freestyle champion,  when she lost her life in 2015 as a result of a helicopter accident. And we related what Kobe Bryant had meant to swimmers through a social media post from Katie Ledecky  that summed top the feelings of many.

In the welter of touching tales and recollections of Kobe Bryant, which have not been without controversy, here is a fine one from John Dussliere, Head Coach of Swimming at the U.S. Air Force Wounded Warrior Program and a USA Olympic Swimming Team coach for Open Water at Beijing 2008… in his own words on Facebook soon after tragedy struck yesterday:

So, we all have our way of attaching to people and wanting an association with what we define as great.

As much as our 2008 Olympic Swim Team had really cool support from Team USA Basketball, I had a funny experience that I had actually forgotten about until the news of Kobe’s tragic accident hit the world today and triggered my memory.

In Beijing, Team USA had our own training site complete with a 50 meter pool that only ended up being used by Water Polo and Open Water Swimming.

One morning during a long training set with just Chloe Sutton and Mark Warkentin in the pool and Coach [Bill] Rose and I on deck, I ran down the hall to get some fresh bottled water from the weight room. In a hurry, I had a pretty quick pace heading to the glass door fridge across the weightroom floor.

I didn’t notice anyone in the room until I tripped over some dude stretching near the Lat machine.

I blurted out, half kidding: “Who lays under machines to stretch when there is a whole room next door for that?!!” As I recover my stride I hear this calm, soft, but direct voice reply:

“Well, today it’s Kobe Bryant stretching under machines but I won’t be doing this again tomorrow”.

All I could think was “did I just kick the Star of the new Dream Team?” – with the answer being yes!

We had a laugh, he asked why I was in a hurry and I told him I had to get back to the pool before my swimmer finished a repeat so I didn’t miss his time.

He said “swimmers are here? Cool, mind if I stop by?”

Well, duh, I said … “come on over”. He came on deck a bit later and asked what they were training for.

When we told him the 10k Open Water Swim, his jaw dropped and he asked “why would anyone want to do that?” We all laughed, he met the swimmers and off he went. It was just a cool brush with another great American Olympian.

I hope Mr. Bryant’s family, and all of the families involved in today’s tragedy find peace. I was on a plane somewhere over the Pacific today en route to an Air Force Wounded Warrior event in Hawaii when I saw the news feeds start taking over all media.

The photo is of the Dream Team at Swimming Finals and is one of over 10,000 images I captured during those life altering 2 months as a Coach with the United States Olympic Team.

Namaste.

 

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