The Stars Came Out: What A Night At the International Swimming Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony

Craig Beardsley

The Stars Came Out: International Swimming Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony A Gala Event

To the left. To the right. In front and behind.

Anywhere the head turned.

A look around the Grand Ballroom at the Marriott Harbor Beach Resort & Spa on Saturday night was to cast eyes on greatness. The evening was a party, the induction night for the Class of 2022 into the International Swimming Hall of Fame. It was perfect that five-time Olympian Dara Torres, a Hall of Famer herself, served as the emcee.

Baseball and football annually have their days in Cooperstown and Canton. Aquatic sports, specifically swimming, turns to Fort Lauderdale for its celebration. It has been that way for years, ISHOF long established as the treasure chest of excellence for swimmers, divers, and polo players. Fort Lauderdale is where history – old and more recent – is appreciated, and that fact was on display during this festive weekend.

As is always the case, the newest honorees into the Hall of Fame came from around the globe. The United States. Japan. Australia. Various locales across Europe. It was truly a global event, which is to be expected. Yes, certain nations have enjoyed greater success than others through the years, which is the norm in all international sports. But one of the things that makes a Hall of Fame special is the way it pays tribute to elite contributions from a widespread community.

Hall of Fame inductions are long, and this night was no different. It took more than three hours to move through the program, in which each inductee was recognized via a short video on their career. The honorees then had a chance to speak and were provided with their Hall of Fame sash and award. If the night carried on for an additional three hours, I doubt if anyone in the room would have cared. Rather, it would have provided further opportunity to applaud – literally and figuratively.

Applause. It was the prevailing trait of the night – constant acknowledgement of what the men and women entering the Hall had achieved. There, too, were small cheers. There were a few loud outbursts. There was a standing ovation. There was much laughter, and even a few tears. The emotion of the night was gripping. Years of hard work and dedication are what landed the honorees in Fort Lauderdale to begin with, so emotion should be a fixture of the night.

During their careers, those inducted triumphed in a way that is known by a miniscule percentage of folks who ever take up an aquatic sport. The best of the best? No. The best of the best of the best of the best…and we could go on.

It was magical to watch Craig Beardsley receive his due more than 40 years after politics robbed him of the chance to chase gold in the 200-meter butterfly at the 1980 Olympic Games in Moscow. Beardsley probably had the biggest cheering section of the night, with dozens of his friends and former teammates in attendance – and who were invited by Beardsley to join him on stage at the conclusion of his speech. Many of the supporters were surprise guests to Beardsley, and many also experienced the pain of being denied an Olympic opportunity by no fault of their own.

In Daichi Suzuki, it was a chance to doff the cap to a Japanese star who won gold in the 100 backstroke at the 1988 Olympics and played a critical role in revolutionizing the sport. Suzuki was one of several athletes who drove home the importance of the underwater dolphin kick, an innovation that remains as prominent as ever.

Aussies Jon Sieben and Michael Klim received well-deserved credit for special careers that included Sieben producing one of the greatest upsets in history and Klim leading off the 400 freestyle relay that won gold at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, a moment that lives in Aussie sporting lore.

The aforementioned athletes and their accomplishments account for just a portion of what was celebrated on Saturday night. The bottom line is that it was a special evening, exactly what is needed in sports. It’s why Halls of Fame exist, and it was a shining example of what the International Swimming Hall of Fame means to aquatic sports.

Next year can’t come soon enough.

 

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