Monday, July 16, 2012

A Man of Few Words

We don't know Matt Biondi personally but we really enjoyed getting to know him vicariously reading the first chapter of Chuck Warner's latest book, "And Then they Won Gold."

The book looks into the progression of 8 Gold Medal swimmers from their early years until they reach the pinnacle of their career. While we coach in northern California and certainly know his name, we never personally met or conversed with Matt.

It is really enlightening to know how champions develop their approach to their passion. We especially liked this part of Matt's story...

As a sophomore in high school he earned the fourth spot on the 400 free relay for Campolindo's North Coast Section team with an individual time of 51 seconds in the 100 free. He joined a 46, 47 and a 48 grouping. In the finals of that relay Matt was given the anchor spot. It was a great race with Campolindo missing the gold medal by .07 seconds. Matt's split was an awesome 48+.

In Warner's words, "The skinny sophomore stayed in the pool for nearly 10 minutes hanging on the gutter in disappointment. Finally, Matt pulled himself out and walked over to his coach and sternly said, "Stu that will never happen again."

Matt was indeed a man of his word.

He went on to a long and storied career that ended with 8 Gold, 2 Silver and 1 Bronze Olympic medal as well as numerous World Championship and NCAA awards. People marveled at his exquisite stroke technique and his amazing ability to anchor relays getting his fingers on the touch pad first.

He polished his technique early as a way of overcoming his then skinny frame's disadvantage over that of more physically developed competitors. He developed his passion for relays by his disappointment of his sophomore year in high school.

It is probably safe to say all swimmers can learn more from their disappointments than their successes...and so can their coaches and parents.

We recommend adding Warner's book to your library.

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