Chicago is sitting on pins and needles. They are waiting for the big announcement from the IOC officials who determine the location of the 2016 Summer Olympic Games. So many years of hard work coming down to one moment in time...sound familiar. The games in the USA means so much more than tourism and prestige. It quite possibly could affect many kids lives the same way the LA games affected me.
My first Olympics was in 1984. The took place in Los Angeles. I grew up in Northern California so it was a no-brainer for us to make the trip down. Plus, my dad was a die-hard Olympic fan and he grew up in LA, so there was no way he was gonna miss out on this huge event. My brother and I were so excited but we didn't have a clue how cool it would be.
Leading up to the games, the news was negative (like it always is before an Olympics). They were saying that the traffic would be horrible, the crime would be awful, that tickets and housing would be impossible and that the cold war and no Russians would make for bad competition. We didn't listen to a bit of that and without hesitation made our way to LA.
Our first event was opening ceremonies. We parked right near the Coliseum and walked right in...no problem. We had tickets to a few nights of swimming but other than that, we needed to find people selling them...no problem. We had the best time ever at every event including boxing, wrestling and the woman's marathon. I had my USA flag and got so many people to sign it including Pernell Whitaker, Jenna Johnson, Mary T. Meagher and many more. Looking back on it now, as a parent, my dad must have gotten the biggest kick out of my brother and I running around trying to grab as many autographs as possible.
What I have not told you yet is that a few months before I left for the LA Games, I had decided to take a break from swimming. I might have even used the word 'quit'. My parents just bit their tongue and let me work my way through the decision. Deep down they new, my mom especially, that I had a ton of talent. Being at the LA Games absolutely, 100% fueled my fire and on the way home, in the airport, I called my friend and announced with incredible enthusiasm that I was going back to swimming. All I knew is that one day I wanted to be standing on the podium like the women I saw, Tracy Caulkins, Mary T. Meagher and Mary Lou Retton, listening to the National Anthem while receiving a gold medal. It was THE defining moment in my career. Imagine how many children will feel the same way if the 2016 Olympic Games are in Chicago. In our backyard. What a gift! My fingers are crossed. Go USA!