I just returned from a jaunt to Indianapolis, a pleasant city which I'd never before visited. We stayed at one of may high-rise hotels in the compact downtown and walked each day down a pleasant tree-lined path, crossing canals and dodging runners, to get to the famed IUPUI Natatorium. FINA, the international body that governs swimming, held a fall series of World Cup swim meets where top swimmers from all over the world competed for cash prizes, and Indy was the last stop. As swim-fans and sport-nerds, a friend and I grabbed the chance to buy cheap plane tickets and watch some of the best and most beautiful swimmers in the world compete.
We went early each day to grab the best seats (like Southwest, swim meets almost always have open seating) and watch warm ups. Swimmers glided up and down the clear 25M pool like airplanes, seemingly unaffected by the heaviness of water and the resistance of friction. With beautiful technique they flew up and down the lanes, stopping to jump out of the pool and stroll along the pool deck like Greek gods and goddesses, solid and strong but spare, without an ounce of extra flotation on them. On the second day of the meet we witnessed three new World Junior Records with an excited crowd. One young athlete broke two (in two different races) within a span of 13 minutes. Katie Ledecky set a new World Record while we were on the plane home, breaking yet another standard in the 800 M free.
My companion, the head coach of our high school girls' team, knows many coaches, assistants and athletes from her years in the sport and generously introduced me to the head of USA Swimming, gold-medal winner Cullen Jones, national team member Gabi Albiero, and others. I felt not in awe but greatly appreciative, noticing how many years of hard work and dedication sculpted the broad shoulders and narrow hips of both men and women, how swimming fame isn't widespread or invasive enough to build big egos but instead makes our athletes open to meeting fans, to signing kickboards of the young children who lined up in the hallway outside the pool deck.
Adventures can fuel the soul and a change of scenery opens up new possibilities. Coach and I worked for hours each day on plans for the upcoming girls' season and plowed through to-do lists like nothing could stand in our way. The opportunity to shake off routine and pursue passions doesn't come along too frequently in these days of pandemic, and I am grateful for the trip and freedom to take it. Next stop, Olympic Trials 2024 at Indiapolis' Lucas Oil Stadium? We just may have to go back.