Friday, December 20, 2013

Staring at the Black Line

I got back in the pool today and managed to stave off leg cramps until climbing out, when a dose of mustard saved the day again. Later, Leonard, an 84 year old Denver Bronco fan who swims a mile Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, advised I should drink pickle juice to avoid the cramps altogether. Leonard says his wife swears by it; she hasn't had night time leg cramps since she started drinking a daily dose. Straight up cider vinegar gets a heads up on the net -- vinegar apparently being the common ingredient among the self-help remedies. 

When swimming laps, back and forth, back and forth, staring at the bottom of the pool, there is plenty of time to think and sometimes that's exactly what I do. Today, I thought about when I first started swimming for exercise, which was at Stanford in the 1970's. I had always lived in the frigid upper Midwest, but this was California -- what opportunity! I had a mid morning open hour that yielded time to jump on my bike to hightail it across campus to the swimming complex.

Stanford Aquatics center, Google Maps satellite view screenshot.

Back in that day the total aquatics center was the two pools on the left -- a 50-meter Olympic size pool (bottom) and a 25-yard competition pool and diving well (top) with one-meter and three-meter diving boards. The bleachers were there then, but they were completely exposed to the elements. The student/faculty locker rooms were through the entrance under the bleachers to the right. Most days during the school year there was a morning chill so I would dahs out of the locker room straight into the pool, and then rush back out to get under a hot shower when I finished laps. On warm and sunny days I would try to find 5 or 10 minutes to bask in the sun and dry out on the deck. Either way, I'd jump on my bike to get back in class in time for an 11:00 am or noon start.

By the modern picture it is clear that a second Olympic size pool has since been added (right center), as has a much larger and better equipped diving pool (top center), with diving platforms (10, 7.5 and 5 meters) to supplement the standard diving boards. 

I remember one time swimming laps in the competition pool, the fellow in the next lane was motoring back and forth in a rather unique fashion. He was erect, bicycle kicking with his legs beneath the surface while holding weights above his head in each hand. I get exhausted just thinking about it. I asked when he rested for a spell, what in the world he was he doing.  "Training for the Olympics" he said. "Good luck," I responded and put my head back down in the water, continuing my laps. Sure, right, training for the Olympics I thought. We can all have our dreams.

The next time I spied my pool companion was on TV. There he was on the podium receiving the gold medal for the 100 meter breaststroke at the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal. "That's him, that's him" I exclaimed, "He wasn't pulling my leg!"

John Hencken competing in the 100 meter breaststroke in the 1976 Summer Olympics.

The swimmer's name is John Hencken. He won two golds in Montreal, one for the 100 meter breaststroke and the other as a member of the 4 x 100 meter U.S. medley relay team. He won a silver in 200 meter breaststroke. Amid the tragedy in Munich four years previous Hencken had won a bronze in the 100 meters, earned gold in the 200 meters and also was awarded gold in the medley relay. Jimmy Carter took away any chance of John gold medaling in a third Olympics when he demanded the U.S. team boycott the Moscow Olympics in 1980.

John Hencken, left, with 100 meter breaststroke Gold Medal at Montreal.

Here is a list of Hencken's world records.

Men1972John Hencken100-Meter Breastroke (1:05.??)
Men1972John Hencken200-Meter Breaststroke (2:22.79)
Men1972John Hencken200-Meter Breaststroke (2:21.65)
Men1972John Hencken400-Meter Medley Relay
Men1973John Hencken100-meter breaststroke (1:04.35)
Men1973John Hencken100-meter breaststroke (1:04.02)
Men1973John Hencken200-meter breaststroke (2:20.52)
Men1974John Hencken100-meter Breaststroke (1:03.88)
Men1974John Hencken200-meter Breaststroke (2:18.93)
Men1974John Hencken200-meter Breaststroke (2:18.21)
Men1976John Hencken100-meter Breaststroke (1:03.88)
Men1976John Hencken100-Meter Breaststroke (1:03.62
Men1976John Hencken100-Meter Breaststroke (1:03.11)
Men1976John Hencken400-Meter Medley Relay

John Hencken is an Olympian, a world champion and fodder for a good old memory.  Good luck to all.

No comments:

Post a Comment