The Baddest of Us All

Do you know who I am standing next to? No? Soon, the whole world will

I’m so jacked up right now, it’s hard to explain the rush. I just met the greatest athlete in the universe.

I know this is a running thing going on here at RunDaddio, but at a more fundamental level, what you are, and what I am are endurance athletes. And let’s face it, while we get respect in the sporting world, it’s the sprint athletes who usually get the real glory. Normal folks who can’t name any other runners or swimmers, know Usain Bolt and Michael Phelps. But once you start making a race take more than a couple of minutes on TV, most folks tend to tune out.

I’m part of this running tribe and take my membership seriously. I’ve been on some sort of run every day this month just so I can connect with a buddy from high school (Daddio) and a bunch of his co-workers who seem really cool and also happen to run. But I’m also part of a water tribe, and folks, I’m here to tell you, the greatest athlete on earth is a swimmer….did I mention I just met her??

If you don’t believe me, here is how she was described tonight in her introduction for the 2014 Swimmer of the Year award. Frank Busch, National Team Director of Team USA seemed lost for words. He mentioned Phelps, and Spitz and Secretariat.  Why a comparison to a race horse who beat the field at the 73 Belmont Stakes by 31 lengths you may ask (watch the videos in the article below)? And then he told those of us attending the US Aquatic Sports convention, that what a 17 year old high school senior has done this year was the most remarkable thing he has ever seen. And that might still be an understatement.

I’ll let the article and the videos tell you the story and I expect you to share it with at least one other athlete friend. Because in 2 years for those magical Olympic weeks when the world falls in love with Track and Field and Swimming, you’ll know what all the hype is about.

Swimming had a major brain fart for 2 years back in 2008 and 2009 when FINA allowed full body high tech fabric suits. In that span, world records fell 140 times, with 25 alone set at the Bejing Olympics, Since the return to textile suits 17 records have fallen; Katie did it 5 times this year.

The humble athlete is an old trope I usually avoid. But let me tell you why I dig Katie even more after tonight. In accepting our sports highest award, she talked about her highlights this year. The phrase “world record” never came out of her mouth. She talked about how excited she was to have swam with her old club team in the Montgomery County Maryland league with the Palisades Porpoises. That’s a meet at your local swim club, where you hang your towel on the chain link fence and drink a Capri Sun with your friends not a high tech natatorium designed to break world records. Later in June, the first time she broke the world record, she was at an off the radar meet in Texas with her other club team, Nation’s Capital Swim Club, while Team USA was at a Grand Prix meet in California. Her only mention of attending the biggest swim meet of the year, the Pan Pacific Championships, was telling us about the goofy little chant of “Swimming?!?” her roommate, Simone Manuel, would use to lighten the mood on deck and in the hotel. Her highlight was swimming for fun with a bunch of the neighborhood kids…not owning 3 world records and the fastest times ever in 2 other distances not recognized as world records by FINA. Goofing around with her friends.

I hope you’re smiling because you now are in on one of the best kept secrets in the world. A member of OUR tribe, endurance athletes, is the undisputed heavyweight champion of all sportsmen and sportswoman. Say hi to Katie F&%#ing Ledecky.

Charles Bender runs, swims, and bikes in the City of Brotherly Love.