Written by castor :: [Friday, 09 September 2016 06:59] Last updated by :: [Friday, 09 September 2016 19:40]
I had been in this world for about 22 years. But Still. Every time I saw time I saw it, every time. In Person, On TV. I held my breath a little.
Because she flew.
Some of it maybe the danger. I had seen 3 pretty horrific things a hundred bad ones, and more wounded pride then you could imagine. This was scary, and I knew part of the appeal of it was. A kinda of sick thrill that you just watch some one die. Hadn't seen that. Had met people who never walked again … and that.
But that's not the real reason..I did it because … she was flying, for 2.5 seconds she was off the ground, spinning and turning and just flying. Flying like some kind of bird, a plane, a god, a superhero, a bee, a balloon, she was flying … and that … that was an amazing amazing thing.
Then she hit the water, and the hard part of my job began. Both kinda holding my breath and telling her what she did wrong
"You need a straighter back especially after the turn, your over extending it a touch. its a not a fatal flaw but its making the turn a little much which you try to recover from on the back and do a decent job-but if if you didn't have to. "
She looked up at me and nodded "okay" as she dried herself with her chammy. That was it okay. I hated okay. I got a lot of okays
"get it flatter, flat flat. you got so so little out there
"I didn't realize I was even correcting on the back end"
"Sometimes the body is smarter then the brain out there"
She nodded looking down. I tried to smile. This wasn't necessarily a way to get a sale.
My name is Wendy Lucci. I'm a Diving Coach by trade, ocasionally I do a little swimming when things are tight. Except diving I Mainly train high schoolers, adults for the Olympics. I train under 12 year olds at the Y for swimming(I know the manager of one and he gets me classes). Not everyday I am hustling-but it feels like it sometimes. I think to much of money
I look at the Girl in front of me. lets call her D. I have known of her about 4ish years. She was a Platform Diver, used to go to George Mason where she had been on the Team and did pretty well there. She was something of a star. I had actually met her I guess 3 years ago when I was at the meet. I wished her luck in a competition and she had seem nervous-I may have given her a tip or to settle her down even though technically speaking I was working with someone on the other side. It apparently worked. Cause she and the team won that meet. She had done well until she graduated last year, the team did well. 2 years ago they where in the hunt at the college championships, didn't win, didn't place but they where there, and her very good high dive had done a lot for it. Individually I forgot at this moment how well. She was in the top 10 that competition. As these went a dive a mistake or a judge away from wining.
She had graduated afterwards. I had saw her in the Aquatics center occasionally diving for fun I guess.
I looked at her. She was Short. Diving women especially where( she was5'2 )But had a weird pertness. They had a little to much much muscle. One of the ironies of the world is that people who actually wore swimsuits for a living would almost never be in a swimsuit competition.
She was about 18 months out of the serious pool-and a lot of divers, athletes can put on 5-10 sometimes more pounds ( I ran into someone who I went to the Olympics with and did better then me. She was a chub chub now). I would say she was about 5 pounds over it maybe in the middle, some of it in the cheek. She was a kind of specly thing. She had Irish blood in her I can tell and that translated to freckles. but she also had Blond hair-gorgeous blond hair for someone in the pool-and the shortness made it look longer as it went to her middle back out of pool. She didn't look bad.
Dive wise she had a good form, good connection with the pool-I maybe saw any kind of significant splash 5 times ever. She had rust in her twisting, but the basics where there. A little shaky off the platform, but not to shaky.
And as I spent about two hours going over things with her watching her dive about 20 more times not looking bad was where I would put her. There was Rust here at the highest level, but it was there. And as I would critique her and point out small issues with her dives, I got that maybe the approach I would make to a sale. She had a way of listening to it, pushing back … but so minorly, so small. by the end of it not really.
"Yeah I felt that push. I could tell by the time I left the platform I was getting to much corkscrew"
This felt like a sale.
We didn't discuss anything like jobs or money afterwards that afternoon but it felt a good space. I promised an email about what I saw, after I reviewed the tape We did meet for coffee three days latter to superficially talk about it, but to talk about the future.
She hadn't had a real coach in 18 month. She wanted to get into Masters Diving, which I thought she knew wasn't by any means going to medal, but maybe do well. I knew the type. After college can be a scary scary thing but She had got a job at government Lab in Dc Metro area and wearing on of those business suits that successful people do. We where meeting I think during her lunch hour. We barely touched on what she did, but I got the sense she was making "hiring a twice a week diving coach money", maybe if she did really well more. So I had incentive.
Well at least in maybe 2 years when she hurts her knee, or gets married, or what ever it is that would happen to her that makes her quit.
But well its a job, and its money, and its 300 bucks a week, which is a decent chunk of rent, and enough to maybe think about a better car.
At the moment we started I had 8 clients. Honestly she was somewhere in the middle. my Main Client, my 'prize' winner was a 14 year old Jr. She was by no means great, and if I was honest not going to do anything-but she did love love the pool, and she had hyper competitive parents who where lobbyist rich. that was the good thing about Washington, and if I was honest why I settled here. It was a good Town for the win anything Rich. For about a month I worked with a Congresswoman before her real inability to do a schedule killed it-still it was neat while I had it.
But if I was super honestly my real focus was yet another diver Lets Call her M. Who I did think had maybe Olympics potential-back story. in Beijing I trained the woman Bronze Medalist in the Springboard, which for about 2 years got a lot of call. these calls where dying back 5 years latter, but they where still there and if the individual Medalist had quit soon after I had a rep. and M was going to help me with that. or R. D … well..
In the first two months or so I would watch her dive. I was on call for 2 1/2 hour, but that ended up with 4 with consultations and watching footage … and I saw some improvement. she could be a good masters diver if she wanted, she had a lot of it there. She was better then F my last Adult client by a long shot, but F wasn't really serious. How Series D was … well to be determined.
We would talk but I would learn very little of her other then her diving and her diving personality. She was a little hesitant off the board, a little self doubt mixed mix with occasional headstrongness. a couple of times we would argue via email-often how we could communicate about my read of an individual leap, then kinda of nod and agree with me when a jump wasn't good-or seem perplexed when I was praised her. On the board she had grace, and a good amount of strength. She had an acrobats back which is important in the sport-really its not that different then that but both of these where her diving personality-and I knew from experience that wasn't the same thing as real personality. If anything she displayed or showed very little of that. I did ask her out to drinks one night, and tried to do a meet-up with her M and R … it never happened. She was busy with work.
What work was … dammed if knew. I still don't really know. She was a scientist I gathered-whether that was biology, physics, anthropology, what ever what- her business. But since it paid me a good amount of change, a profitable one and I didn't argue.
There was a local meet for the DC area. I had my girls compete in it(and yes all of my students in individual classes where women. Men sometimes train women, rarely its the opposite). D seem enthused and excited for it. I remember her wanting to get a good suit for it, spending the kinda money that suggested maybe I could ask for a raise at some point. but she came, she saw … and she placed. She did forth in the high dive(I should mention R and M where both Springboarder) and seemed very pleased with that, I think considering her layoff from serious competition. I would say but didn't tell her that I think a fair amount of the third was that two Excellent College Divers both had just terrible jumps, but well she seemed happy and I seemed happy …
There are two ways to look at diving. The Front and the Rear .
As I said-I love watching Diving. it is by far my favorite thing next to actual diving, when I am flying, when I am in the air. Its magic. I can see the artistry the grace the athleticism and yeah the strategy and if the words I put to it are my craft in the end, and well a challenge-its my challenge. its my beautiful life.
That's the front.
And there is the rear.
The rear is looking at a reasonably big swim stadium-it had been built for the sence that this was something that should exist- but well in seating capacity it could hold maybe a two thousand people … and that meet did not have that. Not by a long shot. There was … 80 people. 90 maybe. None of whom paid, 99, 95 percent where family and friends, with the occasional weirdo perv, or the guy who just came off the street to sit down in a quiet space. This is for a mixed men's and women event in the nations capitol, which is a reasonably big city … and it was.
I should mention it was free to the public, and you had to pay 150 to participate … which means that all of the participants where loosing money. All of them. There where small statuettes that I am sure had a cash value of less then 150. This was theoretically part of a somewhat arcane scoring system that lead somewhere to the nationals-but that was a very vague thing. Though they where getting a T shirt(one thing about D now that I mention-I don't think I ever saw her wear a T shirt. Not after getting out of the pool, in the locker room nothing).
And while the further you got up the entrance fees stooped … it was more or less this all way to the top. At The Nationals sometimes regional ESPN some years would cover it to play in the middle of the night or day … but that money tended to go to put those on. They maybe would fill a swimming stadium,but not always and all of them where about this size-this had held the nationals more then once and it had the seating capacity of a modest high school football team. I Doubt anyone was scalping tickets. The US diving association did get Olympics money which could be sweet, but they tended to spend it on training camps(which they made you take time off from your job), and very occasionally to maybe 5 women small small grants. There was prizes at a point in actual money-but not enough to say take a family to Disney world on, let alone train or live on … or pay me
Me. I was the only one making money. And the about 4 or 5 other independent coaches present where the only ones really making money here.
(okay there was the pool staff but well you know. Okay I think the three judges go like a per diem)
And that's the Rear … and I am the rear. when ever I think of that … it kinda makes me feel bad.
But D as I mentioned did well, and I did see and was even introduced a couple relatives who cheered her on. She seemed happy and pleased as anything I saw her, giddy really. She kept at it. There was the Real Regional which she technically qualified for in three months and she was excited for it. I tried to temper her expectations but you know she wanted it, so I was glad.
It was about this time I noticed something. it was on a jump she did in a training session soon after, but looking back on the tapes well after the fact I noticed it just before her match There are 6 basic types of dive, the most basic is the forward where you jump of the board and hit the water. now a basic part of this is jumping-in this case upward.
And this maybe because I was training a lot of spring boarders where this is different for not noticing this instantly. Most woman can jump about 3 feet up when there doing this. She was doing … 5 ish. This is effect a standing still high jump. She was getting extra height.
I noticed this. When I brought it up she didn't. I had to show her a tape of the jump with a zoom in on the top for to believe it and I setup a yard stick at the top of the platform to prove it. I kinda wondered in hindsight if she was trying to deny it … but honestly I think she didn't notice. she simply hadn't noticed.
We did a series of jumps on the ground and proved yeah she could now jump about 5 feet on the ground.
Which meant she had extra 2 feet, 4 Feet. Which meant she had an extra .1 seconds going up and down that her competitors didn't have. Which meant. 2.6 … which is an advantage.
We worked on dives she could do with the extra time, an extra quarter spin a little bit of an extra tuck, a longer extension. Part of the problem, is that was the easiest type of jump and the scoring system knew it … but still it could be useful.
The how this happened-I didn't quite know but in retrospect. Divers swim a lot, divers walk a lot. we talked some abut personal training time and such and what she did-she did go to a real gym a fair amount I gather, but we didn't talk about that-maybe we should have. twice a week in the flesh and several times we emailed and so much of it was just about diving, just about the sport. So much we just didn't talk about it.
I did notice that drive. that competitive instinct in her, that just push. I talked a little to her college coach, and he commented on that that -when she got going there was an obsession to her, a drive.
Now an extra .1 second isn't going to win a gold metal, But there was something. And as we kinda went forward I was kind of curious. What ever rust that was in her form with her layoff was gone. She was a competitive little diver if at 24 on the older side for the sport. I was curious.
I suggested she compete in informal little dive offs, on the weekends at the arena with a diving group. She couldn't meet all of them-something was up at work, but each time she did it was well. I was drawing her into he world of competition-and she thrived on it.
And well from a bottom line wanted a third training session a week. Monday Wednesday Saturday. I was happy she was happy.
I looked at her body. I mentioned she was maybe 5 pounds to heavy. by two month that was gone-which was not unusual. it was tricky actually. Diving is one of those sports where getting like fitness figure competition thin isn't a good look-you don't need it, and she was getting a touch to lean. we talked about diet and adding more calories. I hope she did it. Some of her muscles were popping a little more, and weirdly her breasts seemed a little bigger-but well..
three months the regional came. there where 40 competitors who came out to Phili. She did 9th her Mom who came out to watch and who asked(not D) to have dinner with us twice. D seemed disappointed but weirdly I wasn't. Get her back in get her back in. Her third jump where she did from a rear position had been poor, and the judges saw it. she This was a sport where you could improve get better.
I made a training regime for her, a six month schedule that suggested she go to meets in Boston and NYC. Atlanta in a former Olympic venue We talked about it and she wondered.
I was particularly glad cause M injured her foot on the board and was out a couple of months-and I kinda wondered if forever, and R seem to be both Peaking and loosing interest. I managed to pick up a friend of the high schooler I mentioned … but that was a short term hobby.
I was feeling better at myself, her the world. I was looking forward, cause well as I mentioned you don't look back.
It was June 10th when I noticed it. I think I vaguely made the connection during the actual jump, but it was more a vague thing.
"That's a good connection" I told her "but you seemed to put an extra twist in the end. It was a good twist but an extra one"
"Yeah I had to much momentum"
She shouldn't be.
I watched the video while she was prepping in the Jacuzzi for a second. There was definitely 4 twists when it should have 3 and a half. physics..that shouldn't make sense.
Then when I went home I saw it. I recorded 10 of jumps on videos and after I saw it on the first one I looked at all of them. 8 of them. normally. We where working on a front facing 4 quarters with a tuck. good solid jump. She did good work. 8 of them normal. 2 of them.
2.69 seconds long on one … 2.73 on the one I commented on. She was spending to much time in the air.
And instantly I figured out that didn't make sense. I saw her at the top. she was going higher but not that high. If anything she was maybe 6 inches less then the normal top of her jumps.
That wasn't what was causing it.
She was spending more time in the air.
Now Galileo was a motherfucker. Objects should fall at the same rate, but well wind resistance etc … but not like this. Not .1, close to .2 seconds difference over a realitivly small distance, not when well..she was a woman jumping.
This by the way explained the extra twist-it happened because well she had extra time to do it, and not like she had brakes.
Now, I spent literally until 2 am working on a reedit little video. I do this because I knew her, I knew her stubbornness sometime and I wanted to be clear about what I saw I wanted to be crystal, I re watched the videos over and over, at 30 frames a second you could see … she was just drifting slower. It wasn't incredibly dramatic, but as I did a split screen of two jumps it was obvious. The jumps came out of sync, out of time as the first moved normally to the water-while the second just moved slower vertically..I could say something was wrong with the camera but no. There came a point around midnight, I just stooped and watched it over and over again not quite breathing, holding my breath in amazement, holding my breath in the unreality. the fact that she was a beautiful girl, the fact that there was a way the light kinda of hit her in the kind of evening shadow producing a kind of golden halo around her … there was just this weird conception.
But just as I was about to send it out I realized-I am not sure this was the kinda thing you emailed someone, this wasn't the kinda thing you sent them an anomyomious text. Well at least I thought that at 2 AM, as I went to sleep and woke up the next morning feeling groggy the sensation the magic fell, not away but into focus. This was a human woman, with thoughts feelings etc, and while the thought came of how to communicate that.
I held it in most of the day(well I had a Jr diving class at the Y … and called her.
"Hey" she said "Can I call you back, I was just finishing up at work?"
"sure but if we can talk tonight that's' good"
"I noticed something about your dives last night" I said trying to be cagey
"I have a date tonight "
As I mentioned any kind of personal life was something that I knew nothing about, suddenly it felt very curious
She giggled slightly "going to a play 'Anna in Abasolena' I think. Its a comedy from the 18th century there doing this post modern revival of. Maybe going to dinner afterwards, its going to be a fun evening"
"Oh" I said "Well …"
"Is something wrong?" D asked
"Its your dives are kinda … I am trying to find the words, and if you don't have time for them"
"They don't seem to make sense … they just … you seem to falling slower"
"If you dive it should be … 2.5 seconds that's how long everyone takes to fall..yours are like 2.7 now"
"I know its weird, and I am not sure I am saying it right"
"Didn't we go over the high jumping things …”
"That was giving you like an extra point one … this part I am not sure
"Is the camera stuff your using alright-I know that cameras sometime drop frames"
"Like 30 is actually … 29.95 or what ever"
"I put together some edited clips …"
And she hanged up.
I put together an email about it all and …
But unlike previous stuff, she didn't email me detailed responses, or phone calls or any of that. she just seemed to ignore it.
Well it didn't occur to me that this may mean loosing a client, especially when I was wanting. Cause we had practice the next day and the first email I got was to cancel it, in an email that was 2 sentences.
The Next week nothing happened. at least on my end. I am telling this story, I am trying to tell this story-but its not my story.
In the Sydney Olympics I competed in the Women s Spring Board. I flew out to Australia a mix of nerves and 19 year old angst. I vomited on the plane over and felt like 17 hour flight it was closing in on me, in claustrophobic rage. I spent 1 week just waiting, waiting for them to finish the interminable race swimming events … then they let us on the board and …
for the first jump I was number 2 in the entire world .
for a moment, a real moment the world did watch me. The World did see me, if that was a n afternoon on a Saturday where probably people casually turned it on for something in on-but.. The stadium was packed. Eyes cameras where on me,I was a star-and an American sweet heart that the commentator I latter watched spent a fair amount talking about me and my story growing up in Chicago.
I ended up 5th.
I watched the jumps over and over-and the frustrating horrible part was-its graded by people. its grade by humans. This wasn't truth of all of the creative sports. I don't think there biases or the french judge liked the french diver … but from my eyes I thought I was great. I did well. So did people I know and respected, I am not sure it was gold … but it was frustratingly abstract, and opinion. It was what people though after 5 seconds of contemplation and put on a scoring card and moved on( there was no instant replay in Diving, though it was child’s play to add)
It was in a shock, but at the same time it was my story. I was the woman jumping.
Now 13 year later I was a coach, trying to help a young woman very theoretically get to that same place. And I am not sure about how to do that.
But 7 days after that brief conversation she emailed me again apologizing for cancellation and asking to get back into the pool for training. We signed up for Monday slot. I tried to be all business.
I watched her. We did 12 dives. 2.74, 2.76, 2.75, 2.53, 2.76, 2.70,2.6, 2.4,2.77,2.78,2.79, 2.78.
In retrospect the 2.4 should have freaked me out more. This was even her back jumps, her ones from a hand stand-all of them.
But she didn't want to talk about it. all she did was want to talk about form and positioning and other things like that. This also wasn't some weird gravity thing that day, or weird atmospheric thing or any of that.
Cause well the obvious. She was taking longer. very subtle amounts longer, but this was getting more and more consistent. This was her. something was happening with her.
But she didn't want to talk about it, and I was her employee. I tried bring it up but she brushed it off … and I got that she didn't. Maybe it was easier. Things like form positioning etc-that I was a champ at. This not so much. But well we had now an extra .2 seconds to play with and that was something. it was a secret weapon. D wasn't the greatest artist in the world, but she was a good athlete, and that with a little trick or two could push her up.
And so she kept diving, kept diving kept working on getting better.
But it wasn't that day, but I I did notice-some of the hesitancy the self doubt was coming back in. When I praised her she felt bashful, when I critiqued her she nodded. she had a harder time meeting my eye, meeting my gaze as it felt frightening to her. This was to weird.
And I saw it on her body. I mentioned she was loosing weight. Over the next month or so she gained another 10 pounds of muscle. Her arms pushed out, anything on her stomach went away leaving hard lines, her hips widened-and as I mentioned Divers often have a weird lithe masculinity-it became, both more and less weird. More defined and powerful but some how more an ideal. Her breasts got bigger some how-fuller pointer, mucher. They weren't like something from playboy, but they where something. Now women do gain muscle loose weight, and yes sometimes gain or loose breast weight(I was in athletics-you typically saw loosing but either happen when you put us at extremes).
But I don't think that was it.
She was changing. Her freckles where fading. maybe that was the scariest
cause that I realized was terrible. that was piss your pants frightening. fits.
This wasn't her. you look in a mirror you see yourself you know yourself-and the person in this one wasn't. She was turning into something else.
We talked to her more about herself, I would go in the locker room and just talk. She liked plays. She had taken some acting classes in College and became a bit of a traditional theater bug. Not so much Broadway as she found it to big and artificial. She mentioned that at one point it was either Diving or Acting as something to do with her free time. She didn't have a boyfriend and the guy she went to the theater with she had broken up after 5 dates, but amicably. She didn't know about that part of her life. She wanted to have kids someday, someday but not right now. She grew up in DC, as did her parents though neither of them ever worked in Politics. she was a reader, and she took the metro to work would read Victorian early 20th century literature the classics, actually read none of this book on tapes stuff. her job, she found it tedious-it was top secret though so the details where vague. Top secret huh?
What kinda origin …
But that was thing of it. What ever was happening there-or maybe it was nothing. What ever was happening as I watched her increasingly it was subtly making her less human. Making her less her.
But we didn't talk abut that.
I mentioned the meets coming up and we planned them out. She got time off work for the one in New York. We talked about her jumping schedule what we could do, had a meeting out of the water. It was a fun little meet up as I got some of those chipolte burritos.
I didn't know how she would do. I didn't want to speculate. But the thought did occur to me …
It was about a week before the meet. We where going to do five training sessions. That Wednesday we did some warm ups a quick jog around the room … she did her first dive her second. her third dive she hit the water.
I would later learn she spent 2.86 in the air
But she didn't come out to the surface.
It took me a second. I started by saying every time I see someone dive I clench, but after you hit the water I kinda breath in. and that can be a mistake. it takes 2.5 or what ever seconds in the air … and often enough the same amount of time before you surface again. But
I just saw her in the water … almost not moving
there wasn't a life guard on duty.
I was wearing the swimming coach shirt and shorts, jumped in after spending that second. if she didn't hold or she hit the bottom, a second can kill you.
I held my breath and after a few quick strokes I garbed her, as I did she moved her face. she didn't look hurt, or dazed or any of it … she wasn't having a concision …
I pulled her to the surface and started to breath in panicked.. she started to breath to … but it felt more like a yelp, more like crying
We went to the edge of the pool, and she by her self climbed out and on the tarmac started to cry.
I watched her. she curled into a ball and started crying, just fists of tears and wails. Now the pool wasn't empty and people came over, but I pulled her into my shoulder after a second and brought her to the locker room. She followed me, not limping not any of that.
"Are you hurt?" I asked putting her on a bench
She sat there for a second "No, not physically. its all there. its all fine..I feel great"
"Whats wrong?" I asked, but maybe I shouldn't have or maybe I should. I have no perfect answer.
"I don't think I can do the meet next week" she said " I don't think I can keep compettng"
I looked at her. I didn't say anything
"Diving is what I love" she said "you don't understand how much I just love doing this..climbing up there looking out at the water and just letting go for 2 seconds just letting go … and the skill and the strategy … diving is what I love"
"But I do understated"
She looked up at me and we saw each other. "But, I can't do it any more … that's what happening..Its happening to me"
"Not just in the pool is it?"
"No" she admitted looking down "I can't begin to tell you. I'm scared. But I feel great. Even when I was in the bottom of the pool. I didn't feel bad … you know how it is when you hit the water..you can get a sense of peace down there..I just didn't want to let go of it. I just wanted to be down there. The air it didn't bother me.. I'm not sure it can bother me"
I looked over "Do you still want my help?"
She went to her locker and got dressed.
"I am not sure you can" she said "I am not entirely sure were this goes … but its not in the pool"
"I didn't think it did"
"Yeah" she said "I am sorry for all the work I made you do for nothing. I'm a quitter. I hate quitters … but if I enter, maybe now, five meets from now, people are going to notice and …"
"Your making the right call"
She got her stuff and walked towards the entrance "I got to stop hitting the water next" she said with a mix of awe, matter of factnes and off handnss.
I got to stop hitting the water.
We shared a couple more emails. She brought up money not me- she paid for the rest of the weeks training. We would send a few more back and forth.
And that as they say is that.
There is something to your life- when something extraordinary happens. And then the next day. And the day after, that it makes it seem strange. The next Day I was with R and it felt surreal to watch a 19 year old girl kinda of go through the motions of diving-well but …
Honestly I thought about quitting. Getting a nine To five. I was like a month of training away from like becoming a High School Gym Teacher, and think I could have done that … But I didn't.
A camp brought me in latter that summer for a month they where pleased. the FMA asked me not to lead a training event but to help-reformed some contacts. Picked up a few more high schooners in the fall. This kept moving, kept pushing kept hustling.
It was about six months later the news hit. the stories, the panic, the awe, the amazement. Everyone else saw what I did, everyone else would look up . I first heard about it in the car driving home. A bus Crash in Arlington. There where concerted voices trying to make sense, but by the time I got home and turned on the Television I knew what was happening. I am not sure if I was the only one, or how many or what the rest of the story is.
But that night and every night after. When ever I would see her-on TV mostly, once or twice in person. Every time I would see. I would hold my breath a little.