“In The Water, They Can’t See You Cry”

Interesting thoughts from Amanda Beard, a 7 time Olympic swimming medalist.  The article, an excerpt from her book, chronicles Amanda’s successes and failures as a world-class child athlete.

A year after the 1996 Olympics, I ranked twenty-third in the world in the 100-meter breaststroke and twenty-sixth in the 200-meter.

My parents did their best to shelter me from the unanimous criticism of public opinion. I didn’t need anyone to tell me how bad I stunk; I knew that already. The harsh numbers of my ranking told the whole story. At least that’s what I thought until I got acquainted with a whole new kind of low.

I had come into the living room of our house to find the newspaper because I wanted the movie listings; I needed to find a flick I could lose myself in. After looking on the couches and coffee table, I sat on the recliner chair where my dad read the newspaper and all of his books. I saw a piece of newsprint sticking out from in between a stack of books. Thinking it might be the paper, I lifted up the four or five volumes on top. Instead I found a hidden stash of clippings and knew immediately they were about me.

Since the start of my career, my dad was my own personal archivist, clipping any and all articles about me so that I could have them later on in life. But after carefully cutting them out, he always put them into the big red scrapbook he kept in his room.

Reading the dozen or so articles in my lap, I saw clearly why these hadn’t made it into the book. Sportswriters called me fat, washed-up, and finished. I’d never do anything good in swimming again, they wrote. There it was in black and white, a complete validation of the negative voice playing on a loop in my head. It was true, I was a fat loser. The words I attacked myself with stared out at me from the page, causing a kind of sweet dread. I had suspected that everyone was talking about me, and they were. The shame — this wasn’t just a couple of mean girls at school but the whole world — hurt so much it almost veered 180 degrees into pleasure. I wrapped myself up in sadness like a martyr, then tucked the clips back in their hiding spot so my dad wouldn’t know I had found them.

For the rest of the article, go to: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/amanda-beard/amanda-beard-in-the-water-they-cant-see-you-cry-memoir_b_1397581.html?page=1

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