CREDOS: Spiritual quest — III

My next dance with spiritual enlightenment came four years later at the 1984 Olympic Trials in Indianapolis. I was on a four-year winning streak and considered a shoe-in for the Summer Games in Los Angeles. But I finished in third place, and missed making the 1984 Olympic team by .36 of a second. It was devastating. My initial reaction was: “Why me?” Things could have been so different. Life seemed unfair.

But after I lost the chance to compete at the 1984 Olympics, my coach blessed me with some wisdom that shocked me. He said that swimming was not what was truly important in life. What’s important, he said, is sharing life with your loved ones, having kids, being part of something greater.

And with those words I left competitive sports and went out to re-find myself. I coached swimming and realised it was a lot harder than I’d thought. I worked a few jobs; I travelled. I had missed a lot of growing-up time and needed to catch up on all the normal things that kids do. (I once gave up third-row seats for a Led Zeppelin concert because of swim meet!) I worked on Wall Street for 17 years. I also had two children, who remain a constant flow of love and strength.

Meanwhile, I pursued my interests in music and martial arts, particularly tai chi, where I discovered an enormous source of spirituality. Because “flow” and moving meditation are integral to tai chi, it felt familiar — what I’d been doing in the pool for so many years without ever realising it. —