The Olympics Sap-o-Meter over at Slate was redlining over the weekend in the wake of Michael Phelps’ rendezvous with destiny (there, that ought to set it to twitching even more).
Apparently it was Bob Costas’ interview with Michael and his Mom that really set the too-cool-to-care cynics to clucking. Color me sappy, then, because I enjoyed it (that segment starts about 15 minutes in).
In particular, I was intrigued to learn about Michael’s struggle with ADHD and bullying classmates; as a parent, and a former “shortest and nerdiest kid in the class,” I can identify with such stories. It’s all too easy to look at the mega-million dollar freak of nature with all the O-bling around his neck and forget that he was once an awkward teen in dire need of some loving parenting and mentoring.
I couldn’t help but watch mother Debbie, a single mom and tough-as-nails middle school principal, and think: If anyone can help keep this boy’s head on straight these next few years, it’ll be this woman.
Not to be out-mothered, 41-year-old Dara Torres won two silvers over the weekend while at the same time watching over her brood of younger competitors like one of the “cool moms” at a teenage pool party.
Prior to one of her early heats, I spotted Torres chatting it up with one of her main rivals, 16-year-old Cate Campbell of Australia. I couldn’t help but laugh at the way Torres was yapping away, seemingly dispensing reams of unsolicited advice on this and that, while Campbell looked like the proverbial deer-caught-in-the-headlamps.
I’ve seen that look before. It conveys something along the lines of: OMG, I can’t believe she’s actually, like, talking to me. She’s, like, old enough to be my Mom.
Then there was that moment just prior to the 50-meter semifinal when Sweden’s Therese Alshammar, in the lane next to Torres, ripped her suit (frankly, I’m surprised that doesn’t happen more often) and had to duck back into the ready room to be hermetically sealed into another second skin.
Torres saw what was happening, and without missing a beat, made a beeline to one of the officials and reminded her to not start the race until the other swimmer returned (that moment can be seen at about 3:30 into the video). When she did, Torres gave Therese a “mom-hug” and a pat on the back and then proceeded to beat her to the other end of the pool.
I watched all that, and the way she brought her young teammates into their little “Sisterhood of the Traveling Speedo” group hug prior to the start of their second place finish in the 4 x 100 freestyle relay, and commented to Eyegal on how chatty and relaxed she seemed and how she was able to multi-task so well while at the same time maintaining her competitive focus.
She listened to me, and then in that wry, all-knowing way of hers, said:
“Mike, she’s a Mom. That’s her job: taking care of other people.”