Suitcase of Courage
The Tour de France ended yesterday. Amid all the spectacle, drama and amazing athletic performances, audiences were able to once again catch the commentary of Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwin. For many, they are the voices of professional cycling and are known as much for the context they provide to the races as for their colorful expressions.
Climbing out of the saddle is dancing on the pedals while a rough peloton with elbows, handlebars and shoulders knocking is argy bargy. A rider making a big ride back to the peloton after a crash or going out in front alone, with a long way or big mountains to cross before the finish, is deemed — usually several times — to have dug into his suitcase of courage. Neither the race nor the commentary disappointed.
Last week was also Desmond’s first swim meet. He was entered in the 25 meter freestyle and the 25 meter backstroke. As a member of the Tropical Storm development team, he did not race every week like his sisters on the Hurricane team. He was nervous. He was worried about the backstroke. I was nervous. I was worried that a bad experience would confirm to him that he “couldn’t” when really he just couldn’t yet.
He did it though. He was fantastic. Here is a clip of the freestyle, the stronger of his performances. He is in the lane closest to the camera.
It was clear to see why he was worried about the backstroke. He bobbed up and down a little like a straw. He had trouble getting into horizontal plane and by the time most of the heat had finished he was struggling, really struggling. But then something amazing happened. He kept on. Several times, he looked around and then he’d tip his head back and try some more. Stroke by stroke and inch by inch, he kept trying and he came closer and closer to the wall.
Cheers rang up from around the pool deck. Some of the older kids — teenagers — had quietly been assigned by the coaches to look after the youngest kids for their first meet. Their cheers for Desmond encouraged others to take up the call. And though he reports to have heard none of this, he dug into his suitcase of courage and was fortified by the clamor. He showed the heart of a champion while his father choked up just a little bit.
The prize from that race will certainly last longer than the oversized lollipop passed out by the coaches to all the first time swimmers. It will stay with me for a long time. I’ll take it wherever I go, in my suitcase of memories.