I have a very competitive friend. Naturally, he doesn’t like to lose so when his all-important swim club was hosting a joint carnival with other swim clubs, there was not only honour at stake – there were trophies. And all of the four trophies had eluded this swim club for years and my competitive friend was making sure this was the year the club’s fortunes were reversed.
A few days ago he rang me with an SOS. The carnival with all the trophies at stake was on Sunday. Could I possibly find it within me to help out. ‘You don’t have to do well, all you have to do is swim; we get points for every person that enters a race. It’s all about the points’. What could I do – I had a friend in need.
‘Can you do all the strokes?’ he asked.
‘Not really. I can pretty much only just do freestyle and I can’t really even dive properly. I always lose my goggles’.
‘Don’t worry. I’ll put you in the 50 free and the relays. We get big points for relays’.
So on Sunday morning I was as tense as a board feeling worried sick about racing in an ocean pool that had swell and poor visibility due to the horrid weather we’ve been having due to constant rain. At least it wasn’t raining on the day of the carnival.
I arrived at 1pm with Carl and Alfie. As soon as my friend saw Alfie he said, ‘Can he swim?’
‘Great. We’ll put him in the 50 free’.
So without further ado Alfie was standing on the starting blocks ready for his big race. Off he went and he slalomed up the pool getting tangled in one side of the lane rope and then the other. But he made it to the other end and came third.
‘I came last’, said Alfie.
‘You came third and you got a ribbon and lots of points for the club’.
‘There were only three in the race, mum’.
‘Doesn’t matter. Third is third and a ribbon is a ribbon’.
Race 19 was my big moment. I was in Lane 2 with no one in Lane 1. It wasn’t a good start. Carl said I was last to leave the blocks but they were very slippery blocks and they move with the tide and the swell. My goggles filled with water and I couldn’t see with my head in or out of the water. I was no better than Alfie, swimming slalom style as the swell moved me from one side of the lane rope to the next. At one stage I had to stop to de-tangle myself. This was much more difficult than swimming in a wet-edge pool where you just have to follow a black line. However, despite my late start and my encounters with the lane ropes, I came second and won a ribbon!
Next was Race 24 and the all-important relay. Each club had to enter 16 swimmers and I was one of them. The club that won this relay would win one of those four trophies. I was swimmer number 10 and I dived in and my goggles were still where they were meant to be and I could see a little better and so had not so many delays reaching the other end due to the lane ropes. Our relay team won the race and of course the trophy by about two and a half laps. I relaxed and put my tracksuit on and sat down to enjoy the rest of the meet as a spectator.
Next thing, the marshaling person was yelling, ‘Charlie. Where’s Charlie?’ And I stood up and my friend was looking for me as well and he said, ‘We need you in the 50 back’.
‘I don’t do backstroke’. And I certainly didn’t want to do it in this pool where I would have no ability to see where I was going and with no bunting near the end of the pool you wouldn’t know if you were about to bang into the wall that was covered in barnacles. Many were leaving the pool with blood running down their shins and arms like they’d been sliced open with a razor.
‘I need someone in the pool now for the 50 back’, he yelled.
‘Oh, okay’, I said and I started stripping down to my swimsuit and I reached in my bag for my cap and goggles and he said, ‘You don’t need them, it’s too late, they’re all in the water’. But I grabbed them anyway and climbed down to the blocks and jumped in and ‘bang’ the race started and off I went and can you believe, I actually swam in a straight line. How did that happen?
I finished 4th but it was a mixed race and so actually finished 2nd against the women and went up to collect my ribbon and they wouldn’t give me one. ‘Sorry, it’s a mixed race and we’re only giving them out to the first three place getters like usual. You got points for your club though’. That didn’t appease me. I wanted a ribbon.
Then I was asked to swim in the 50 breast stroke. I sent Carl to the shops to get me a soft drink. I needed an energy hit. I did the 50 breast and that was a mixed event too so again, I came 4th but actually 2nd so no ribbon there either, just club points.
Well I was certain then it was over but I kid you not, there were more relays. I then had to swim in the 17-39 relay (and we all know I’m not in that age bracket, sadly) and we came first. Straight after that I was in the 40-49 relay and we won that too. Then there was the relay for the 20 best swimmers in your club and our club had two teams entered and I was put in the slower group and I think we finished 2nd last.
That wrapped the meet and I was purple with cold because I’d been in and out of the water seven times on a cloudy day that wasn’t too warm and I was exhausted. This hadn’t been my typical Sunday. Then it was off to the showers and then on with the sausage sizzle where those elusive four trophies, one for the relay, one for the juniors, one for the seniors and one to the club for the highest points were awarded and all won by our club and are now locked behind glass cabinets in the club room for all to admire – for the next 12 months.
Happy to help.