I’d claim plausibly and at length that I was born in the year of Fish when I was asked about my 属 zodiac sign. The problem is, the twelve animals showed up at the gathering were all terrestrials 🙂
Water sport has to be my most beloved activity, a life long pursue. And I much favor the distance 1,000m over 50m or 100m sprinting. After 20 (or 40 in the short course) or so laps in the pool, I feel so invigorated that I could take on the www, the whole wide world. No matter how many aces I dish out, nor how many love games I’ve won, or harmony camaraderie on court, tennis just doesn’t produce that type of feeling. Both my parents and my godparents loved swimming. My first lesson was in Kunming Lake 昆明湖 at Summer Palace when I was only 1 year old, breaststroke, of course. Dad was the drill sergeant out of the four. He demanded certain number of laps each time I hit the pool while others were just satisfied at the fact that I could demonstrate the basic survival skill in the water. Even 旱鸭子 Nainai would take me to the pool.
Although the public pools in Beijing were scarce, and water sometimes could be green (no kidding – once a kid drowned due to the fact the life guard couldn’t see through the dense green water..), but they were all 50 meters, the real standard Olympic size. There’s one near where I lived, and one at renda fu, my middle/high school. But we mostly went to the Summer Palace to swim and boat. I was really bad at sport in school, one semester even failed my physical ed: swimming didn’t count, and I hate to run/jump.
When I returned to Beijing starting 5th grade, I immediately met a good friend Dai Rui who’s on the swimming team. She didn’t have a swimmer’s built, but her dad was there to be her advocate, so she got on, with Wang Piaoshi – it happened that they both were breaststrokes. My free style and dive were all learned from her. We spent many afternoons at the Summer Palace, climbed onto the thin wooden bench in the middle of the lake and practiced dive. The water there was bearable, not as muddy as nowadays. I still remembered the muddy floor, very silky but eerily – from time to time there was a hard stem. My rating of the four strokes is butterfly, free, back and breast, in that order. When I got to Hong Kong, I still couldn’t swim free continuously. No matter how much I tried.
By the way, the tiny Hong Kong all pools are 50m, if you wondered. So one day I saw a gorgeous dress, had to have it. When I took it to the register, did I realize I omitted a zero. Embarrassingly, I told the clerk so. She gave me a meant look that showed plenty of whites of her eyes. But the store manager came over, said she’ll give me a discount and hold it for me for three days. When I gone to swimming afterward, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. So I said, IF I could do a 1,000m free without stop, then I’d reward myself with it. Motivation drives people, large or trivia. I did it and still have it in my closet now. Back then, for three months I didn’t buy a single new dress.
I never had any training nor did I take any lessons. After settled down in New York, aside from the shocking realization that Olympic Pool in American terminology is 25m, I happily resumed, and added half baked flip turns and backstroke. I did few years at a local masters swimming club, three early mornings a week before heading off to work. It was organized by Steve, a 6’5” tall with a solid built firefighter – submarine I nicknamed him. On the first day, he eyed me over from head to toe, and said, “get in, let me see ..” When I was too slow to jump in, he put down his coffee, picked me up like a hawk caught a hen, then threw me into the lane. Oh well. What I remembered of him over the years was (joking) that upon his entrance into the pool,
1, next room would be flooded, and
2, he’s already half way across the lane.
Sorry If I can’t get over the fact that the out sized Americans with out sized land and out sized wallets only build pool that’s half the length and called them Olympic size. And they pocket the most gold medals fair and square. Many of those athletes have to make living to support pursuing their dreams in the water, vs China or Russia where the athletes are well taken care of by the states. Or this was yerteryear’s info?
Over the years, I tried to learn the fly couple of times, for I just can’t erase image of Matt Biondi came rushing down the lane, so vivid, impressive and yes, very graceful. His long arms could scope up the world. The butterfly has to be the most elegant stroke of the four, breast being the least. Pumpkin’s back and free are great, but I consider her butterfly the most enchanting. When she was little, her waist didn’t have enough strength, so all I could see was her head up and down the water, like a little puppy about to drown lastingly.