Monday, September 15, 2008

Hungarian Teamwork in Beijing

This is a non-open water swimming story...but Jon Urbanchek has always greatly supported open water swimming throughout his famed four-decade coaching career. Jon has never discouraged his pool swimmers - from Olympians Klete and Kalyn Keller to young age-groupers - from participating in open water swims.

At the American Swimming Coaches Association World Clinic in Las Vegas, International Swimming Hall of Fame coaches Urbanchek and Peter Daland were talking about the special performances and remarkable athletes at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

"Rebecca pulled away from the overwhelming gold medal favorite from Australia in the last lap of the 200 breaststroke, setting a world record in the process," recalled Urbanchek. "That was really special."

In an especially touching moment, Urbanchek discussed how he and Hungarian-speaking Rebecca Soni, the surprise gold medalist in the 200-meter breaststroke, established a unique coach-athlete bond.

"Before we went to Beijing, I didn't know Rebecca spoke Hungarian. We really connected. Her parents also came to this country without anything. They couldn't afford to go to the Olympics to see her. I told her that when she is up on the [Olympic] podium to smile because her parents would be watching her and they would be very proud."

Rebecca's teammates and friends were similarly proud and happy for her. Millions of viewers worldwide watched Rebecca smile during the awards ceremony - as did her parents.

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