londonThe Olympic train has pulled into London! It’s an exciting time for the athletes and the countries they call home. Last month the sports world was abuzz when swimmer Tyler Clary criticized Michael Phelps for what he termed “a real lack of preparation’ in practice.

According to the Erie Times-News (Fullerton, Calif), “Clary swam at Michigan for three years, won three NCAA championships and was NCAA swimmer of the year in 2009. Phelps took classes at Michigan and used the training facilities from 2005-08, during which his coach, Bob Bowman, coached the Michigan varsity and the Club Wolverine swim program.” Clary and Phelps are on the 2012 USA Olympic Team, slated for the 200 meter butterfly, Clary for the first time and Phelps for his fourth.

Basically, he was a swimmer that didn’t want to be there,” Clary said of Phelps. “They can talk about all of these goals and plans and preparation they have. I saw it. I know. It’s different. And I saw somebody that has basically been asking to get beat for the longest time.”phelps

Several news stories and an in-depth interview with Phelps on CBS’s 60 Minutes (7/22/12) outline Phelps’ acknowledgment of losing all motivation to ever swim again after winning his record eight gold medals in Beijing. Having led a life so disciplined, it is understandable that transitioning from such structure is a challenge.  Phelps gained 25 pounds doing “literally nothing,” and when he did show up for practice he often resorted to sneaking out the back door when no one was watching.

The fact that he doesn’t have to work as hard to get that done, it’s a real shame,” Clary said. “I think it’s too bad. You see that all too often, where you get athletes that are incredibly talented that really take it for granted. I think the things he could have done if he’d worked as hard as I do would have been even more incredible than what he has pulled off.”  Reporter Jim Alexander’s full story:

Clary’s right about one thing. It IS a real shame, but that’s life. Some folks can get by on talent alone. Phelps’ efforts in YEARS of training to swim in four Olympic games speak for themselves. It’s hard to believe Clary hasn’t figured this out. A week before the story broke I wrote a blog on differing work ethics and how to approach them: Has Clary not realized that equal effort does not produce equal results or that working harder or longer does not assure you a spot at the head of the pack?

The ‘equal pay for equal work’ idea doesn’t apply here and LIFE IS NOT FAIR. There are no two people, athletes, employees who are equal in any way, shape or form, EVER. Natural ability can trump work ethic. A stellar work ethic can trump natural ability. Sheer determination can overcome a lot of odds. So too can profound faith and a big heart.

NCSU3This all strikes extremely close to home. My husband, Ted was a NCAA All-America swimmer in college. As a Pennsylvania state butterfly champion, his high school coach asked him to circle three of the top ten NCAA swim teams and he would contact them to inquire about interest and scholarships. Ultimately, Ted chose NC State University because the coach said the team didn’t need him. A world-class butterflyer, (Steve Gregg) already graced the roster.

Before Ted’s collegiate swimming career was over, three teammates earned Olympic medals: Dan Harrigan a gold in backstroke, Steve Gregg a silver in butterfly, and Duncan Goodhew a bronze in breaststroke. See black and white photo below. Charlie Houchin, the son of two NCSU teammates in our wedding, who also trained at Michigan with Clardy and Phelps, is on the 2012 USA Olympic Swim Team. See color photo with Phelps below.

Img_1017675_391540_160x120Ted didn’t make the Olympic Team, but he did get to Olympic Trials, had world rankings, was an ACC Champion, team captain and two-time NCAA All-American. He would be the first to tell you that swimming with the best is the fastest, most rewarding way to become better yourself. Living and training with a team of such distinction, among teammates and friends – an incredible bunch of athletes – is LIFE CHANGING!  See post,  Play Up! There was nothing to be resentful of.  Winning is intoxicating and more than a little contagious!

Legendary Coach John Wooden once said,Talent is God-given; be humble. Fame is man-given; be thankful. Conceit is self-given; be careful.” On any given day ANYONE and ANY TEAM can be beat. Just ask Ryan Lochte! Great coaches, great athletes, successful people innately know this. Isn’t this the bedrock of the Olympic Games and why we love, participate and observe sports with such excitement and hope?

~From the desk of Becky Morlok~

houchinDedicated with great joy and best wishes to Charlie Houchin:

B&W photo:  L-R: Steve Gregg, former NC State University Coach Don Easterling, Dan Harrigan and (front) Duncan Goodhew.

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