The Memorial Bend Barracudas was our name and Freestyle was my game. When I started swim team, I thought I was the queen of Backstroke, but I discovered my stride when, one day, coach had me do Freestyle in a relay. Freestyle is always the last of any relay because not only is it the simplest of the strokes, but it brought out the fastest swimmers. And I was fast. Real fast. Sometimes my relay team would be in last place, bodies behind the other swimmers in the other lanes. Then, BAM, I’d get into that pool and just fly. My group would go from 5th place to 2nd, sometimes first. My coach started putting me in anything that required Freestyle. To me, this kind of winning brought about dreams of the Olympics. Visions of me, at 8 years old, becoming the youngest Olympic gold medalist in Freestyle. It wasn’t sounding too far off to me.
My coach was even seeing potential in my swimming abilities. After a few years of dominating the Freestyle game, coach had suggested I should look into all year round swim team as well as the summer league I’ve been a part of. But there was one, big problem: I couldn’t dive into a pool.
Well, I couldn’t dive properly. I thought I was doing just fine, excellent even. According to my mother and pretty much everyone else, either I belly flopped or I channeled my inner cat and landed feet first into the water. This technically would result in me getting disqualified, but from the time I started swim team at around 7 years old till about 10 years old, you were still considered a child learning to swim. Disqualification was if you weren’t even doing the stroke you were assigned to do and just doggy paddling. Lessons were being highly encouraged by my coach, and even my mom wanted me to be a better swimmer, so a teacher was hired.
A few years back I had had my first high school aged swim teacher. Being as nice and polite as she could, she would try to watch me swim down a lane to see my technique, then give me critiques. Being the excellent swimmer I already was, I just wanted to make conversation and talk about other things. It was when she had her back turned I would actually do the strokes perfectly. My mom had been at each lesson sitting by the pool in those classic iron chairs and tables all public pools had, under an umbrella, keeping watch over me, and my stubborn ways. After three lessons, my sweet instructor approached my mom and announced she couldn’t continue my lessons, which kindly translated to: “I quit”. When I had to have new instructors, my mother hoped I wouldn’t be like I was when I first started swimming.
“No thanks”, 8 year old me waved to my second instructor a few summers later. “I already know how to swim. You can go home now.”
When it came to my fifth and final instructors, I was given two 17 year-old high school senior boys. Since I already established I was an excellent swimmer, their main focus became teaching me how to dive. Each lesson, we met at the deep end of the pool and they would keep reassuring me that it was safe to dive. I wasn’t going to break my neck like the graphic tile by the shallow ends predicted. I kept asking them if we could play swim games. They tried to bribe me with candy if I did what they asked. They ended up just giving me the candy because they felt bad for me. I even remember trying to charm my way into them joining me in the pool, my flirting game skills beginning.
One lesson, they told me to sit at the edge of the deep end and wait. The two boys approached my mom under her usual umbrella by the pool.
“Mrs. Ghorashy, we have something to show you.”
The boys led my mom to the other side of the deep end and told her to watch. The boys came up to me, grabbed me and held me by my ankles, me upside down above the deep end, hair dangling above the deep end. The boys told me to put my arms above my head, my hands crossed over each other. I was screaming, demanding why we had to do this again.
“1, 2, 3…” They let go.
When I was released, it should’ve been a clean, straight dive into the pool. What I managed to do was flip in mid air and land feet first into the water. My mom watched in silence and just nodded. The silent agreement was settled that this was the last lesson the boys had to be put through.
I continued with swim team, still either belly flopping or landing feet first in the water, only once getting close to a disqualification. I do believe there may have been some under the table deals with the refs, but I think it was a miracle for both my mom and my coach when I declared a few years later at 11 years old I wasn’t going to continue swim team. It wasn’t because I couldn’t dive, no, the choice was because I found out as you get older you have to swim more laps and I just got tired thinking about doing that.