Sports Non-Fiction posted September 20, 2010

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A champion in every sense of the word!

Our Golden Girl

by fionageorge

Jardene stood quietly on the starting block as they called her name.

"In lane four, Jardene Ralph, from the Riverside Aquatic Swimming Club."

I cheered as loud as anyone in the stands. My grand-daughter's first finals in a state championship. She had trained so hard over the past twelve months.

The prior year, at the club's annual awards night, a girl received a huge trophy for being the age champion in the eleven and under age-group at the State Titles. Jardene turned to her mother and said, "That is what I want to do, Mummy, work as hard as Sarah, and win all the races next year."

Her mother smiled, "It's rare for a swimmer to win all strokes, darling. You are strong in butterfly and freestyle. You will need to work really hard on your other strokes, as well as get stronger in the 'fly and free. Especially to win the individual medley."

I will, Mummy." Her ten-year-old eyes shone. "One day I want to swim for Australia. Maybe even at the Olympics - wouldn't that be cool?"

So here we were, in Hobart, poolside, for the Tasmanian Short Course Age Swimming Championships.

"Take your marks." Eight eleven-year-old girls bent down, holding the blocks. 'Bang!' The starter's gun was loud and they dived into the clear blue water.

The crowd erupted, as parents, family members and friends willed their children on. Jardene came out half a body length in front.

"Go, Jardi," I yelled, along with her mother, brother, grandfather and friends.

Stroke for stroke, arm over arm, the girls swam the race of their lives.

Jardene's tumble-turn was flawless; something she had worked on for months. She gained another half-body length.

My heart was in my throat. I swam each stroke, took each breath. At the seventy-five meter mark, the girl in lane five was pulling her back. Jardene got a new lease on life, put her head down and surged towards the wall. She had won! Our beautiful grand-daughter had achieved the first step of her dream. She looked at the screen; her personal best time by four seconds!!

She pulled the goggles off her face and waved to us. The whistle blew and the swimmers exited the pool.

My daughter and I went to the podium to watch Jardene receive the gold medal and be declared the State Champion. Cameras flashed; including ours, as I shed a tear (or two).

Over the weekend, we experienced this five times; each of her swims. Not only did she achieve her goal of winning all five swims in her age-group, she was also a major part of the relay teams, winning both the freestyle and individual medley relays. Seven gold medals in all.

Between races the girls sat together, chatting, braiding each others' hair; playing silly little games.

I asked Jardene why she wasn't wearing her medals. "I don't want to show off, Nan. The other girls train really hard too, and they are my friends. I don't want to look like I'm bragging." Her gentle brown eyes reflected the sincerity in her voice.

As I headed towards the exit for some fresh air (unless you have been inside an enclosed swimming pool with hundreds of spectators, you have no idea how hot and steamy it is up in the stands!), a mother from another swimming club and a close friend, called me over. We chatted, and she congratulated me on Jardene's achievements.

"Marijke, you and your daughter should be very proud of Jardene. Not only is she a talented swimmer, she is a beautiful young girl. Her reputation around the state is about her gentleness and kindness. She is loved by all."

Tears filled my eyes, and I thanked her for telling me that.

Yes, I am proud of my wonderful grand-daughter (and grand-son, he also swam well, but that is another story!).

I am proud and thrilled with her determination and success to-date, but more so, I am proud of her gentle nature. She didn't want her friends to feel she was better than them.

Jardene, my gentle, quiet champion, but more importantly, a loving and lovely young girl. I look forward to when she receives that trophy at the end of the year. But if she had not won a single race, she would still be a champion in my eyes. She will always be our "Golden Girl".

Or, as they say in Australian vernacular, "She's a good sport, Mate!"

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Australian English

734 words
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