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July 31, 2012 4:54 PM   Subscribe

How A Career Ends: Nancy Hogshead-Makar, Olympic Swimming Gold Medalist

Tell Me When It's Over is an interview series in which former athletes are asked about the moment they knew their playing days were over. Nancy Hogshead-Makar talks about the beginning of her swimming career, the rape that derailed it, and competing in (and boycotting) the Olympics.
posted by The Hamms Bear (32 comments total) 42 users marked this as a favorite
The first link goes directly to the article, the second goes to the most recent Tell Me When It's Over article with previous installments in the sidebar.
posted by The Hamms Bear at 4:54 PM on July 31, 2012

Compelling reading. Might benefit from a "trigger" warning.
posted by Egg Shen at 4:58 PM on July 31, 2012 [6 favorites]

(above the fold, I mean)
posted by Egg Shen at 4:58 PM on July 31, 2012

Tell Me When It's Over is an interview series in which we ask former athletes about the moment they knew their playing days were over.

what? jesus
posted by Riki tiki at 4:59 PM on July 31, 2012

There should really be a trigger warning there on that first link, but gosh what a story. The things people have to deal with, as if being a world-class athlete isn't hard enough.
posted by zachlipton at 5:06 PM on July 31, 2012 [1 favorite]

My coach calls me up and says, "Listen, If you want to keep your scholarship"—by the way, he's totally devious here —he said, "If you want your scholarship, all you have to do is show up for the meets. Don't do anything else. Just show up. You don't have to come to a single practice. You don't have to warm up. Just show up at the meet."

Well, I was unhappy with how the first warmup went. I didn't think I was in good enough shape for the first warmup, but I won all my events, OK? And so before the second time I thought, I'll just go to a few workouts, you know. And then slowly, but surely...

He was just so spot on. So then, sure enough, I'm now going to two workouts a day. I'm lifting weights and I totally get the hunger in a big, big way and my time was the third-fastest in the country. It wasn't like the end-of-the-year time, which would be much faster, but I was really psyched that I could go that fast and do that well with just the amount of training that I had had.

This is an ingenious coach!
posted by zachlipton at 5:17 PM on July 31, 2012 [5 favorites]

This article is framed very oddly. Her rape may have derailed her career, but she went on to win 4 medals in the next Olympics. If anything - her career ended when her parents said they weren't paying for it anymore.

After 1984 my dad, my parents said, "We're not paying for it anymore." And there's no professional at this point. You pretty much couldn't do anything back in 1984. So I didn't quit because I wasn't getting better. I didn't retire for any other reason than lack of opportunity to continue to keep going.
posted by sawdustbear at 5:17 PM on July 31, 2012 [7 favorites]

What an amazing woman. The headline is so wrong for the article that follows.
posted by Wordwoman at 6:00 PM on July 31, 2012 [1 favorite]

Great interview of Hogshead-Makar talking about her pregnancies linked here, includes an amazing photo and the following quote: And by the way, I hold the record of the most baby-weight from my high-risk OB at 15 pounds. That's right, I had more baby than the octa-mom. Not that records are important to me or anything...
posted by dancestoblue at 6:01 PM on July 31, 2012 [13 favorites]

Wow. I've never heard of her but that was really interesting, she sounds like a pretty impressive person.
posted by jacalata at 6:02 PM on July 31, 2012 [2 favorites]

Oh my god. I clicked from the main page, and was totally engrossed in her story of being an excellent swimmer, and then BAM RAPE. like being punched in the stomach. This is very timely, and another example of why women tend to be wary of men. She wasn't a runner, but she was in excellent physical condition. And she got raped.
posted by Baethan at 6:23 PM on July 31, 2012 [2 favorites]

Truly amazing story. I have never even heard of a story where someone could say this: Today, I don't want to be somebody who wasn't raped. And I believe her!

Wow, this story really affected me and I'm still processing. To be able to turn something like that into a positive - well, if she can do that, then anything is possible. Thank you so much for sharing, The Hamms Bear.
posted by widdershins at 6:35 PM on July 31, 2012 [8 favorites]

what an incredibly strong and optimistic person. i really loved reading that.
posted by facetious at 6:42 PM on July 31, 2012 [1 favorite]

Holy shit:

I used to miss about two swim practices a year. I made sure I did not get sick by eating healthy, by getting enough rest. In between workouts I did 300 sit-ups and 200 push-ups every single day, and I rested getting ready for the next practice. I had never had a job. My teammates would go body surfing. One time I went body surfing and it made me so sore—I'm already sort of pushing it right to the max—it made me so sore that I didn't swim well in practice for the next couple days, so I didn't do it anymore. If I drove the car for more than an hour, I would not swim as fast in practice. If I had more than a half a cup of coffee, I would swim fast for that practice but the next practice would suffer. Everything from when I did my laundry to what positions I sat in when I was reading, how I studied. Everything was related to doing a little bit better at that next practice. Everything.
posted by KokuRyu at 6:46 PM on July 31, 2012 [4 favorites]

Holy shit:

Ha, I can totally relate to that. I recall a training partner describe it thusly: I'm either running or lying on the couch thanking Christ that I'm not fucking running.

I never rode my bike for transportation because it made me sore. I went skiing once a year 'cause my girlfriend liked it and it stressed me out the whole time. My coach would have killed me had he known. Driving in the car - my hips would get so sore from sitting down that I'd have to ball my fists and sit on them, pushing them under the attachment points of the hamstring. Same with flights. I couldn't sleep on my belly - it hurt my back.
posted by jimmythefish at 6:55 PM on July 31, 2012 [1 favorite]

Really good interview of Dave Duerson, three months before he took his life. I'm not too much a big sports fan, didn't know anything about the man but damn, do I ever respect him now -- what a great person. His immediately holding his hand out to Buddy Ryan, as a matter of course, regardless Ryan having treated him so poorly -- what a great human being. Dignity times fifteen,one hell of a man.
posted by dancestoblue at 7:04 PM on July 31, 2012

In my six years at Duke, I walked by that place with the evergreen trees between the two campuses many times. I had no idea what had happened there. Durham is a very different place now than it was in the 1980s, and I always felt very safe, but now I feel like I saw a ghost.
posted by hydropsyche at 7:25 PM on July 31, 2012 [2 favorites]

What an absolutely amazing essay. Thank-you for sharing it.
posted by docpops at 8:01 PM on July 31, 2012 [1 favorite]

Asking along with others for the mods to edit the above-the-fold with a trigger warning, please. Too late now for some, but not for others.
posted by tzikeh at 8:01 PM on July 31, 2012

Mod note: Folks, the trigger warning thing is not standard practice on mefi and not something we are going to unilaterally insert into someone's post barring their very direct and explicit request. I know this is a point of contention for folks accustomed to other sorts of community cultures, but if folks need to talk about it the place to do that is Metatalk.
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:16 PM on July 31, 2012 [22 favorites]

One of the best essays I ever read. Thank you, The Hamms Bear, for bringing it to our attention. It is good to recognize that before Title IX women were right out of sports and there were a lot of people who worked really hard so that women can compete today as they do. This woman is a champion in every sense of the word.
posted by Anitanola at 8:20 PM on July 31, 2012 [4 favorites]

The idea that women stopped getting better and their bodies fell apart at 18 is so weird to me. I've literally never heard that before and I'm interested in knowing if that was a US thing? Certainly my grandmothers and great aunts (European) did NOT subscribe to this belief and I had many athletic older female role models (people born 1930-50). As a young athlete I got a different talk: "you'll be better in your 20s anyway, make sure to finish school and not over train as a teenager".

It makes me very glad that some women stood up and said that was bull and fought it.
posted by fshgrl at 9:14 PM on July 31, 2012 [4 favorites]

Thank you The Hamms Bear for this meaningful and unexpectedly uplifting post. It's an unforgettable piece of writing.

Recently read this Reddit thread, Reddit, are you aware how dangerous the ask-a-rapist thread is?, in which a psychiatrist talks about a rapist's motivation:

* Many rapists typically need a victim who knows they are being victimized.
* This victim is the rapist's audience. This is crucial.
* The audience gives the rapist pleasure, euphoric delight from unfettered, witnessed suffering. That euphoria is intense and is possibly driven by the same neurobiology involved in a drug high.

Reading Nancy Hogshead's description of what she experienced and realized made even greater sense knowing that.

You know, MetaFilter never ceases to amaze me. I didn't expect to come here in the middle of a sleepless night and be dazzled with Nancy Hogshead-Makar's heroic and deep honesty, her spiritual depth, her extraordinary determination and ability to be focused, her transformation of the agony of being raped into such transcendence.

She has my utmost respect.
posted by nickyskye at 1:38 AM on August 1, 2012 [6 favorites]

That was fantastic. And as someone who's trying to become a better (or at least tolerably good) swimmer, blah blah blah triathlon, my holy shit moment came at:

And so I went home, and then the first real practice I couldn't swim two miles [laughs]. I remember thinking, Maybe I should rethink this decision, because in the hard part of the season you're swimming about 14 miles. You're swimming more than a mile just to warm up.

Dude. DUDE. I would rather try to run 100 miles on no sleep than have to swim 14 miles of laps, in a pool, in one day.
posted by psoas at 6:44 AM on August 1, 2012

Yeah, I knew (from watching the Olympic coverage) that swimmers put in tons of hours in the pool, but this was a revelation for me too. I'm moving into triathlon training, and I'm happy to do 1 km as my workout. And she was doing 3.5 km as her warmup. 14 miles of laps, that's 224 laps, 448 lengths, that is crazy. I get bored biking more than 30 or 40 miles, I can't imagine the repetitive nature of doing 200+ laps every single day.

jimmythefish: "I'm either running or lying on the couch thanking Christ that I'm not fucking running."

I do this too, and I only run recreationally.
posted by I am the Walrus at 6:55 AM on August 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

That was incredible.

This article is framed very oddly. Her rape may have derailed her career, but she went on to win 4 medals in the next Olympics. If anything - her career ended when her parents said they weren't paying for it anymore.

What? Seriously, I don't understand your objection at all, including what it's an objection to. In the first place, this is her talking about her athletic life, so it's her framing. In the second place, and this might shock you, the emotional import of events may occlude the practical import of other events. Her understanding, as the person doing the swimming, of what the most important influences on her career are is more important than yours. In the third place, I don't think that either she or the "framing" actually claim that her rape ended her swimming career, in whole or even really in part.

Can you explain more about what your objection is?
posted by OmieWise at 7:59 AM on August 1, 2012 [2 favorites]

Also, this is quite incredible:
So the next year I left home to go train for the 1980 Olympics. And I really thought that was going to be the total of my athletic career, the 1980 Olympics. That would be the end. Title IX had not taken off yet, so I didn't know any women who were competing in college or who had full scholarships. I was not a Billie Jean King. I didn't see what was going on and say, Hey, why aren't girls getting scholarships? I was repeating the conventional wisdom that women's bodies give out around 18, and women stop getting better, and so women quit after their high school careers. That was the conventional wisdom. That was why women didn't compete in college.
Best butterfly swimmer in the world, and but for Title IX, her career was going to end. All those people who say it doesn't make a difference and hurts male athletics. Of course there was no women's marathon in the Olympics until 1984.
posted by OmieWise at 11:42 AM on August 1, 2012 [3 favorites]

Loved this article, especially bc I remember her name from the '84 Olympics! And what an inspiration, turning a rape into a positive thing, that it's part of what made her who she is today.

As for women petering out by age 18, only bc Hogshead mentioned it in her essay, did I remember hearing that sentiment, too. Thank goodness times have changed!
posted by Pocahontas at 11:56 AM on August 1, 2012

I was reminded of this article on Beijing Olympics medalist Becca Ward, who chose to not try out for U.S. fencing team for the London Olympics, instead opting to finish out her final year in college: "Honestly, I didn’t want to be a fencer, to just be a fencer ..."
posted by research monkey at 8:59 AM on August 2, 2012

She sounds awesome, as does her coach. Glad she came back and kicked ass.

I do find it horrifying that a woman who is literally described as being someone you wouldn't want to run in to in a dark alley, well...had this happen to her and she couldn't fight it off, though. I don't say this to blame her or anything, but it's more like "damn, if she can't fight one of those assholes off, then who among us could?" Sigh. I guess it all boils down to size and circumstances, though.
posted by jenfullmoon at 8:06 PM on August 2, 2012

Nancy Hogshead-Makar was a guest on the Kojo Nnamdi show today (8/9/2012). The show was generally about women in athletics, so it wasn't specifically about her experience, but she talked about her experience quite a bit.
posted by OmieWise at 5:09 PM on August 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

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