SPLASH Magazine stories

By Bob Schaller

   
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20 Question Tuesday is a feature Bob Schaller writes weekly for USA Swimming's website every week since 2002 and can be seen online each Tuesday at USA Swimming.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Though she is atop the swimming world by anyone's standards, Natalie Coughlin would rather talk about anything outside of the pool rather than her life in the water. Read story

 

Peter Daland is counting coins. The man who wrote programs and guided some of the world's best swimmers is taking inventory as he refuses to slow down even now. Read story

 

Not everyone understands the mercurial Anthony Irvin. He came and went from the public scene as fast as he swam winning Olympic medals. That's just who he is. Read story

 

Erik Vendt has not changed one bit despite multi-Olympic appearances and multiple medal-winning performances. He still makes time for his friends -- but has time to talk. Read story

A Word on Holly  

(11/5/2004)

By Bob Schaller/Splash Online Extra
 

The chair summoned me and I fell gratefully into it.

I had been running and working out at the Olympic Training Center, and went by to check on some work at the USA Swimming building.

    
Holly Leonard was working at the front desk. I asked if the editor I was looking for was in. "Sure, you can go up and see her if you'd like," Holly said.

    
My body was saying no thanks. Holly was looking at me -- she had a way of smiling with her eyes. But I also knew that she was giving her all to fighting breast cancer. As she called up to page the person I was there to see, Holly looked at me.

    
"Really,'' she said, "you can just go upstairs."    

   
I wanted to sit and visit with Holly. She had been so brave. I had never lost a friend or loved one to cancer, or more specifically breast cancer. Holly fought cancer with both fists up high. Even as the tug of war drew her in, she still stayed as lucid as she was the day I met her years ago. The amazing thing about Holly was that unless you knew about it, you'd never have guessed that she was battling every day against an opponent that -- at the stage she was at -- was undefeated. Time was no longer on Holly's side. But she was always on our side. She was the kind word, the nice smile, the happy voice on the phone. She was a traffic cop. People passed her all the time and shared a thought or some gossip, and she always held herself so proud and with so much dignity that it seemed fitting she was the first thing anyone saw when they came into the USA Swimming office.

    
And that she stood toe to toe with the C-word until her last breath is more than an irony. She didn't blink staring down the barrel, and I have no idea where she got that strength for such a long fight. How she kept her chin up when, had it been me, my chin would've been bouncing off the floor.

    
We lost our friend Holly when the disease claimed her in the final round. My sadness, besides her loss -- and that for her loved ones -- is that even when I knew she had very advanced stages of the illness that I never for a minute thought that the last time I saw her would be the last time. She was Holly, for goodness sake.

    
So I think back to how tired I was that day when I fell back into the seat in the lobby, more for Holly's company than the rest itself. She had a peace about her despite the battle raging on within her body.

    
I probably should've bounded up the stairs when she waved me through. In fact, I should've been more appreciative that I have the health to be able to do the things that I take so often for granted. But I had stolen a few more precious minutes with a special person. The last minutes I will ever get from her, as it turns out. I will run an extra mile the next time. As it stands, I'm so grateful that woman was able to inspire me a final time. I think of all the tough people in swimming, and how much I admire what they accomplish. And it seems nothing but even more appropriate that Holly Leonard was literally at the center of USA Swimming for everyone who entered the building: She stands for what swimming is, from the hard work and courage to fighting a good fight until the very end.

    
People are always saying that things happen for a reason. I'm not sure I can intellectually wrap my arms around the ravages of war, cancer, death and so on. But I do honestly believe that Holly is in a better place.

    
Because that God, He gets all the good ones.

 

 

 

 

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