With the opening ceremonies for the 2012 Olympics on July 27, families are getting ready to huddle around the TV. One enthusiastic viewer: Swimmer Wendy Boglioli, 57, who won gold and bronze medals at the 1976 Games in Montreal and then became the first female swimming coach at Yale.
Today the fit grandmother is an inspirational speaker and a Genworth Financial spokesman, who talks about living "financially sound and physically strong." She also appears in the swimming episode of the BBC documentary series "Faster Higher Stronger: Stories of the Olympic Games," which will air on PBS next month. Here Boglioli chats with FamilyGoesStrong.com about families and the Olympics. Excerpts:
Do you still watch the Olympics?
I love watching the Olympics. That never fades away. I grew up with that sense that the Olympics are the greatest physical event in the world. That was engrained in me as a very young kid... I can't get enough of it. I love how NBC does the profiles. You really get a sense of who these athletes are, so when they go up on the block, you know what they've gone through.
Why does everyone like the Olympics so much?
People look for inspiration every single day. They watch it because they want to see greatness. They want to aspire to something. The selection [also] makes it really intriguing for people.
What can regular people learn from the Olympics?
There are things you can't control. Sometimes it's bad luck or good luck. All of those components are life components. Sport mirrors life. I always look at it as what can my child aspire to be. The Olympics is just a metaphor for life. It could be playing the piano. It could be the best in school. It could just be being a really incredible human being for yourself, for your family, for others. Those are the life lessons.
Can you talk about your parents, who coached you until you were 18?
I'm one of seven kids. Somehow my parents saw in me the discipline, the focus. There were a lot more talented swimmers out there. The difference is [some people] really want it and have a passion for it. Business is the same thing. It's hard work every single day. My parents were my coaches until I was 18, and then I went off to New Jersey, met a coach there, met my husband, made the Olympic team at 21. [She won a gold medal in the 4x100 freestyle relay, with teammates Kim Peyton, Jill Sterkel, and Shirley Babashoff, and a bronze in the 100-meter butterfly. It was the only gold for U.S. women's swimmers in an Olympics dominated by the East German women.]
What is different these days?
So much has changed. The bathing suits are better. The strokes have changed. The turns have changed.
Do you still keep in touch with the other Olympic swimmers?
We were just together at the Olympic trials last month. We try to go every four years and get together. That's always great fun. Swimmers are honestly, person for person, the most fit group of athletes out there today. It's a sport they can still do. There are very few sports that can give you that at all ages.
For more stories about the 2012 Olympics, read: