Tuesday, May 24

Viewer Guilt: SI’s Pat Forde is delighted to see his daughter Brooke swim at the Olympics, wishes he had company

Anyone who has covered the Olympics or the World Cup or, in the past, football games at Notre Dame’s home, understands that there may be more cheers in the press box than is designed to happen. Some reporters have a hard time containing their patriotism, so to speak. Pat Forde is not someone who engages in such behavior and understands very well that this would not be an ideal look for someone with his remarkable resume: US Basketball Writers Hall of Fame, APSE Award Winner, National College Sports Writer for ESPN and Yahoo ! and now among Sports Illustrated’s most prominent writers.

So on those occasions when her daughter Brooke Forde was scheduled to swim last month at the United States Olympic Trials, she put down her press credential and sat in the bleachers of the Chi Health Center in Omaha with her wife, Tricia. and various family and friends from Stanford, where Brooke became an NCAA champion and earned a bachelor’s degree in human biology. Everything worked perfectly for a week that ended with Brooke winning a spot in the 4×200 meter relay at the Games of the XXXII Olympiad.

However, this methodology will not be available to Forde at the Tokyo Games, which will cover for SI, his seventh Summer Olympics assignment dating back to 1992. Because he has credentials as a journalist, he can watch his daughter compete. as an Olympian. in person. It will be the swimmers in the pool, the reporters in the press line and the team that will put it all on television. But those with press credentials will almost certainly have to stay in the areas of the Olympic Aquatic Center designated for the media.

“I’ve been thinking about it. It has always been easy in other situations to literally leave the press line and stand up, and then I was able to cheer, “Forde told Sporting News. “But I don’t think I’m allowed to do that. There will be no one else in the place, I don’t think. But they don’t want you to yell anyway. Because they think that could transmit disease.

“When they were still going to have fans, they said that: they were asking people not to cheer. So if I open my mouth, I don’t know: Am I going to lose my credential? I dont know! I haven’t crossed that bridge yet and I’m not sure how to process it. “

Forde has a lot to consider about being one of the few parents of American athletes who attend these Games.

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The US Olympic Committee designed a kind of great virtual observing party for family members at Universal Orlando, where those with the deepest connections to US Olympians can experience the thrill of the victory, or the agony of defeat, among others who understand. Each athlete has two guests that they can invite to the event. Pat’s son Mitchell, who swam to Missouri, will attend with her fiancé. Tricia will see him in Louisville, with family and friends gathered at her sister’s house.

Virtually every member of the family with an athlete in the olympic pool will be somewhere in the United States, except Peter Andrew, father of 100-meter breaststroke ace Michael, who is one of eight assistant coaches on the USA Swimming staff. And, of course, Forde.

“I feel incredibly lucky,” Forde said, “but there is also something akin to survivor guilt. It’s like: Why am I the one leaving? Especially my wife, Tricia, was a swimmer. She really got the kids into the pool first, and she was also the one who got up at 4:05 a.m. and made breakfast for them much more often than I did, and brought them to 5 a.m. practice more often. that I. She put a lot of effort into this, and she can’t go. And I feel really bad for her.

“I feel bad for Brooke’s brothers, who were swimmers their entire lives, and they can’t go. But also all the others. Simone Biles’s family cannot go. And Katie Ledecky, Caleb Dressel, all the stars on the runway, and Kevin Durant. It’s kind of overwhelming to think that I can leave.

“I think: Hey, our profession occasionally has its advantages. But I never imagined it would be something like this. “

Forde’s career has been built around his college football and basketball experience gained during his early years covering the Kentucky Wildcats for The Courier-Journal of Louisville, and then with those two sports in focus as one of two sports columnists for that newspaper. He moved to ESPN in 2004, then to Yahoo! seven years later. During that period, when Mitchell became a state champion and was drafted by Pat’s alma mater, when Clayton became a qualifier for the NCAA championships in Georgia in 2019-20 and Brooke surpassed everyone with her times and accomplishments. At Stanford, Pat began to excel covering Olympic swimming. .

So when he was hired by Sports Illustrated in the fall of 2019, it was with the understanding that he would cover the Tokyo Olympics, with an emphasis on swimming competition. “I was sure,” Forde said. “My daughter was not.”

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No one knew then, of course, that there would be substantial doubts as to whether these Games would take place. The International Olympic Committee and Japan agreed last April, a month after the COVID1-9 pandemic was declared, to postpone the Games until this month. That had an impact on Brooke’s hope of being a part of Team USA.

In July 2018, he swam 4: 35.09 in the 400-meter individual medley, his best individual race, at the time one of the 10 fastest times in U.S. history. Almost three years after that peak, she finished sixth in testing with 4: 38.69. Only the first two were guaranteed places.

He still had a chance to make the team though, if he could finish high enough in the 200m freestyle due to the relay event at that distance, and if the right mix of swimmers qualified for multiple events to keep the place in place. the list available. . Brooke’s sixth place in that race, a quarter of a second faster than Gabby DeLoof, proved to be enough to make the team.

“The end result was incredibly exciting and rewarding, just to see the expression on her face, how excited and happy she was. It kind of made it all worthwhile, ”Forde said. “Look, everyone in the country was going through great difficulties in various shapes and forms. His was very acute because it was tied to a specific moment in his life when he had the opportunity to try to fulfill a lifelong dream. During 15 months there, there was a lot of struggle, heartache, and difficulty that he was able to overcome, not easily, but with the help of his coaches and peers and classmates at Stanford and many other people.

“The Olympic Trials themselves were incredibly exciting. Every day, I would walk from the hotel to the pool thinking, ‘I can’t believe my son is not just here, but has a chance.’ That was just this wonderful feeling. But then the stress and the tension that went with it were considerable. “

One device that helped, believe it or not: Twitter. Forde was filled with congratulations on his Account @ByPatForde like Brooke he swam the 400IM and then the 200 for free, largely from his colleagues in the sports journalism business, but also among those who follow him.

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When I finish her essay on Brooke’s search for that precious spot on the Olympic team was a favorite 5,800 times and generated comments from college football analyst Mike Golic, NBC swim commentator Dan Hicks and former NC State athletic director Debbie Yow.

“It means a lot. It was incredibly rewarding. It was so nice that so many people came up and said, ‘Hey, congratulations,'” said Pat. “I can’t count how many writers I’ve bored in media workrooms with stories. about my kids swimming or watching videos on the laptop when they were swimming during the NCAA basketball championship It has been very nice of people to respond like that.

Sports writers get a bad rap, deservedly sometimes, but there are a lot of nice people in the profession. I certainly felt it big. “

When Forde and I spoke, it was before he left for Japan. He was traveling to Lexington, more than an hour from his home, for a COVID-19 test. Now, they certainly have such tests in Louisville, but the Japanese consulate only recognizes one test site in the state of Kentucky. Good news: it happened.

There were still hours of protocols to follow when arriving in Tokyo. It is always a challenge to travel to these major international events, but obviously this is a different level.

There is no press village for these Olympics, so Forde will be staying at a hotel with the other SI assigned staff members. It is not known if he will get a chance to see Brooke in person. There is supposed to be a kind of mixed zone for journalists to interview athletes. The athletes’ village will be “extremely closed,” Forde said.

However, Pat will see Brooke when she enters the pool on Wednesday for the preliminary rounds of the 4×200 relay on the morning of July 28. When the race starts, he will record the team’s divisions, something he regularly does to help him stay calm. and focused. He hopes to ask a close sports reporter friend to record a video of the scene using a mobile phone.

Pat doesn’t know if Brooke will search for him in the audience before the event starts. Most of the time, she doesn’t, preferring to focus on the race. He will greet her, anyway.

This time, however, it might be worth Brooke taking a look.

Because it shouldn’t be a problem locating his father.


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