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Later in June, the Greece buzz abruptly fizzled. A phone call from the head of U.S. Paralympics overruled the earlier plans at Trials. He told Beth all swimmers must stay the entire month of September in Athens. No exceptions. She handed me the phone at my request and I attempted to reason with him. When I hung up the phone, we hugged and cried. If only I could make things better, a wish I had made many times.
The phone call triggered a decision Beth had made months before.
She would not wait a full school year to start college at Harvard, so she immediately gave up her slot on the Athens team to someone else. The fun preparations ended, replaced with the chore of telling family, friends, and reporters the bad news. We tried to focus on the silver lining. Now, she could start at Harvard on time and attend freshman orientation.
Discouraged, Beth followed Peggy’s advice and set goals for the next four years. The plan included staying on the U.S. National Team, attending at least three Paralympic meets a year, and swimming on her own at Harvard, following Peggy’s workouts. Beth didn’t expect to practice with the college’s swim team. In four years, she did expect to master the forward freestyle and achieve an out of reach American Record in the 50 free, the hardest in the S3 women’s classification.
Beth’s detailed plan led up to an ultimate goal: the 2008 Paralympics in China as a member of Team USA.
The Beijing Paralympics would take place in September, a few months after her graduation from Harvard. She would attend graduate school for medical research or law.
“I’ve already decided to postpone grad school for a year,” Beth told a reporter in 2004. “Nothing’s going to stop me this time. I want to medal in China.”
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