Swimming Past the Youngsters
Even the most fervent swimming trivia fan would have difficulty placing the name of Wendy Lansbach of Land of Lakes. Wisc. Wendy Lansbach, however, is a former Olympic gold medalist and was the first woman ever to set an American record at an Association of Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW) championship. But first, she had to become Wendy Boglioli.
Today, tall, blonde and very chic, Boglioli looks more like a successful young woman executive at E.F. Hutton than the assistant coach of an Ivy League collegiate swim team. Yet, for more than 20 years the deck strewn with kickboards, buoys and discarded swim caps and the cool water of innumerable pools have been home to Boglioli.
"I will always be a part of swimming somehow, some way," Boglioli states emphatically. Indeed, to the woman who competed her final time in the Nationals at Irvine, Calif.. last summer at the age of 25, the call of the chlorine has proved irresistible.
Boglioli is something of a pioneer in this day of superstar swimming adolescents. In a sport where the 'good quit young,' many older female swimmers testify to the inspiration of Boglioli's numerous swimming achievements--captured while she was married and in her twenties.
Boglioli's career has not been a continuous one. After eight years of active competition, she retired from swimming in 1974, leaving the squad at Monmouth College in New Jersey to marry Bernie Boglioli, then the assistant coach of Central Jersey Aquatic Club.
At a time when women swimmers did not lift weights and collegiate nationals carried little prestige. Boglioli, encouraged by her husband, lost 40 lbs. and returned to competition with a sensational record-setting performance at the 1976 AIAW championship. Her star reached its zenith when she captured the bronze medal in the 100-meter fly at the Montreal Olympics and swam on the gold-metal-winning 400-meter Free Relay at age 21--the oldest member of the women's swim team.
Boglioli has never been one to stand by passively and let convention dictate her actions. Not only did she win in the national-level competition consistently while in her twenties, but at the 1979 shortcourse nationals. Boglioli swam during her fourth month of pregnancy. Downplaying her performance at Monterey Park. Calif.. which included a 53.8 100 free and a 59.2 100 fly. Boglioli says. "They (Central Jersey Aquatic Club) needed help on relays: that's why I swam."
A woman who has achieved what to many swimmers seems the impossible. Boglioli says. "I can't help believing it's more mental than physical." She adds about the early mortality of female swimmers. "They quit because they're tired of training five hours a day, six days a week."
Every swimmer who lasts through the grueling miles, the bleary stinging eyes and the ripped suits, develops some type of basic philosophy, Boglioli is no exception. "I love to win and hate to lose. I look at coaching the same way," she says with conviction.
Now an assistant coach at Yale. Boglioli has not, however, resigned her role of swimming pioneer. She enjoys tackling the challenges of her profession--one whose unorthodox hours and high rate of divorce often discourages women.
"I really enjoy it. When I swam I never really thought about what I had to do. I just got in and did it. As a coach I live and die with 30 people," says Boglioli.
But Boglioli admits it has been difficult and that she's fortunate in being able to co-coach the Yale swim teams with her husband. "Many times I've had to put my daughter [Bonny, aged two] second--which I really hate to do."
And the next generation of Boglioli swimmers? "I'll let Bonny do whatever she wants." Boglioli says of the daughter, who learned to swim at three weeks. She laughingly adds. "It's enough for me to know that if she-fell in the pool she could save herself."
Once upon a time people in the world of swimming believed there were certain things married women didn't do. But along came a woman named Boglioli and she hadn't heard these simple facts. So Boglioli went ahead and swam when she was married and swam well. And as long as people in the swimming world keep believing there are certain things married women simply can't do. Boglioli, with her easy-going confidence, will keep on doing them.