While you sit there drinking your orange juice and getting nauseous over the scrambled eggs running inexorably off your plate onto the floor, the coach of the Harvard women's swim team is sitting down to dinner somewhere in Leningrad.
That's right, Stephanie Walsh is in Russia. No, she's not there recruiting Soviet swimmers for her team. She's there as the assistant manager of a U.S. swim team competing this week in the International Newspaper Swim Meet, sponsored by the Soviet Communist Party newspaper Pravda.
The five-day meet will run through March 25 and features swimmers from the United States and ten Eastern European countries--and Stephanie Walsh will be a part of it all.
The position of assistant manager may sound trivial, but don't jump to conclusions. Even to be considered for such a position on an international trip, one must have a great deal of swimming experience and be closely involved with the AAU swimming program.
It All Started at Four
Well, you want to talk about experience and involvement, so let's talk about "Steffie," as Walsh is known to her friends--you'll see why she got the job.
At age four, Walsh kicked-off her career by learning how to swim. At age seven she began swimming competitively and three years later she started swimming year-round.
The oldest of 15 children, Walsh got her first serious swimming experience with the Vesper Boat Club in Philadelphia. Under the tutelage of her coach, Mary Freeman Kelly, Walsh accumulated a long list of accolades.
Eight times in national meets she finished in the top six in butterfly events. Six times, she ranked in the top 20 in the world for women in either the 400-meter individual medley, or the 100-or 200-meter butterfly. Walsh's best ranking came in 1966 when she was listed eighth in the world in the 200-meter butterfly.
But swimmers do not continue to swim competitively forever. The exhausting regimen, which involves swimming 10,000-15,000 yards a day is rigorous for anyone. So after training year-round for 11 of her 21 years, Walsh retired from this taxing routine.
"I was 21, and I wanted to start coaching. But you cannot coach and be paid for it while still swimming in amateur meets, so I gave up the competition," Walsh said yesterday. "But I love swimming, and I have continued to swim."
However, she now swims a closer-to-mortal 10,000 yards a week.
In 1975, Walsh applied for the job she now holds and topped a list of approximately 75 applicants. She recalled yesterday that she accepted the position with confidence that she could "do a really good job."
In addition to coaching here, Walsh has maintained her ties with the AAU, working occasionally as an official and scorer for the organization. And she said she has higher aspirations in the world of swimming.