Swimmer Overcomes Knee Injury

Maureen Gildea

"I was drydocked." That's the way the puts it. The navy brat, turned high school All American, turned Harvard swimming captain seems to have a cheerful way of saying everything. But, then, one must remember, Maureen Gildea has reason to be happy. She is near the end of a long, hard road back to health.

"It happened tow weeks before, Olympic trials in the summer of 1980. I was jogging. I stopped off a curb and into a pothole. My knee were one way and I went the other," Gildea remembers.

It was no ordinary summer jogger felled that day, but a national-caliber swimmer. Nor was this any ordinary jogger's injury.

Gildea was referred to Dr. Arthur Boland, Harvard's head surgeon for athletics, who reconstructed her knee by inserting a staple to repair torn tissue. Despite intense pain, Gilder worked out three times a week her sophomore year to get back into the water.

Money in the Bank


"I see it like this. Before you can write a check, you have to put money in the Bank. So I put in my hours at the pool," she says.

Her swimming and extensive physical therapy brought her all the way back to the 1980 Ivy League Championships. There she qualified for Easterns, but luck was against her. At the Eastern, she reinjured her knee doing a flip-turn but still managed to finish her race and qualify for the National Championships.

"I had a choice to make. I could swim Nationals and risk injuring my knee severely, or I could come back slowly," Gildea says.

She opted against swimming in the Nationals and underwent exploratory surgery around Christmas of 1980, when Boland found that her kneecap had been badly worn away. Since then, Maureen has not competed, a superb athlete sidelined by a hole in the road.

Maureen has lived her whole life in and around the water. She led the nomadic life of a naval officer's child and says. "I come from a swimming family, and when I was found, I was toted to all of my [two] brothers' meets so I naturally started splashing around myself."

Serious Splashing

Gildea's swimming became progressively more serious, and by her junior year she had grabbed All-American honors and made the California state finals in the 200-yd. and 500-yd. freestyle events.

The next year--after yet mother move--Maureen qualified for the National AAU Championships in the swimmer's equivalent of a mile the 1650-yd. freestyle event In 1979, she finished ninth in the country with a lifetime best of 16:30, and won the district, regional, and Virginia state championships.

Not surprisingly, Maureen was recruited heavily by many powerful swimming schools. But after a talk with then-women's coach Stephanie Walsh, she decided on Harvard.

And those involved with Harvard women's swimming were glad she did when Maureen qualified for Easterns and Nationals as a freshman.