Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Dawn Takes Grease Out Of Your Way

The recent headlines about Olympic swimming champion Dawn Fraser attacking an intruder at her home gave me a chuckle (Sky News and the HeraldSun website have a good report and video). She is one tough Aussie!

Her actions, and specifically her self-defence method, spark memories of Sting, The Police and their line about "A humiliating kick in the crotch."

Also reminds me of a Fraser story from Australia just nine years ago.

During the weeks before the Sydney 2000 Olympic Opening Ceremony, I was on assignment as a Sydney Games volunteer in their fabulous Olympic Village.

By day, my assignment was to stand in the "official Olympic Village library" (yes, they had one set up ... the thought being that athletes might want to unwind by curling up with a good book) and check badges/get athlete signatures to ensure each Olympian received only one "Olympic Village gift bag" per customer.

Funny how the official log page with Monica Seles' signature (she was a bronze medalist in Tennis at Sydney) disappeared after she signed for her bag.

When off duty from gift bag distribution, there was a bit of time to explore the Village, which was so expansive (new condos and duplexes turned into residential properties after the Games), they had a bus and cart system to help folks get around. If I wasn't in one of the Village rec rooms, or the athlete spa, usually I made time to trade pins or visit with athletes wherever possible.

One one day, after my shift ended, there I was, trading pins with a couple of young Australian female fencers on the Village bus system (we were at the far end of the Village in the Residential Zone, with several minutes of bus ride ahead of us), when to our mutual surprise and delight, Ms. Fraser boarded the bus!

The two Aussie fencers and the local bus driver were beside themselves. I have to admit being awestruck as well. Dawn Fraser seemed larger than life, even as an "elder stateswoman" of sport. She was very friendly, approachable, gregarious and appreciative of our impromptu gasps and "welcome" to the Village bus ride.

Fraser explained to us she was in the Village for some sort of official duties, but when those duties were complete, she went off exploring the Village on her own to see what it was really like.

On the bus, she made time to speak 1x1 with each of the two fencers, counseling them to cherish and savour their Olympic experiences. Fraser even suggested to them, "don't get in trouble like I did" (referencing her Village and other escapades at the Tokyo Olympiad in 1964).

At that time in my life, I was not eager to pursue autographs from athletes (my camera on that trip sucked, too, so no photos) -- instead, we invited Fraser into the completion of our fencing pin trade (Fraser gave me a nice Sydney pin from her pocket; I'd like to think I gave her a pin in return, but honestly cannot recall if I did as I was dumbfounded by the luck of meeting Australia's most honored Olympian!). And then we arrived at the final Village bus stop back in the International Zone, said goodnight and parted ways.

Seeing Fraser's face in the news this week brought it all back. Her birthday is on Friday, September 4 (she turns 72). Shame on that would-be burglar for trying to steal from Dawn Fraser, and bravo for her bravura response to his actions.

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