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The Right Stuff
on November 25, 2001
At long last, an up close and personal look at USA elite swimmers. Mr. Mullen tells an engrossing tale of the odyssey of four young men striving for berths on the Olympic team, Australia 2000. Most Americans are unaware of the depth, strength and long tradition of the USA's predominance in Olympic swimming. US teams are so strong that unfortunately, we have to leave at home as many deserving finalists as those who go. Only two representatives of each individual swimming event are allowed for each country. (It used to be three, but the powers that be were tired of the US taking gold, silver and bronze in every event.)
The lead actors are All-American Tom Wilkens, multi-faceted Kurt Grote and everyone's dream or nightmare of a coach, Dick Jochums. Supporting roles showcase super controlled Dod Wales, son of an acclaimed Olympic swimmer, and burn out Tate Blahnik who has it all, but is tired to death of competitive swimming. The author follows these magical four for eighteen months culminating in the 2000 Olympics. The front cover calls these four "ordinary men." I strongly disagree; they are unique and extraordinary athletes. Tom Wilkens, in particular, grabbed my attention, affection, and awe.
This book is a page-turner; I read it in one sitting. It is not just for swimming aficionados, but also for anyone who likes to read about what it takes to become a champion and the inevitable burdens on the strength and psyche of the contenders. A glossary of terms would have been helpful, but the author is masterful in his explanations. As a parent of a former age group swimmer, I can attest that this is no puff piece; Mr. Mullen tells it like it is.