Today is National Swimming Pool Day, so here’s a story of a guy who had to get into the pool: Dick Roth, who won an Olympic gold medal while trying to fend off appendicitis!
This was at the 1964 Summer Games in Tokyo.
At 17, Roth was one of the youngest members of the American swimming team.
But he was no underdog: he had set world records in the men’s individual 200 and 400 meter medleys.
So he was in a good position to pick up some gold, as long as he was able to get into the pool.
And that turned out to be the tricky part.
The night after the opening ceremonies, Roth couldn’t get to sleep because he was having severe abdominal pain.
The medical team in the Olympic Village decided the situation was serious enough to send Roth to a U.S. military hospital.
The doctors there found that the pain in his midsection was appendicitis… and the treatment for appendicitis is removing the appendix.
They started prepping Roth for surgery, which would have been the end of Dick Roth’s Summer Olympics.
The swimmer told the doctors and his parents that he simply wasn’t going to come all the way to Tokyo not to swim.
Medically, you could call this a risky move, but it’s the one Roth made.
He did agree to regular blood tests and to not do any exercise outside of the actual races.
Because he couldn’t practice, Roth said he visualized the race, swimming in his mind, over and over, until he could get into the pool.
It paid off: while his qualifying race was painful and slower than usual, Roth pushed through the pain to not only win gold in the finals but to set another world record.
Needless to say, he did get his appendix removed.
And, because of its unusual place in Olympic history, Roth decided to donate it to the International Swimming Hall of Fame.
Today in 1959, the birthday of singer-songwriter Suzanne Vega.
One of her best-known songs is “Tom’s Diner,” about her real-life visit to Tom’s Restaurant in New York City.
Actually it’s about several days, but some of Vega’s fans once parsed through the lyrics about the weather and newspaper articles to pinpoint the exact date that she sat in the cafe and read the paper: November 18, 1981.
“Tom’s Diner Day” November 18th, 1981 (SuzanneVega.com via Archive.ph)