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Spectator’s guilt: SI’s Pat Forde thrilled to see his daughter Brooke swim at the Olympics, wishes he had company

Anyone who covered the Olympics or the World Cup or, at the time, Notre Dame’s home football games, understands that there may be more cheering in the press gallery than expected. Some journalists find it difficult to contain their patriotism, so to speak. Pat Forde is not one to behave like that and understands full well that it wouldn’t be an ideal look for someone with his remarkable CV: US Basketball Writers Hall of Fame, APSE Award Winner, National College Sports Writer for ESPN and Yahoo! and now one of Sports Illustrated’s most prominent writers.

So, on those occasions when Brooke Forde, his daughter, was due to swim last month at the Olympic trials in the United States, he put aside his press card and took a seat in the stands of the Chi Health Center in Omaha with his. wife, Tricia, and several family and friends from Stanford, where Brooke became an NCAA champion and earned a degree in human biology. Everything worked out wonderfully over the course of a week that ended with a spot for Brooke in the 4×200-meter relay at the Games of the XXXII Olympiad.

This methodology, however, will not be available for Forde at the Tokyo Games, which he will cover for SI, his seventh summer Olympics assignment dating back to 1992. Because he is accredited as a journalist, he can watch his daughter. compete as an Olympian. in person. It will be the swimmers in the pool, the online journalists and the team who will be showing it all on TV. But it is almost certain that those with a press card will have to stay in the areas of the Olympic Aquatic Center reserved for the media.

“I thought about it. It was always easy in other situations to literally leave the press line and stand, and then I could clap, ”Forde told Sporting News. “But I don’t think I’ll be allowed to do this. There won’t be anyone else in the room, I don’t think so. But they don’t want you to scream, anyway. Because they think it could transmit disease.

“When they were going to have fans again, they would say this: they would ask people not to really applaud them. So if I open my mouth I don’t know: am I going to lose my accreditation? I don’t know! haven’t crossed this bridge yet and am not sure how to treat it.

There is a lot to consider for Forde to be one of the few parents of American athletes to attend these Games.

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The US Olympic Committee has designed a sort of grand virtual party for family members at Universal Orlando, where those with the deepest connections to US Olympians can feel the thrill of victory – or the agony of defeat. – among others who understand. Each athlete has two guests that he or she can invite to the event. Pat’s son Mitchell, who swam to Missouri, will be in attendance with his fiancé. Tricia will be watching in Louisville, with family and friends gathered at her sister’s house.

Almost everyone in the family with an athlete in the Olympic pool will be somewhere in the United States except for Peter Andrew, father of 100-meter breaststroke ace Michael, who is one of eight assistant coaches. from USA Swimming staff. And, of course, Forde.

“I feel incredibly lucky,” said Forde, “but there’s also a little something that resembles the survivor’s guilt. It’s like, Why am I the one who has to go? Tricia, she was a swimmer. She really got the kids in the pool first, and she was also the one who got up at 4:05 am and made them breakfast a lot more often than I did, and Took her at 5am to train more often than I. She put a lot of sweat in it all, and she can’t go. And I feel really bad for her.

“I feel bad for Brooke’s brothers, who have been swimmers their entire lives, and they can’t go. But then everyone too. Simone Biles’ family can’t go. And Katie Ledecky, and Caleb Dressel and all the runway stars and Kevin Durant. It’s a little overwhelming to think I can go.

“I think: Hey, our profession sometimes has its advantages. But I never imagined it was something like this.

Forde’s career was built around his college basketball and football expertise gained during his early years covering the Kentucky Wildcats for The Courier-Journal of Louisville, and later with both of these sports in as one of the two sports columnists for this newspaper. He joined ESPN in 2004, then Yahoo! seven years later. During this time, as Mitchell became a State Champion and was drafted by Pat’s alma mater, Clayton became a qualifier for the NCAA Championships in Georgia in 2019-2020 and Brooke made Outnumbered everyone with his times and accomplishments at Stanford, Pat began to excel by covering Olympic swimming. .

So when he was hired by Sports Illustrated in the fall of 2019, it was with the idea that he would cover the Tokyo Olympics, with an emphasis on competitive swimming. “I was a sure thing,” Forde said. “My daughter was not.”

Nobody knew then, of course, that there would be substantial doubts about the hosting of these Games. The International Olympic Committee and Japan agreed last April, a month after the COVID1-9 pandemic was declared, to postpone the Games until this month. This impacted Brooke’s hope of making the USA squad.

In July 2018, she swam a time of 4: 35.09 in the 400-meter individual medley, her best individual race, at that time one of the 10 fastest times in American history. Almost three years after that peak, she was sixth in trials clocking 4: 38.69. Only the first two were guaranteed positions.

She still had a chance to make the team, however, if she could finish high enough in the 200-meter freestyle because of the relay event at that distance – and if the right combination of swimmers qualified for multiple events. to keep the space available. . Brooke’s sixth place in that race, a quarter of a second faster than Gabby DeLoof, proved enough to be part of the team.

“The end result was just incredibly exciting and rewarding, just to see the expression on her face, how excited and happy she was. It kind of made it all worth it,” Forde said. “Look, everyone. world in the country was going through great hardships in various forms and fashions. Hers was very acute as it was tied to a specific time in her life when she had the chance to try to achieve the dream of her life. For 15 months there down there, she was able to overcome a lot of struggles, anxieties and hardships – not easily, but with the help of her coaches, peers and classmates at Stanford and many other people.

“The Olympic trials itself was incredibly exciting. Every day I walked from the hotel to the pool thinking, “I can’t believe my child is not only here, but has a chance.” It was just that wonderful feeling. But then the stress and tension that came with it was tremendous.

One device that helped, believe it or not: Twitter. Forde was inundated with congratulations to his @ByPatForde account as Brooke swam the 400IM and then the free 200, largely to fellow sports journalism, but also among those who follow him.

In the end, his essay on Brooke’s pursuit of that precious Olympic spot was a 5,800-favorite and drew comments from college football analyst Mike Golic, NBC swimming commentator Dan Hicks and former NC State Athletic Director Debbie Yow.

“It means a lot. It was incredibly rewarding. It was very kind of so many people to reach out and say, ‘Hey, congratulations,’ Pat said. ‘I can’t count the number of people. ‘writers I got bored in media workrooms with stories about my kids swimming or having them watch a video on the laptop when there was swimming during the basketball championship NCAA It’s just very kind of people to answer like that.

“Sports journalists have a bad reputation – sometimes with good reason – but there are a lot of nice people in the profession. I certainly felt it in a big way.

When Forde and I spoke, it was before he left for Japan. He was traveling to Lexington, more than an hour from his home, for a COVID-19 test. Now they certainly have such tests in Louisville, but the Japanese Consulate recognizes only one test site in the state of Kentucky. Good news: he passed away.

There were still hours of protocols to follow upon arrival in Tokyo. It’s always a challenge to get to these big international events, but it’s obviously another level.

There is no press village for these Olympics, so Forde will be staying in a hotel with the other staff on mission from SI. It’s unclear if he’ll have the chance to see Brooke in person. There is supposed to be some kind of mixed zone for journalists to interview athletes. The Athletes’ Village will be “extremely locked down,” Forde said.

Pat will see Brooke, however, when she steps onto the pool deck on Wednesday for the 4×200 relay prelims on the morning of July 28. When the race begins, he will be tracking the team’s gaps, which he does regularly to help keep him calm. and concentrated. He expects to ask a nearby sports journalist friend to record video of the scene using a cell phone.

Pat isn’t sure if Brooke will be looking for him in the audience before the event begins. More often than not, she doesn’t, preferring to focus on running. He’ll give her a sign anyway.

This time, however, it might be worth Brooke to take a look.

Because it shouldn’t be a problem to locate his father.

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