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Olympic medalist provides building blocks for success

March 15, 2011
By KELLY FOSNESS Houghton Daily Mining Gazette

HOUGHTON - Good habits take no more energy than bad ones. It's all about the simple choices.

That's the message Olympic gold medalist and motivational speaker Sheila Taormina will share with students during her mid-April visit to Houghton Middle School.

"I don't talk in terms of being committed, I say how you can stay committed," Taormina said during a phone interview Monday afternoon. "I really feel I give the tools that people can apply and I want to pass those on."

Taormina, who is the only woman ever to have competed in four consecutive Summer Games in three different sports - swimming, triathlon and modern pentathlon -will share her story with Houghton Middle School students April 19.

An after-school swim clinic with Taormina will follow from 6 to 8:30 that evening at the Houghton High School pool.

The swim clinic, sponsored by UCanRow2 and Houghton Middle School, is open to the community, however, space is limited to the first 20 participants who register online at The fee is $85.

The clinic, Taormina said, focuses on the vital aspect of the freestyle stroke - the underwater high elbow position that is the source of propulsion for a swimmer.

Propulsion, she said, involves "holding" the water and pulling the body forward.

"You get a lock on that fluid; our hand can't slip through the water," she said. "Once it learns to hold, you develop a specific strength."

Through a combination of dryland and in-water sessions, participants will learn what it means to "hold" or "feel" the water, as well as to develop the strength and flexibility required for fast swimming.

UCanRow2's Terry Smythe, who is also the fitness director for Aspirus Keweenaw's Copperman Triathlon, said the clinic offers an exceptional opportunity for swimmers of all levels as well as triathletes in training for events like the 2011 Copperman Triathalon to perfect their swimming stroke and receive personalized coaching from one of the best swimmers and triathletes in the world.

"Not only is Sheila a great athlete, but she's a great human being; she's real people," Smythe said. "This is going to be a great swim class."

Houghton Middle School Principal Jim Luoma said he's pleased to have Taormina visit the school and talk with students.

"To have someone of that caliber, who's willing to come share their talents and discipline on how to achieve and help make students aware that they, too, can do the same thing, it's only a matter of committment, it's absolutely wonderful," he said. "For the students to hear it from an Olympian has more of an impact."

Bringing in speakers like Taormina, Luoma said, falls right in line with Houghton Middle School's mission, which is "to assist students in reaching their full potential through academic, physical and social development."

Originally from downstate Livonia, Taormina has been coaching swim clinics and traveling as a motivational speaker since 1996 when she returned from her first Olympics.

The message Taormina delivers to students is one of encouragement - keeping a healthy body, staying committed, not backing down on hard work and above all, never giving up.

Taormina, who won gold in swimming at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, Ga., will have copies of her book, "Call the Suit," on hand during her visit.

She said the book illustrates what takes place under water through crisp photos and clear descriptions of the freestyle swimming technique.

To register for the swim clinic visit



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