Synchronized swimmer Mary Killman, member of the Citizen Potowatomie Nation, has hopes for 2012 Olympic gold in London. She will be partnered on the American squad in the duet event with teammate Mariya Koroleva. This will happen exactly 100 years after Jim Thorpe, the most famous Native American Olympian of all time, won two gold medals at the 1912 Stockholm Olympics.
Her Idol Is Jim Thorpe
The Jim Thorpe story was one of Olympic triumph followed by tragedy. Because Thorpe played semi-pro baseball before the 1912 games, he was later officially stripped of his Olympic medals. Although he had successful professional careers in baseball and football in the 1920s and 1930s, he died broke in 1953. Thirty years later, after appeals to the Olympic Committee, Thorpe's gold medals were officially reinstated in 1983.
Mary Killman Background
This will be 21-year-old Mary Killman's first Olympics. She has been preparing for the moment by winning synchronized swimming events since age 11.. Like Thorpe, Mary is a native of Oklahoma, and a registered member Citizen of the Potawatomi Nation. When in competition, to honor her heritage, Mary proudly wears the initials CPN on her swimsuit.
History of Olympics Synchronized Swimming
Synchronized swimming is a relatively new Olympics event. With movie star swimmer Esther Williams and others advocating the sport, it began as a non-competitive exhibition in the 1952 Summer Games in Helsinki. It has been an official sport since the 1984 Summer Games in Los Angeles.
The Challenges of Synchronized Swimming
Like other water-based events, synchronized swimming requires overall body strength. Mary's intensive ten-hour, six-day-a-week training schedule includes both swimming and weight training regimens.
Those unfamiliar with the elements of the sport may think of it as just a water dance routine. However, it requires considerable strength and effort to push up out of the water to hold poses, as well as regulating breathing and rhythm with the music. Routines may last from two to five minutes, including much of the time continually underwater.
There is a strong history to Native American participation in the Olympics and Mary Killman is continuing that proud tradition. The first recorded participation of Native Americans in Olympic games was before Jim Thorpe, back in 1904 in St. Louis, Missouri. In the lacrosse competition, the Canadian team won the gold medal, and the Americans had to settle for the silver. Some of the names of the participating athletes give evidence of players' Native American origins: Black Eagle, Spotted Tail, Snake Eater and Rain in Face.
Olympic and sports fan Freddy Sherman grew up in Philadelphia and went to school with two Olympic medal winners, Kim Gallagher and David Wharton. Watching their skill and determination inspired him. You can follow Freddy on Twitter: @thefredsherman.
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