Jaroslav Jelen inspires me.

All Masters Swimmers have a story to tell. While Jaroslav’s story transcends the pool, he has always had a connection with water and swimming has been a recurring theme in this story. He was a successful mathematics professor in Krakow University. He was well established in his career and enjoyed life with his family and friends. Of course, swimming was a major part of his life. However, he was concerned about the future of Poland, not for himself, but for his 11 year old son. Immigration was not possible in the 1970’s, so he had to plan an escape. He received permission to attend a mathematics conference in Rome. The government gave permission for his wife and son to attend with him. They left behind their careers, apartment, extended family and friends, only with a week-end suitcase. Of course one of the articles of clothing he took with him was a swim suit. Eventually, they ended up in Calgary and Jaroslav established himself in a career in the oil business. He was a member of a Calgary Masters Swimmers group.

Jaroslav retired to Summerland BC and joined the Orca Masters. He was the first swimmer to arrive and the last to leave each practice. He attended every regional and provincial meet. He was an avid open water swimmer in the summer and participated in the Kelowna Across the Lake swim. His quiet, determined demeanor was inspiring to the entire group of swimmers.

Jaroslav was interested in wood work and he designed and built a kayak. As with most woodworkers he had bruises and cuts, the trademark of a true craftsman. While swimming at the provincial swim meet two years ago he experienced shoulder pain. What he thought was an innocuous blackened bruise under his fingernail was instead a malignant melanoma that had spread. By the time it was diagnosed, he only lived a few more months. Even when he was terminally ill and had only a few days to live, he would go down to admire and appreciate the water. Jaroslav died at age 68.

Jaroslav inspired me both in the water and out. Jaroslav’s wife set up a bursary in his name to recognize a young Orca swimmer who shows similar determination. Hopefully, Jaroslav’s legacy will continue both in and out of the swimming pool.

– Don Gibbings, Summerland Orca Masters

Have a story about one of your lane mates you would like to share? Send it to editor@msabc.ca

Dan Syroid Inspires Me!

“Write about someone in our team who inspires you,” we were told just before practice one week night. “And, just remember, it doesn’t have to be someone fast, it can be any one of us.”

As we got in for warm up, I began thinking on this. I initially thought about the two or three married couples who take turns coming to the pool and staying home with young children. This commitment to both family and training is admirable. I also thought about the many, many swimmers in our midst who hold Provincial, National, and even World records in various age groups. This kind of athletic achievement is something that quite a few of us aspire towards, but will only ever dream of. And I though too of our fabulous coaching staff, with decades of experience and several coaching awards between them. And then I thought of Dan.

Dan Syroid broke his ankle quite seriously some months ago. When he first reappeared on deck, he showed us a swollen, inflexible ankle, and some impressive X-ray images that made a few of our swimmers a little queasy. He has been through surgery, and is now on the long journey back to full function both on land and in the water. I have seen him on deck for months now, at first hobbling along, lingering on the outskirts of the team but not really able to swim with us. I often noticed Dan swimming in one of the public lanes, slowly moving along, being cautious when pushing off the wall or with kick. There has been a noticeable progression lately towards more pool time. Recently, I have seen Dan walking more smoothly, and just last night I saw him join in with the team. This brought a smile to my face.

As with every feel-good story, Dan is also an amazingly nice guy. He strikes me as a warm, quiet, generous man, willing to offer a “hello” to teammates no matter what lane they swim in. Dan shared with me once that if him and his wife had had kids, he imagined that he might have a daughter about my age. I jokingly replied that she would hopefully be better behaved than me, but I was truly touched by his openness. On another occasion, after returning from the Middle East on business, Dan presented me with a t-shirt from his travels. I was very impressed by his thoughtfulness and generosity.

So, the swimmer from the Victoria Masters who inspires me most is Dan Syroid. His friendly attitude and his calm, steady demeanour are traits that I value highly within any team or group. And his patient, dedicated work rehabilitating his ankle have really impressed me. I haven’t seen him give up or get frustrated throughout this time, which I respect greatly. I am excited to see him at the pool, to watch his progress as he returns to his place on our team.

– Alex Cape, Victoria Masters Swim Club

Have a story about one of your lane mates you would like to share? Send it to editor@msabc.ca

MSABC Contest – Win 100$

MSABC’s having a contest and you could win $100.

All you have to do is submit a story to editor@msabc.ca about one of your teammates telling us why they inspire you. They don’t have to be a world champion, it could be that they come to every practice, work hard, and consistently show improvement, or it could be they have used swimming to recover from an injury or illness, or it could be they are a super volunteer for your club, or it could simply be that they are the best lane-mate ever!

Stories should be no less than three paragraphs and no more than eight and will be added to our Blog over the next few months. If you have a photo of your inspiring teammate please send it along with your story. Please don’t worry about grammar and all that jazz – editor@msabc.ca can help with that.

Submissions should be made between January 11th, 2014 and March 31st, 2014. Two winning stories will be selected by April 26, 2014 and announced on the blog that day.

You must be an MSABC member to particpate and the story must be about an MSABC participant.

Email your stories now to editor@msabc.ca