Inspiring Story: Swimming in Socks

Sportswriter Joe Posnanski strikes a deal with his noncompetitive daughter—and they both win.

from Reader's Digest Magazine | August 2013

It was rather extraordinary to watch the team try to dress her in socks and a T-shirt. By that point, all tactics were out the window; everyone was pulling and yanking to get her inside the shirt and to get those socks on. And then she was off. She seemed to swim faster in the T-shirt and socks than she did when she wasn’t wearing them.

Approaching the halfway mark, she was still in the lead. Then somebody noticed that one of Elizabeth’s socks had fallen off and was floating in the pool. “She has to get that sock on before the end of the race,” a swimming official (or maybe it was just some guy) told Elizabeth’s team, “or you will be disqualified.”

Everybody on her team started screaming, “Elizabeth! Elizabeth! Stop! Get the sock!” But she couldn’t hear them. One of her teammates jumped in the water, grabbed the sock, and threw it at Elizabeth. She still didn’t notice. She was in the zone. She made the turn and started her last 25 meters.

“Elizabeth!” They yelled, even louder. She still didn’t hear them. (As her father, I could relate.) Meanwhile, a girl in lane two was gaining on Elizabeth. It was time for desperate measures. A girl on my daughter’s team jumped in the pool, grabbed the sock, and swam after Elizabeth. She grabbed Elizabeth’s foot. “You have to put the sock on,” the girl screamed. Elizabeth treaded water while her teammate put on the sock.

By now, the girl in lane two was about to pass Elizabeth. With the sock finally on, Elizabeth swam her heart out for the last 15 meters. It was close. But Elizabeth beat the other girl to the wall for the victory.

There was much celebration and joy. Hugs. High fives. Cheers. And, for a few minutes, Elizabeth was the hero. It was completely unexpected and completely ridiculous and completely pointless. But she was the hero.

On the ride home, she relived her moment of glory again and again. She talked about how scared she was when someone grabbed her foot and how funny it was when she was sloshing to the finish and how great the night was. She told me that if the T-shirt relay was an Olympic event—and she is quite sure it should be—her team would win the gold medal. I told her that in my professional opinion, she was absolutely right.

Twice named the best sports columnist in America by the Associated Press, Joe Posnanski is the national columnist for NBC Sports.

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