The stars are out: International Swimming Hall of Fame induction ceremony A gala event
To the left. To the right. Front and back.
Wherever the head turned.
A look around the Grand Ballroom at the Marriott Harbor Beach Resort & Spa on Saturday night was to cast your eyes at grandeur. The evening was a party, the induction night for the Class of 2022 into the International Swimming Hall of Fame. It was perfect that the five-time Olympian Dara Torresa Hall of Famer herself, served as emcee.
Baseball and football have their days in Cooperstown and Canton every year. Water sports, especially swimming, look to Fort Lauderdale for its celebration. It has been so for years, ISHOF has long established itself as the treasure chest of excellence for swimmers, divers and polo players. Fort Lauderdale is where history – old and new – is appreciated, and that fact was in the spotlight during this festive weekend.
As always, new Hall of Fame winners came from all over the world. United States. Japan. Australia. Various locations across Europe. It was truly a global event, which is to be expected. Yes, some nations have had more success than others over the years, which is the norm in all international sports. But one of the things that makes a Hall of Fame special is how it honors the elite contributions of an extended community.
Hall of Fame inductions take a long time, and this night was no different. It took more than three hours to go through the program, during which each inductee was recognized via a short video about their career. The winners then had the chance to speak and received their Hall of Fame belt and award. If the night had gone on for another three hours, I doubt anyone in the room would have cared. On the contrary, it would have provided an additional opportunity to applaud – literally and figuratively.
Applause. It was the dominant feature of the night – a constant acknowledgment of what the men and women entering the room had accomplished. There, too, there were small cheers. There were a few sonic explosions. There was a standing ovation. There was a lot of laughter, and even a few tears. The emotion of the night was striking. Years of hard work and dedication are what landed the winners in Fort Lauderdale to begin with, so the emotion should be on the agenda of the evening.
Over the course of their careers, inductees have triumphed in known fashion over a tiny percentage of people who have ever played a water sport. The best of the best? No. The best of the best of the best of the best… and we could go on.
It was magical to watch Craig Beardsley receiving his due more than 40 years after politics robbed him of the chance to win gold in the 200-metre butterfly at the 1980 Olympic Games in Moscow. Beardsley probably had the biggest cheering section of the evening, with dozens of his friends and former teammates in attendance – and who were invited by Beardsley to join him on stage at the end of his speech. Many supporters were surprise guests at Beardsley, and many also felt the pain of being denied an Olympic opportunity through no fault of their own.
In Daichi Suzuki, it was an opportunity to take the hat off a Japanese star who won gold in the 100m backstroke at the 1988 Olympics and played a vital role in revolutionizing the sport. Suzuki was one of many athletes who highlighted the importance of the underwater dolphin kick, an innovation that remains as important as ever.
Australians Jon Sieben and Michael Klim received well-deserved credit for special careers that included Sieben producing one of the greatest upsets in history and Klim leading the 400m freestyle relay that won gold at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, a moment that lives in the Australian sporting tradition.
The aforementioned athletes and their accomplishments are just part of what was celebrated on Saturday night. The bottom line is that it was a special night, just what one needs in sports. That’s why Halls of Fame exist, and this was a shining example of what the International Swimming Hall of Fame means to aquatic sports.
Next year can’t come soon enough.