[HMSD] Tom Peterson Inducted into the Harvard Hall of Fame 2009

Tim D. Murphy tdmurphy at fas.harvard.edu
Tue May 12 15:13:28 EDT 2009

/ I thought you would all enjoy reading the essay Tom Peterson wrote for 
the Hall of Fame Dinner


Tom Peterson '92
Harvard Varsity Club Hall of Fame Essay

I would like to thank the Harvard Varsity Club and the Selection 
Committee.  It is truly an honor to be recognized along side such 
incredible athletes this year and those athletes who have come before us.

Swimmers are a different breed.  Many of you who know swimmers or know 
of them will probably not debate me on this point.  And yes, you could 
say that this is because we are often a bit socially awkward, and 
actually choose to spend 20 hours a week under water, in isolation ,with 
the exception of 3 second breaks where you are carrying on a 
conversation in bits and pieces. 

 We sweat chlorine; it actually comes out of our pours; our hair is so 
brittle it breaks when we take our shirts on and off; we put our bodies 
through excruciating things twice a day, one of which times is 
disturbingly early.  We can spot a fellow swimmer from 10 yards out 
because the sport actually transforms our bodies to become more 
efficient in the water - well, that and we also tend to be a bit awkward 
on land.  We can sleep standing up, are known to take naps several times 
a day and we don't really have an "off-season".  We talk about things 
like negative splits, buoys and paddles, conseys and finals, going to 
"The Show", anchor legs, and 4, 6 and 8 beat kicks.  And, while many 
non-swimmers know that we shave our bodies on a regular basis, we also 
occasionally wear panty hose in the pool.  We are not normal.

 I have been asked so many times while I was swimming, why I did it?  
Why did I spend 11 months a year doing 10 practices a week for 25-30 
hours of training time, covering 8-10 miles a day and 50 miles a week in 
the water, not to mention the time spent in drives or walks to and from 
practice?  The answer has always been the same.  It is who I am and it 
is in my blood.  There is pure joy in being able to master a substance 
that is so foreign to others.  There is elegance and simplicity and 
knowing that whether you beat your best time, and whether you win a race 
comes down only to you and how hard you've trained, how hard you wanted 
it.  When you are no longer swimming, you realize how illusive defining 
victory can be in other venues and how diffused the outcome can be from 
your effort.  The work world just doesn't come with a pace clock, or a 
scoreboard or electronic touchpads.

 Swimming is mostly, and is at its core, an individual sport.  What is 
so incredible about Harvard Swimming is that it transforms a bunch of 
individuals competing (often against each other, at times on relays with 
each other) into a brotherhood that transcends generations.  I have an 
affinity and a kinship with those Harvard Swimmers who came before me, 
and those who came after.  I feel that I know exactly what they are 
experiencing, the nature of their friendships and the quality of their 
experience.  I know that they, like I, have bonds with their teammates 
that will last a lifetime. 

 Part of the reasons behind the closeness of these bonds is that which 
happens when any group goes through a difficult challenge together.  It 
is akin to the Marine's emerging from Paris Island, the shared 
experience of putting your body through incredible challenge and 
emerging stronger, more confident and with the knowledge that your 
closest friends were there with you.

But this doesn't fully capture the full essence of the brotherhood that 
is Harvard Swimming.  The rest of it exists because of the constancy and 
tradition across the past 77 years.  Regardless of the year, the coach 
we swam under, or whether we had suits that cover much of our body, or 
very little of it; we share a common identity.  We hate Princeton 
Swimming (though while not necessarily hating all Princeton swimmers), 
we can do the Hipza in our sleep, are giddy with the energy from our 
taper at Easterns, want desperately to go to "The Show", would like to 
avoid but prove ourselves as Ironman, hate and love the trudge across 
the bridge in freezing cold at ungodly hours, and take trips to sunny 
places in the winter only to spend 6 hours a day in the water. 

But mostly, we love to wear Crimson and we love knowing that we can 
compete at any level, while representing the greatest University in the 
world.  Go Harvard!
I would like to thank my college roommates, who were so supportive of me 
through four years of "keeping the noise down" and wild mood swings from 
lack of sleep; my teammates, in particular Donny, Stephen, John, Brent, 
Chris and Sean, who cheered me on, even when we competed against each 
other; for my coaches in particular Joe Bernal, Mike Chasson, and Matt 
Kredich who had such different styles, but made such a tremendous impact 
on me in different ways; the University for giving me a chance to 
represent this incredible institution; and, mostly my parents, who 
sacrificed so much to let me have this experience.  You all mean more to 
me than words could possibly express.

Timothy D. Murphy
Head Coach of Men's Swimming
Harvard University
65 North Harvard St.
Boston,  MA  02163
office 617-495-2268
fax 617-507-0772

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