Palm Beach Masters’ Lee Childs experienced a travel ordeal getting to South Korea but enjoyed his experience
Competitive Masters swimmers travel for their competitions, whether it’s an hour or two for local meets, across the country for a national championship, or to a distant country for an international meet. We’re undoubtedly a group of swimmers on the move.
Needless to say, travel has its inherent challenges, and my recent trip to the XVIII FINA World Masters Championships in Gwangju, South Korea, was one for the record books. A trip that was expected to be quite long, 24 hours, became a 60-hour ordeal through seven cities. It was the most challenging travel adventure I’ve ever experienced.
It would take pages to detail all of my misadventures, but let me tell you that when I finally got to my destination, I was a mess. That’s what three days of wearing the same clothes and not showering, shaving, or sleeping will do to you.
But I chose to stay and compete and was rewarded with an amazing experience.
If I hadn’t gone to South Korea, I would’ve missed the Chinese swimmer who repeatedly wanted to take a picture. He put his arm around me, smiled, and showed me his medal.
If I hadn’t gone to South Korea, I would’ve missed hearing the cheers, and my name called out from the stands by the four daughters of an Australian competitor who I had met on the shuttle bus a few hours earlier.
If I hadn’t gone to South Korea, I would’ve missed the policeman who, in the rain after my late arrival, personally drove and escorted me to the Athletes Village and even carried my bag.
In my case, the travel was extremely bad—one small sample: the detour to Guangzhou, China, rather than Gwangju, South Korea—but I’m glad that I made the trip. I met so many wonderful people and experienced so many special moments. The competition, the experience, the thrill of it all, that’s why we choose to compete in these meets. I had the pleasure to be with teammates and see old friends and new places.
I was also fortunate to have a successful meet. I competed in the 50 freestyle, 100 freestyle, 50 butterfly, and 200 IM and received three gold medals and one silver. I made some new friends and have memories that will last a lifetime.
All’s well that ends well.