In inaugural class of USAT Hall of Fame
She came home from the Atlanta Olympics with a gold medal in the 800 free relay and the inspiration to share her experience. Though she is the first Olympic gold medalist who is also a Masters swimmer, Taormina maintains there is nothing unique about her accomplishment or the feeling it engendered. "Winning a gold medal—the feeling internally is really no different than any other goal that you'll ever achieve in your life. It's just that same feeling that, `OK, all my hard work paid off.'"
Taormina has been on a steady appearance schedule since the Olympics, talking to many Detroit-area schools, nursing homes, hospitals, swim teams, churches, youth groups and non-profit organizations such as United Way and the Diabetes Association. Not initially realizing the demand for sharing her experience, Taormina said she may soon have to refuse some offers so she can get back into better shape. She hopes to increase her current three practices a week to four or five.
A graduate of the University of Georgia, Taormina is enthusiastic about having joined the Masters ranks. “When you join Masters, it's a lot more relaxed. That's what I love about it. All the Masters swimmers have so much fun." For the future. she has the goal of once again swimming some "decent IMs." A sternum injury three years ago pretty much prevented Taormina from swimming backstroke or breaststroke, and, therefore, the IM—her best event in college. "That ended up as a blessing in disguise," she says. "It led to my gold medal." Now Masters swimming will enable Taormina to swim those IMs again and have that fun. "When you go to that intense of a level of training (needed to swim in the Olympics,) you kind of need to back off a little and experience life in another way."
Sheila swims USS for the Clarenceville Swim Team.
published in SWIM magazine, March-April 1997
Sheila C. Taormina lives in Livonia, Mich., and swims for Michigan.