Olympic Coverage Inspires More Houstonians To Take Up Swimming

One of the highlight's of this summer's Olympics is the record-setting wins of the USA swim team. In Houston that means more people are getting interested in the sport.

" ... there's also some foam block you can use … "

Polly Looper is helping some customers in the swim section of the Sun & Ski Sports at Memorial City Mall.  There are neon goggles, American flag silicone caps and one-piece swimming suits. Looper works for the store's corporate office, and she says sales for swim items, like these, have jumped by 20 percent during the Olympic coverage.

"So we definitely saw a bigger bump in it, which we tend to lean toward people's interest in, seeing that on the Olympics and thinking that it might be something that they may be interested in trying, or getting out to see if they can actually do it, or actually seeing maybe how hard it is."

That increase in interest isn't just happening inside the store. Outside, a few miles up the road at the Olympic-sized pool at the Dad's Club Swim Team, people are practicing their kicks and butterfly strokes.  Linda Kutac, the team's executive director, stands next to the 50-meter pool. She says every Olympics she sees renewed interest in the sport.

"It's been quite a bash for us to have the Olympics. We've had a couple of splash parties. We have cable television hooked up outside so people can come watch, and we've  hooked computers up with live feed. We keep it going all day long."

Kutac says more kids are competing to be on their team this season. Kutac's daughter, Carleigh, coaches the kids. One thing that works, she says, is using the competition in her lessons.

"We actually watched Michael Phelps's 200 fly, and he was so far ahead.  And when he got out-touched, I told them, 'This is exactly why, you know, you need to focus on your turns and finishes, because that could cost you a gold medal in the future.'"

The kids were inspired, Kutac says, and she definitely saw a huge difference in their technique. 

But Graham Johnston, who swims at this pool, isn't really looking for pointers when he watches the games. He swam for South Africa in the 1952 Summer Olympics.  Johnston loves all the attention that the sport gets for a few weeks every four years. But he knows the limeligh — at least for this sport — doesn't last forever.

"After the Olympics, swimming seems to disappear, and you might remember Michael Phelps for a number of years. Lochte you might not remember for another year. Allison Schmitt who did a fantastic job on the relay. Those names disappear."

But for Johnston, who's 81, the sport hasn't disappeared. Five days a week, he's at this pool, swimming 3,000 meters a day.

Olympic coverage inspires more Houstonians to take up swimming by KUHF News