What would it have been like to spend a day in Bela Karoli’s gym? Or in the pool under Bob Bowman’s tutelage?
Some have described Bela’s methods as brutal; others have nothing but thanks toward him and attribute to him their success. Nadia Comeneci wrote that she would have trusted him with her life.
We can imagine that a great deal would depend on one’s perspective. Those who medaled in various Olympics via Bela’s instruction have vigorously supported and praised his methods. There were days and times when Michael Phelps was undone by Coach Bowman’s methods, only to be built back up into a stronger, better athlete.
Betty Okino wrote, “Karolyi structured his training in a way that built your physical and mental strength to such a remarkable level, that even he couldn’t tear you down. Bela wanted to know that when push came to shove, his athletes could handle any situation thrown at them.” (In The Balanced View, Betty Okino)
Michael Phelps, in his last year of training and competition, wrote these words in a journal:
Do something nobody else has.
Elevate the sport of swimming.
Be the first Michael Phelps.
If Cor Unum were not a training ground, it wouldn’t be much of a monastery.
It has been said that if your dreams don’t scare you, they aren’t big enough. Ours are very big, none bigger, in truth. We want more than anything else in this life to bear the image of Jesus Christ before death. Even today.
We have come to believe that without training, whatever our own may be, without making the most of the brutalities of life, without unceasing adherence to the regime of a Master coach, we won’t get where we want to go.
When Michael got out of the pool after swimming his last Olympic lap and winning his last competition, Coach Bowman said to him, “That’s not fair . . . you were in the pool.” The tears streaming down their faces were masked by the water rivulets on Michael’s. He had done it; he had become the first Michael Phelps. That is all that is expected of us. Nobody else can ever become you, or me, in Christ Jesus.