Olympics-Caliber Diver and the Beede Center
Olympics hopeful Gracia Leydon-Mahoney learned from local coach Tracey Bird.
There are a lot of things I do for exercise: bike, power walk, lift weights, even, occasionally, run, but only when forced to by my daughter. However, I’ve never been able to convince myself to add swimming into my regimen. I think a big part of it is the cold – that water better be pretty darn warm for me to be willing to get into it. Plus there’s the whole hair thing: It gets wet, and you have to dry it and style it and fuss with it. Yes, I have many excuses for staying out of the pool.
Not so for many others, as a day at Beede Center will attest. The center's pools are full of lap swimmers and water aerobics doers and toddlers with parents in tow. And, as I recently learned, a girl training for the Olympics.
Yep. Right here in our local pool. Pretty cool, eh??
That girl is Gracia Leydon-Mahoney of Newton, and she trains here in Concord because this is where her coach, Tracey Bird, is. Tracey is an impressive swimmer in her own right: She was a champion diver for Stanford University when she was in college, and coached there for several years after. She moved to Concord in 1996 with her husband and two sons, has dabbled at Heritage and coached at CCHS in the past.
Gracia’s mom found Bird through a mutual friend; she had heard about her diving and coaching experience, knocked on her door, and asked her to take on Gracia. She did, and in just five years has coached Gracia into a diver on track to be an Olympian.
Last June, Gracia dove in the Olympic trials, where she placed seventh on the three-meter springboard and 10th on the platform dive. Then, just a few weeks ago, she was in Adelaide, Australia, where she won the Junior World Championships. Bird told me that this event is like the Olympics in the sense that all the top divers are there. Gracia beat the Chinese diver who was ahead of her by 20 points, and the third place diver was a woman from Great Britain who went to the Olympics.
Since Gracia is just 16-years-old. It would seem she’s on the fast track to more championship diving; she’s now moved to Durham, North Carolina, where there is a 10-meter board for her to train on for the Olympic trials. Even so, Bird is staying in touch with her training by communicating with the coach there.
But Bird is keeping her toe in the pool, so to speak, heading to Stanford to help coach the college team there, just for the season. Then she’ll be back swimming at the Beede, keeping an eye out, no doubt, for other Olympic hopefuls.
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