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Ripples #82
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Ripples #82

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Compiled and Written by Lenny Giteck

Ripples art--smallFlorida Boy Gives Swim Meet
Trophy to Hospitalized Rival

“Winning isn’t everything; it’s the only thing,” goes the well-known sports saying. According to Wikipedia, the expression was coined by Henry Russell (“Red”) Sanders, a UCLA football coach, and not — as is commonly thought — by the legendary Vince Lombardi.

Regardless of who first uttered those words, the message apparently didn’t get through to Josh Zuchowski, a 9-year-old competitive swimmer from Jupiter, Fla. The Web site reports he returned the trophy he won in the annual Santa Claus Swim Invitational to the event’s officials, requesting that they present it to competitive rival
Reese Branzell, 10, from Lake Lytle, Fla.

Zuchowski dedicated the win and the trophy to Branzell after learning the reason the youngster did not compete in the swim meet: He had been hospitalized with a serious bacterial infection in one of his hips. Zuchowski affixed the following note to the trophy:

“I am so sorry that you have not been feeling well. Get well soon. So we can get back to battling in the pool. I have looked up to you since I was seven. You were an inspiration for me wanting to swim fast. I would rather get second with you at the meet then win with you absent. I won this trophy for you today. I hope to see [you] back in the pool. Your friend, Josh.”

Although fierce rivals in the water, the two also became good friends through competitive swimming. LeAnn Elder, Banzell’s mother, was quoted as saying: “Every race it’s like, ‘Good luck, Josh’, ‘good luck, Reese,’ they reach across the lane and shake hands.'” The hlntv article says Benzell is now out of the hospital but still battling the infection at home.

Ripples wishes Reese a speedy and complete recovery — and applauds Josh for his true sportsmanship.

To read more about this heartwarming story, click here.

Ripples Classic: March 7, 2012

High School Swim Coach
Not Defeated by Deafness

When it comes to coaching young people, a high school swim teacher in Kentridge, Wash., is not deterred by his inability to hear.

A profile on says coach Michael Dobner “interacts with his swimmers in expressive swoops, teaching them how to tweak individual strokes and getting good starts off the blocks. In the process, Dobner teaches them about patience and learning to interact with a disability, all while seeing through that disability.”

In the feature article about Dobner, he insists there’s nothing extraordinary about him. “It doesn’t matter if you’re deaf or if you’re in a wheelchair, it just proves that anybody can do anything,” he is quoted as saying. “You can become a coach, can [be] whatever you want to be. I’m a coach because that’s what I wanted to do, so I made it happen.”

That important life lesson hasn’t been lost on his students. As Malcolm Allen, senior co-captain of the Kentridge High swim team, observes, “It’s inspiring because he does what he does at the same level as other coaches [but] with his disadvantage, and he really just does it all in stride. Nothing really slows him down. He just does what he does.”

To learn more about Coach Dobner, click here.

And with that, Ripples once again says…
Until next time, happy watershaping to you!

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