Taormina Goes Back for Third Olympic Helping
Like Michael Corleone in the famed scene from “Godfather III,” just when Sheila Taormina thought she had retired from sports, she got pulled back in.
Not once, but twice.
“For 21 years I was a swimmer,” said the diminutive Olympian from downstate Livonia.
A national swimming champion in 1991, Taormina followed that with a U.S. Open champion win in 1995. When she took the gold medal with the 4 x 200 relay team at the Olympic games in Atlanta in 1996, she figured she had hit the zenith of her professional career.
“Swimming was my sport through my entire college years, and after swimming, I thought I was done for the rest of my life as far as competition was concerned,” she said.
She bought a camper, and for two years traveled the country telling schoolchildren about her experiences. One of those trips led her to a bicycle store in Minnesota, where she was taken aback by an employee’s comment.
“You’re the girl who quit sports,” he said.
Taormina admitted she had gotten a “little out of shape” doing the tour circuit. That, and the bike store employee’s offhand comment, convinced her to add cycling and running to her repertoire, enter a triathlon to lose some weight and get back into shape.
What followed was five full years of excelling at the sport of triathlon, including competing on the first U.S. Olympic Triathlon team in Sydney in 2000, where she earned a 6th place finish. She took a silver medal at the Pan American Games in 2003, came back the next year to win the Pan-Am, and became the World Champion in the sport in 2004. Over a four-year period, she took three World Cups with 10 podium finishes.
“After two Olympics in triathlon and being age 35, I figured it was time to retire,” she said.
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