Andrews' gold still appreciating Annapolis swimmer added sentimental value in 1984

July 13, 1992|By Doug Brown | Doug Brown,Staff Writer

ANNAPOLIS -- No sooner had Theresa Andrews won the 100-meter backstroke at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles than she did something that stirred the emotions of a nation.

After the awards ceremony, the 22-year-old swimmer from Annapolis presented the gold 14 medal to her brother, Danny. He had watched on the pool deck, in a wheelchair, almost a year to the day after he was hit by a car while on his bike and rendered a paraplegic.

Today, Danny Andrews, who was married in May, is one year away from his law degree at the University of Baltimore, a clerk for an Annapolis judge and a regular in wheelchair races.

Theresa Andrews said she is surprised by the continued strong response to her story and the gold medal. She is in demand as a speaker, making 10 to 12 appearances a year, some gratis and others for a fee from $500 to $1,000.

"People value it," Andrews said, meaning the medal. "It's like it's never outdated."

In Andrews' motivational addresses to high schools, corporations and community groups, she draws on her Olympic experience.

"I was a dark horse in '84," Andrews said. "I tell people about maintaining physical fitness, achieving goals and overcoming doubt about your ability. I talk about Danny and what the physically disabled can do."

During the summer, Andrews conducts swimming clinics, sharing with young swimmers the sport's basics -- but not its secrets, because there are none. "There's no quick fix," she said. "I tell them if they show up every day and work hard, they might have success."

All but forgotten is that some of the world's leading swimmers weren't in the Los Angeles Olympics because of the Soviet Union-led boycott. Andrews' winning time of 1 minute, 2.55 seconds was almost two seconds slower than the world record.

Less than a month after the Olympics, East Germany's Ina Kleber, who wasn't in Los Angeles, lowered the world mark to 1:00.59 at the Friendship Games in Moscow. At the East German trials, Kristin Otto had done a 1:01.13.

After the Olympics, Andrews went back to the University of Florida to complete work for her degree, then worked several years as a therapeutic recreation specialist at a rehabilitation hospital in Washington.

Last month, she received her master's degree in social work from Ohio State -- where she was a graduate assistant for the women's swimming team for two years -- and has applied for a job in Charlottesville, Va.

"As a clinical social worker in pediatrics, I'll be working with children with ongoing problems, traumatic things like loss of a parent, grief over a divorce, sexual abuse and trouble in school," Andrews said.

In school and on the job, Andrews, 29, has found the discipline and habits she acquired in her swimming days invaluable.

"Swimmers' awareness of time is so acute -- you know, one minute to swim 100 meters," she said. "That translates to life out of the pool.

"Make use of your time. I used to sit in the front row at school and listen closely so I wouldn't have to spend so much time studying at home. Employers are enthralled by discipline in the work environment. As a swimmer, I take it for granted."

Andrews came along too soon to reap today's financial rewards. Leading swimmers receive $1,500 a month from a trust fund administered by U.S. Swimming, plus bonuses for national and world records.

"I'm happy they're getting it, although I get upset when that's all certain athletes talk about," Andrews said. "I have the satisfaction of knowing that in 1984 we laid the groundwork for it."

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