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    In 1984, Louisville native Mary T. Meagher (now Mary Plant) won three gold medals in swimming at the Los Angeles Olympic games and became a world record holder in the 100- and 200- meter butterfly. Along with 24 national awards and another Olympic medal in 1988, combined with various recognitions around the world, the swimmer paved the way for powerful female athletes to leave their mark and “keep playing.”  Plant now lives in Georgia with her family, but Louisville forever holds a special place in her heart, where her legacy in swimming and drive for success in all that she does began. 

    Louisville.com: What is your favorite childhood memory of living in Louisville? 

    Plant: "I have so many great memories of growing up in Louisville.  I guess one of the things that I loved the most was growing up and attending Holy Trinity Catholic Grade School and Church.  Our backyard backed up to the school’s yard, so even being the tenth child in my family, I could play every sport and be involved in any extracurricular activity since I could walk back and forth for practices. My class at Holy Trinity was considered a “good, well-behaved class” and I felt very connected to my classmates.  In fact, we still have reunions every 10 years and I’ve been to all but one of them. Our neighborhood had a lot of kids too, and we had great games of kickball, sardines in a can and all the old-fashioned group games. I guess that you can say that I had a lot of freedom, fun, and felt very safe and loved growing up in this neighborhood in Louisville, which always gives me the warm fuzzies when I reminisce." 

    How old were you when you learned how to swim and who taught you?

    "All 11 kids in my family were taken to River Road Country Club during the summer to hang out, swim, play tennis and golf. It was our second home in the summer. From a very young age, I seemed to have a knack for competitive swimming. I’m not sure if any particular person taught me how to swim (I apologize if there’s someone out there who thinks they did!!), but I do feel that I remember imitating an older girl, Mary White, after watching her swim butterfly, which is the stroke that I excelled in. Mary White laughs when I tell her this, but I’m sticking to this story. My brother, who was older and also a butterflier, worked with me some to teach me a proper butterfly turn and other techniques."

    With your Olympic days behind you, how often do you swim?

    "I just started swimming again a couple of years ago. Our health club has a “coach” who leads a workout for anyone who’d like to come, and I attend about once every other week. I’ve met some really nice ladies in this swim workout session and it’s been a fun additional way for me to get some exercise. I usually feel great the first few laps, but it doesn’t take me long to start breathing hard and my arms to start to hurt."

    What advice do you have for swimmers going to their first Olympic games this year?

    "Try to keep a good balance of being serious, but also enjoy it. I was so young in many ways when I competed, and if I could go back, I wouldn’t make it ALL about my performance in the pool."

    If you hadn't been in the Olympics/multiple national swimming championships, where do you think you would be today? How would your life be different?

    "I think that I’d still be happy. I believe that I had a drive that would have allowed me to experience success in another avenue in my life, if not in swimming. I believe that I’d have friends and would be married with kids, like I am now."

    Where do you keep your Olympic medals? Are your kids impressed by you?

    "Two of my Olympic Gold medals are in a linen closet. I wanted to move on in my life and “protect” my kids from pressure to be successful athletically, so there’s not much on display in my home that celebrates my swimming career. The third Olympic Gold medal is with the International Swimming Hall of Fame. I’m not sure it’s being displayed currently, but they asked for it years ago. I really have no idea if my kids are impressed with my swimming career. We hardly ever talk about it.  Perhaps my daughter has asked a few more questions than my son, but they both see how human I am as a wife, mom, and friend that it doesn’t take long for them to be reminded how normal I am in my life now."  

     

    The summer 2016 Olympics begin in Rio on August 5. Recently, swimmer Kelsey Worrell from the University of Louisville joined Team USA, specializing in the butterfly stroke. Although Worrell's hometown is Mt. Holly, New Jersey, Louisville will no doubt be her second fan base, hoping she is to follow in Meagher's footsteps and make us proud.

    Image: Team USA on Facebook

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