This time of year is supposed to be filled with happiness. The Olympic season is about four years of hard work coming to a head in one of the biggest spectacles in sports.
But swimming has been struck with blow-after-blow in the last month. Another shot came while eyes were focused on Omaha, as former Bolles coach Clare Blackwell suffered a devastating accident while competing in the Ironman Triathlon in Nice, France.
After successfully competing the swim, on the second leg of the race, the 112 mile ride, Blackwell was hit in the head by a passing ambulance that was rushing to tend to another competitor. The result was a traumatic brain injury that left her in a medically-induced coma in a hospital in Germany. What makes this so difficult to swallow is that the accident wasn’t suffered in the normal hazards of a triathlon. Those closest to her are struggling to comprehend how she could be injured by a passing vehicle – though anybody who has watched bike races in France like the Tour de France might wonder how it doesn’t happen more often.
Clare is slowly coming out of the coma, and has been showing some signs of response, including lots of winking. But the fight is far from over.
She was competing in the Ironman specifically to raise money for the Children’s Cancer Fund of Dallas. She was a great representative of the swimming community, but now we’re asking for the swimming community to band together and give back. Many medical expenses have been paid, and many are yet to come. To track Clare’s progress and help out any way you can, check out Operation Clare. You can also read updates on her condition on her Caring Bridge site.
The reach of Bolles is far-and wide, both nationally and globally. As such, Clare had the opportunity to touch many swimmers who are spread around the world, including Olympians like Dani Beaubrun of St. Lucia.
She had most recently been coaching at Millfield, a top-level club in the UK, but while at Bolles touched an unbelievable number of high level swimmers. Many of her former charges spoke out in honor of her.
Lauren Neidigh, University of Florida -
People often joke with me about how Clare was the only person I would talk to when I came to Bolles (I was extremely shy and Clare was someone that I instantly felt comfortable talking to.) Clare has touched the lives of all of us as a role-model, coach, and friend. During the years I was at Bolles she and my other coaches help me reach my dream of being fast enough to become a Florida Gator. I know I am not the only one she helped achieve a goal or a dream. She’s even been coach to some Olympians who came through Bolles (Ryan Arabejo, Rodion Develaar, Dani Beabrun.) Clare helped me become a more confident swimmer and person.
Arianna Vanderpool-Wallace, NCAA Champion and U.S. Open Record Holder, Auburn –
During the time that she coached my at Bolles, she supported me and motivated me as much as she could. As I was away from my family at the time she acted just like a mother to me when ever the boarding students were there. I will never forget the impact that she had on my life.
Ryan Murphy, Bolles Swimmer, National Age Group Record holder and Olympic Trials finalist –
When I came to Bolles my eighth grade year, Clare was so welcoming and friendly. Everyone on the team always loved chatting with Clare on the pool deck. She acted as a mother figure in a coaching staff of all men. As talented of a coach as Clare is, she is an even better person. Although after my eighth grade year Clare moved to England with her husband, she had a profound impact on everyone at Bolles, especially those who worked with her as a coach. I never saw Clare raise her temper at anyone, and her smile lit up the pool deck. She communicated well with swimmers about goals as well and always kept parents involved in the process. Even after she left for England, she continued to stay in touch with a lot of swimmers and parents. She made sure to follow all of our successes and congratulate us at each achievement. When the news broke of her accident at trials, all of the Bolles coaches and swimmers were very upset. It is unfortunate that such a tragedy occurred to such an inspiring woman. I hope everyone sympathizes with Clare and her family during this long road to recovery.
Jason Calanog, Coach, Bolles School (on behalf of the coaching staff) –
Clare was a delight to work with here at Bolles. She had an infectious smile that lit up the pool deck everyday. She was an hardworker on the pool deck and in the office. She developed many swimmers to reach their potential and more. She was a delight as a coach, peer and friend. We as the Bolles Sharks hope for a speedy recovery and wish her the best.
Patrick Murphy, Former Bolles Swimmer, Notre Dame
I never actually had Clare as a coach, but I heard the way swimmers and coaches raved about her. I remember at the end of the season banquet, all of the seniors shook the other coaches’ hands but saved a hug for Clare. She was known and respected as the pretty, nice coach. She was that one coach that could relate to her swimmers and always be in a good mood. Everyone misses her a lot and wishes her a fast recovery! She will always be known as one of our own at Bolles.
Aubrey Peacock, NCAA All-American, Former Swimmer, Auburn –
Clare is an amazing coach and even better person and she meant so much to a generation of Bolles swimmers. We all wish her a full and speed recovery.
Guinevere Vanden Noort, Former Bolles Swimmer, Indiana
All my thoughts and prayers go out to Clare. She is an amazing coach and a beautiful person and I know she will make a speedy recovery.