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Swimming for My Life
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Swimming for My Life

Kim Fairley

In 1970s Cincinnati, Kim’s overwhelmed, financially stressed parents dragged her and her four younger siblings into swimming—starting with a nearby motel pool—as a way to keep them occupied and out of their way. When Kim was eleven, they began leaving the kids at home with a sitter while they traveled the Midwest, where they sold imported wooden ornaments from their motorhome. But when Kim’s six-year-old brother crashed his new Cheater Slick bike and the babysitter deserted the children, what started as an accident became a pattern: Mom and Dad leaving for weeks at a time and the kids wrestling with life’s emergencies on their own. As Kim coped in the role of fill-in mother while dealing with the stresses of elite swimming, she struggled to shape her own life. She eventually found strength, competence and achievement through swimming—and became the second female swimmer to win a full ride to the University of Southern California, where she earned two national titles. Swimming for My Life is a peek into the dark side of elite swimming as well as a tale of family bonds, reconciling with the past, and how it is possible to emerge from life’s toxic and lifesaving waters.

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