Aussie Olympian suffered from asthma

Pam Sullivan is the mum of an unlikely Olympian, who originally enrolled her son Eamon in swim classes to help him overcome asthma.

In a funny story they will re-tell, Pam started to notice Eamon’s hair wasn’t wet after his lessons. Eamon was frequently distracted with other things and often skipped his lessons to horse around outside, until Pam caught him red handed playing in a tree. Swimming was needed to help him stay healthy, but also, Pam wanted to teach Eamon that he had to be responsible. Her teachings worked. By the end of that week Eamon became the fastest swimmer on his squad, and later as his asthma subsided, a future Olympian was born.

Eamon has suffered countless injuries and setbacks over the course of his swimming career. He’s had shoulder problems, 5 hip surgeries, 30+ injections into joints, back injuries, a fractured heel, and even a ruptured appendix. As Eamon put it “ironically, contact sport players often turn to swimming as a form of rehabilitation” but for Eamon, swimming has lead to a smorgasbord of injuries.

As a small boy, Eamon was plagued with asthma. When he was seven, Pam enrolled her son into swim lessons. She knew that “swimming would help his lungs develop and become stronger”. Eamon admits that he did not immediately fall in love with swimming. He was “monkeying around” a lot at first and getting into trouble at practices. He describes those early days, “I was easily distracted”.

Pam was less amused. She knew he needed swimming to help remedy his asthmatic condition. Plain and simple, she was not going to let Eamon slack off. Her intentions were never for him to become a serious athlete but just to show up for his classes and swim. She believed that in life you must follow through with your responsibilities and when you are focused you are always rewarded with success. These swimming lessons became the tangible lesson she used to prove this to her son. Pam marched him inside and made sure his instructor keep a closer eye on Eamon. Eamon immediately began to see positive results for being attentive and attending his lessons.

From his reluctant start, Eamon has gone on to become one of the best swimmers in Australia. But Eamon’s path with swimming remained tenuous due to chronic injuries. However, he battles injuries with perseverance, an invaluable trait Eamon gets from his mum. During the most trying times, Eamon graciously shields his mum from worry, especially considering the toll injuries have taken on him. For example, when he broke his femur, Eamon was hospitalized for 3 to 4 months. Though he’s thought of quitting, Pam encourages Eamon to persevere and face his challenges head on.

London 2012 will be Eamon’s 3rd Olympics, and his first as a veteran. Staying healthy will obviously be critical for his success in London. Eamon describes training as “the one thing I despise,” but he says “the satisfaction of performing makes the hard work seem insignificant…all the pain, suffering, injuries disappear. No matter how much you hate training, you do it all again for that same feeling.”

by Terence Johns

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