Beauty for Ashes An Olympic Swimmer’s Long Journey to Freedom By Kim Rhodenbaugh Lewallen It was the Opening Ceremonies for the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles. Since we were the host country, the United States was the last team to march out. The crowd was pumped! As we entered the tunnel of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, we could hear them chanting, “USA, USA.” As we got closer to the opening, the cheering got louder and louder. When we entered the coliseum, the crowd went wild as they continued to chant, “USA, USA, USA” over and over while waving American flags. I will never forget that moment of hearing 90,000 screaming fans there to support us. The feeling of pride for my country and all my accomplishments was overwhelming. I’m so glad I was able to bask in that moment. I had made it! I had fulfilled my lifelong dream to make the Olympic Swim Team, a dream I had since I was ten. But that would be the only happy memory I would have from the Olympics. On the outside I looked like a happy and confident person, but tragically, inside I was dying. I had a dark secret that I had been living with, and it was killing me.  I grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio in a powerhouse, competitive swimming family and was the seventh of eight children. My mom’s license plate read “8FISH” and my dad’s, “SWIMIN”; put them together and you get, “8FISH SWIMIN.” It was a family sport. We loved, encouraged and motivated each other. As an adult I found out I had ADD and a vision impairment called Vertical Phoria. It was no wonder I had such a difficult time in school growin [...]

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