Noah: Welcome to USADSF Spotlight with Noah, I am Noah Valencia. Today, we will interview Dr. Caroline Solomon. She is currently Gallaudet University professor and she played in two different Deaflympics, 1989 and 1993, in the swimming discipline. She won a total of 13 gold medals. She also graduated from Harvard University and was part of Brighton Declaration on Women and Sports. We are honored to interview her today.
IMAGE: L: Carrie (Miller) Solomon (13x Gold Medal Winner ‘89 Christchurch/’93 Sofia) R: Katy (Dobner) Doyle (7x Gold Medal Winner ‘93 Sofia/’97 Copenhagen)
Noah: How did you become so immersed in swimming and knew that your passion was with the swimming world?
Caroline: Well, I grew up with a neighborhood swimming pool, so everybody would go to the pool during summer time to swim. They even had swimming lessons taught by someone from deaf school which was really cool. So, there was a lot of signing taking place, and during swimming lessons!. Everybody loved that woman. Anyway, she was like, “why don’t you join the swimming team in the summer league?” So all of my friends were like “fine, sure!” Then I decided to join the summer league. The first race that we did, nobody taught me how to breathe, so when I swam, I stopped in the middle of the race and started to cry in the middle of the pool. I was shocked and told myself that I won’t swim ever again. No! No! Then the coach told me, “why don’t you swim in the unofficial lane? Your time won’t count. Don’t worry. Just swim in the unofficial lane over there.” Well, I won the race but it was not official. From that point, I became involved with races. Then I really became better than other kids. It just came naturally. I really enjoyed doing it.
Noah: It came so naturally for you.
IMAGE: L: Cindy Lu Fitzpatrick (AUS), C: Carrie (Miller) Solomon, R: Celline Lawlor (USA) at 1989 Christchurch
Noah: I understand you graduated from Harvard University, University of Washington, and University of Maryland. Do you feel your academic success is correlated to your athletic success?
Caroline: Of course they are related. Usually swimming teams have the highest GPA in team sports. If you take a look at the NCAA sport teams, you will notice the swimming team usually has the highest GPA. I don't know if it is because of the nature of the sport itself. Swimming requires a lot of discipline; practicing in mornings and afternoons. Swimming requires a lot of time management so I learned fast how to excel in time management because we're always in the “pool.” Many swimmers are very good students because there is a lot of persistence.
Noah: Yes, that is understandable.
Caroline: The time management that I had to have most defintely really helped me with school and it's actually funny because swimming led to my field studies as well. I became a biological oceanologist because of that reason. I wanted to swim in the river but I couldn’t because the water was polluted and dirty. So I decided to do something about it. So, yes, swimming led to my career.
Noah: So swimming inspired you to be where you are today?
Noah: You were involved with 1993 Deaflympics at Sofia, Bulgaria and you swam in 10 different events and won 10 medals. 9 Gold and 1 Bronze. What was the experience like for you?
Caroline: That time, we had Jeff Float, who had the record of winning 10 Golds. So of course, I wanted to tie his record of winning 10 Golds! At that time, I was a college athlete so I was truly in my peak and at my best time. Really, I should have won 10. I should have.
Noah: Really? What happened?
Caroline: Whatreally happened was the 50 meters freestyle race and Bulgaria’s setting of the pool was flawed. They had a pool with a greenhouse wall style where the sun would just shine through the pool and the referee had white flags to start the race. So when I looked at the referee, it was extremely hard to see the white flag. And also, another thing at the Deaflympics, was about the referees, they should have known better, because many deaf people have balance issues. So it takes longer for them to go down on the block which requires balance. But that referee didn’t listen to the coaches and us. So deaf swimmers who have balance issues because of the spinal meningitis like I have, for example, I have balance issues. I am not slow but I need little time to go down. So with the white flag, that was hard to see and with the referee waving the flag down so fast, it caused me to stumble. The 50 meters freestyle was really short. I had a late start
Noah: Finished so fast.
Caroline: So I had a late start and still got a bronze medal, that says a lot.
Noah: That’s successful!
Caroline: So anyway, of course, we protested because of the start of the race, and I wasn’t the only one swimmer who was affected by this mistake. There were others affected too. So the coaches protested on the behalf of both of us. But they were like, “You already have 9 medals, why are you complaining?”, with an attitude. But it wasn’t about that, it was about being fair, that was all. All I was asking for was a fair race. If I get a bronze in a fair race, I will accept it. That is sportsmanship. Sportswomanship!. So that was it. One bronze. And I think that it was the last day too. Oh well. But in my heart, I like to think that I won 10 Gold.
IMAGE: ICSD President John Lovett presents Caroline with a medal in ‘93 Sofia.
Caroline: I was involved with 1989 Deaflympics,1993 Deaflympics, and I have 20 Golds from World Championships altogether.
Caroline: Yes. The World Championships was in 1995.
Noah: Where was that World Championships?
Caroline: Brugge, Belgium
Noah: I hope I will be able to catch up to you someday but I don’t think I’d be able to!
Noah: Dr. Caroline Solomon, I want to thank you for your time. Until then, so long!