Thursday, June 6, 1996
Dream fades but Olympics coming true

The Cincinnati Enquirer

Barb Weinstein McGrath just can't win when it comes to the Olympics

A diver, she tried out for the Olympics when she was 14. Too little, too early. She finished next to last. She tried again when she was 18. And missed by a single point. Then, when she was 22, she finished second in the 10-meter platform competition in the Olympic trials in Austin, Texas.

She made the team.

This was just in time for President Jimmy Carter to decide to boycott the 1980 Olympic Games in Moscow.

So, she never did get to compete in the Olympics, but she graduated Phi Beta Kappa from the University of Michigan and went to work for Procter & Gamble. She married Tom McGrath, a big shot at Kenner, and they have two kids, Dan, 9, and Sarah, 7.

They are all adorable. I've seen pictures.

This, of course, is the happily-ever-after part, not the Olympic part. I think it is fair to say that Barb is a woman who was the best athlete she could be for 22 years, then went on to other things. More important things, she says.

She operates a media buying business from her dining room table so she's available for some of those important things. You know - chauffeuring her kids around to soccer games, cutting stencils for their art class at Blue Ash Elementary School, joining the parents association.

Important things.

But there probably was just a little Olympic itch that she never scratched.

Another Olympic chance

So, you can imagine her delight when she got a letter notifying her that she would be one of the torchbearers for the Games in Atlanta this year. No details. Those would be along later. So, she waited. And waited. Still no word from the Olympic committee. By now, she thought, she should have had a time and a map.

She cruised the Internet and found a list of torchbearers. No Barb McGrath. She called The Enquirer, which had compiled what we like to think is the definitive Tristate Trail of the Torch. Her name was nowhere to be found. Uh, oh.

Several frantic, even tearful phone calls later, everything is straightened out. She'll be catching the torch at 6:49 p.m. today in Florence, right on Main Street. It was all a misunderstanding.

We drove there Wednesday, checking for hills and big dogs. The schedule says she'll pass the torch to the next runner at 6:53, so she will have four minutes to cover that half-mile. Her parents will be cheering from the sidelines, as they always have been.

Her mother and father drove her to the pool at the University of Cincinnati mornings before classes at Walnut Hills High School. Then again in the afternoon. One winter, they made 20 trips to Cleveland, to the closest indoor diving platform.

She did not attend her high school prom or, indeed, the last 10 weeks of her senior year, didn't date until she was in college. It was "pretty much diving and classes."

In 1980, she decided to get on with her life. She doesn't dive now, except "once in a while for my kids." She sometimes dreams about it, nightmares, really. "I'm slipping out of a tuck. I rarely win in my dreams."

But this is real life. Fit, pretty, funny and on her way home to Sarah and Dan and Tom, she is giddy about the chance to carry the Olympic torch.

And she is a winner, if I ever saw one.

Laura Pulfer's column appears Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. Call 768-8393 or fax to 768-8340. She can be heard Monday mornings on WVXU-FM (91.7 MHz) and as a regular commentator on NPR's Morning Edition.