No, swimming is not your typical job. But we treat it like one.
When people say, "He gets paid to swim?" I reply, "Yep." As if it is an everyday-sort-of-job. Like, "Duh... of course he gets paid." Honestly, though. How else would we be able to justify Mark continuing to swim as he approaches the age of 30 (he is only 28, but I like to push this button).
Besides getting paid, Mark gets health insurance through the United States Olympic Committee (USOC). Annabelle and I are also covered under the Elite Athlete Health Insurance plan. Were you worried?
In order to qualify for this insurance you must be ranked in the top 50 in the world in your event. I remember during the Olympic Trials when our dear friend Eric Shanteau was racing. This was right after he was diagnosed with testicular cancer. I was sitting with my best friend, Eric's girlfriend. We were not only hoping for a good swim so that Eric would make the Olympic team, but we were anxiously awaiting a swim fast enough to keep him covered by the USOC health insurance. Talk about a stressful race. He accomplished both.
Since college Mark has earned a top 50 world ranking and therefore qualifies for the Elite Athlete Health Insurange plan. Long story, short, the Gangloff family is covered. Here is my cute, clever and charming anecdote to follow this simple point....
Various specialists, like dentists, register to become part of the network. They offer free services to these elite/Olympic athletes. Typically, because it is a free service, appointments are before or after normal business hours. Not a problem when you live in a big city like Charlotte (our former home)--there were plenty of these doctors available.
Well, now we live in Auburn, AL. Do you know where Auburn is? Do you even know where Alabama is? You may think that we live in the back woods of the deep South, but Auburn is truly a lovely little village in Eastern Alabama (don't make fun... we have running water, electricity and all of the necessities. We even have a shopping mall and a Starbucks). The rest of Alabama, on the other hand, isn't quite as developed.
So, because there are limited numbers of doctors in any one city in Alabama, the closest dentist registered with the USOC is in Oxford, AL. Never heard of it? Me neither, until Mark made an appointment.
Mark's appointment was for 7:30am. Fine, right? We get up early. Mark is a swimmer for goodness sake; his middle name is getting-up-early.
Here is the catch. Oxford, AL is 92.7 miles from Auburn (according to MapQuest). So, to get his teeth cleaned, Mark had to get up at 5am and drive for an hour and a half to visit Dr. Lynch in Oxford, AL.
Funny, right? Just wait.
Remember, to us and most, our average, everyday, Olympian is far from famous. Most of the time we have to toot our own horns to even get a mention in the paper. But, at Dr. Lynch's office in Oxford, AL Mark was greeted by photographers. In Oxford, AL, Mark getting his teeth cleaned was big news and made it into the paper.
Even funnier, right? Keep reading.
Feeling like a pretty big deal in Oxford, Mark autographed a picture and sent it to Dr. Lynch. The next time Mark made the trip for a cleaning, Dr. Lynch handed Mark a photograph of himself... autographed. Both got a chuckle (I died laughing) and our average, everyday, Olympian was once again humbled.
In sum, we have health insurance, Mark has to drive 92.7 miles to get his teeth cleaned, Mark was famous for 5 minutes in Oxford, AL and we learned that not everyone wants an autographed picture.