Tuesday, October 5, 2004

Mount Notre Dame students honor Olympian graduate

In Reading: Becky Jasontek returns

By Sue Kiesewetter
Enquirer contributor

READING - Becky Jasontek won a bronze medal at the 2004 Summer Olympics, but the Mount Notre Dame graduate says that's not why people stop her on the street.

"They recognize me more for the AFLAC commercial with the duck," Jasontek (Class of '93) said Monday at her alma mater, referring to the television ad. Following its third-place finish in Athens, the synchronized swimming team appeared in a commercial for the insurance company.

Olympic bronze medallist Becky Jasontek speaks to several hundred students as she was honored at her alma mater.
(Enquirer photo/CRAIG RUTTLE)
Jasontek encouraged the all-female student body of 780 not to give up on their dreams. The school's first Olympian, she was inducted into the school's inaugural Athletic Hall of Fame in 2000.

"For the last seven years I've been a full-time swimmer," Jasontek said. "My hands are still permanently pruned."

Before her talk, she was honored by Mayor Robert "Bo" Bemmes, who declared Monday "Becky Jasontek Day'' in Reading.

Emergency surgery four years ago - after she had placed seventh at the 2000 Olympic trials - almost ended her Olympic dreams because she had to stay out of the water for more than a month. The setback cost her a place on the 2000 team, although she did travel to Sydney, Australia, as an alternate on the synchronized swim team.

"I had not been out of the water for more than two days since I was 11," Jasontek said. "I planned to retire. Then I got to the Games."

That experience as an alternate changed Jasontek's plans to retire, instead making her determined to get on the 2004 Olympic team.

"I pretty much gave up everything - my life - to train," Jasontek said.

She trained 10-12 hours a day, eating bananas poolside.

Jasontek was touched while viewing a multimediapresentation the school put together about her that included Olympic clips. It brought back memories of her high school days as well as the Olympics.

"I think I cried through the entire medal ceremony. I'm glad it wasn't televised. I had red eyes and a red nose."

Her story of hard work inspired freshman Jazmone Kelly, who has been playing basketball since she was 5 years old. "I want to follow in her footsteps,'' Kelly said. "I want to have a day named after me."

Jasontek recently retired from synchronized swimming and will return to her Santa Clara, Calif., home, where her plans are undecided.

"I feel accomplished. I finally achieved what I set out to achieve," Jasontek said. "I feel like I can move on with my life. I don't think I'm living in the real world yet. But you're helping me today," she said.


E-mail suek@infionline.net

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