I was born with an unusual talent. I could flip my feet behind my head. It wasn’t that I was just a little more flexible; it was that my hip bones were completely disconnected from my pelvis. My hips didn’t have the ball or the socket. My legs were limp excuses for limbs with talents only appropriate in a small town freak show. I had hip dysplasia and my case was severe.
It would take seven hip surgeries and $250k to build me semi-normal hips in their place. But I knew I had a special gift in the water at a very young age.
I saw Janet Evans in the Olympics. She was short and she used a 2 beat kick. But I was surrounded by these voices constantly telling me—be careful, don’t push too hard, your hips are fragile little girl. I was too young to understand that these voices were really just parroting me. These were the thoughts in my head. The ones that told me not to believe in me. When you feel different from the day you are born it’s hard to protect your heart from the distance between here and where you aren’t, but wish you were. I would continue to swim at least when I wasn’t sitting because my mind told me something hurt. The drive and determination fresh beaten out of my heart. First, I would have to get addicted to alcohol and then prescription painkillers and eventually emotional abuse. Despite being given these amazing hips I was drowning in the stories of being told they were capable of far less than everyone else. So I surrounded myself with experiences which perpetuated that myth.
What no one else realized is that Johns Hopkins and Kernan Hospital gave me bionic hips. They may be normal hips in form and function. But they are bionic hips in determination. They have morphed themselves into $250k mermaid hips. My hips are hand-crafted pieces of artillery. My hips are weapons of a different type of destruction. These hips break through the crash of the open waves and launch like a missile off the block. These hips aren’t letting anyone get in their way. Not the
depression of a break up. Or the worry of how to cover my rent check. These hips will be in the pool, training for a competition no one invited me for. These hips will be taking their spot on the block and shattering records with super human agility.
I’m thankful for all the people who told me I could never compete at this level. I needed all of you to fully step into my power.
I had to transcend the game of mental mind hockey to truly give these hips the swimmer they deserve. I had to develop the mental toughness necessary to compete at the level my hips were designed for. And so I found my way to inner peace. I found it in this place of stillness behind my mind. Behind my thoughts. Beyond the experience of the body. It took a little time to learn how to integrate it into daily life, but eventually it all clicked. And this year I decided to see how I could use it to give these hips the chance to really compete.
- Sarah Bofinger