Patricia McCormick - Raised Around Water
Raised Around Water
Pat McCormick was born Patricia Keller in Seal Beach, California, on May 12, 1930. Living above a grocery store and with little money in the family, she and her two older brothers were raised mostly by their mother, a nurse. Her alcoholic father was a sporadic presence in her life, although his belief in her was an important influence. In a 1999 interview with Dr. Margaret Costa for the Amateur Athletic Foundation of Los Angeles, McCormick described her early years: "I worked to help support the family from the time I was 10 years old. My brother was responsible for my involvement in athletics because I wanted to be just like him. We were good little urchins who had a lot of fun."
McCormick spent most of her spare hours swimming around the channels and the harbor and hanging out at Muscle Beach, where she enjoyed being tossed around by the brawny, acrobatic men. This pastime helped her develop strength and flexibility. Her love of competition prompted her to participate in small swim meets against anyone willing to race her. In her first meet, a two-mile pier-to-pier swim, she came in second. (There was only one other girl in the race.) But the trophy she received stoked her desire for more. At fourteen, she won the Long Beach city women's one-meter diving gold cup. A coach from the Los Angeles Athletic Club soon took notice and invited her to join the Club to begin rigorous training.
The training did little to interfere with her academics or social life at Wilson High School, but she was allowed to miss her last class period to take the trolley to Los Angeles. The 5'4", 125 pound diver trained for a year before entering local competitions. She went on to place second in the 1947 National Platform Championship. Her brother borrowed money so she could attend the 1948 Olympic tryouts, where she missed making the team by less than a point.