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Sister Nancy Reynolds watches London Olympics with keen interest, especially swimming competition

Sister Nancy Reynolds has used a lot of her free time recently watching the Olympic competition in London; after all, she might have been an Olympian herself once.

Sister Nancy grew up in Indianapolis where she learned to swim in age groups when she was about 9 or 10 years old. She was a member of the Jewish Community Center where many athletic opportunities were available. She learned to play several sports there.

A lifeguard recognized that she may have some potential for competitive swimming and young Nancy was asked to join a competitive team. “Very quickly, I took to the competition element of swimming,” she said. “I would say that I was serious from the time I won my first race. Competition is in my blood and I was serious about winning. I worked hard in the pool.”

She was still swimming in high school. During summers, she swam on a district park team in Indianapolis. The park system had summertime competitions between its different districts. “For most of the time I swam for my park, I would win my races and end up with the high-point trophy at the end of the season,” she said.

“I also swam Junior Olympics competition, but they were not as organized in the 1950s as they are now. I swam all four strokes. By my times, I had qualified to be part of the Olympic trials for the 1960 games. If I remember correctly, my best times were in the backstroke,” she continued.

(Ironically, the 1960 Olympics were in Rome.)

Young Nancy was working at a local drug store and she entered the Sisters of Providence on Sept. 12, 1960, which was the day after the Rome games ended. “There was no way I could have gone to the trials, but it was nice to know my times were up there with some of the good swimmers who did go to the trials,” she recalled.

“I watch the Olympics every possible minute that I am able. Swimming is still my favorite. I still swim to this day,” Sister Nancy said. “I also love to watch diving. I competed in diving also, but only on the one-meter board.”

In another element of irony, Sister Nancy is on sabbatical in Nevada and she recently met a man working there who was in the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. He said the experience was like nothing he had enjoyed previously. He spoke of the spirit of just being there with other athletes.

She enjoys watching Michael Phelps, she said. Dana Torres is another U.S. swimmer she admires. She also got to see all of the outstanding swimmers at the National Short Course Championships in Indianapolis a few years ago.

Her athletic experience extends further. After a conversation with the football coach at Our Lady of Providence High School in Clarksville, Ind., where she was on staff, she became the team’s statistician. She also coached tennis and cross country for a while, but moved into the role of basketball officiating. In her officiating career, she had five sectional tournaments, five regional tournaments and three semi-states tournaments, a noteworthy achievement. She retired from that because of a broken ankle.

She also keeps her high interest in women’s basketball, having attended five of the NCAA Women’s Final Four tournaments.

Through the demands of training and the commitment to coaching and officiating, God’s grace was the beam of light that attracted Sister Nancy, and it still does. “We sometimes miss it because we are too tied up in ourselves. Swimming is a wonderful sport where you are more or less alone and meditation comes very easily. I have had many grace-filled moments in a pool,” she said.

“There are grace-filled moments no matter where we are or what we do. As Mother Theodore has said, in order to be saints, all we have to do is keep doing everything we do, but do it for the love of God.”

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Dave Cox

Dave Cox was media relations manager for the Sisters of Providence for many years. Prior to his work with the sisters, he spent over 30 years in newspaper newsrooms.

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