As I wrote in today's Observer, Jilen Siroky was always one of my favorite athletes to cover. At 14, she made the Olympics as a swimmer and got a whole lot of attention as the youngest U.S. Olympian on that 662-member team that competed in Atlanta in 1996.
Now, at 26, living in Chicago and out of swimming entirely, she gets practically no attention. She's just a small cog in the Windy City, with a good job and a fiancee she will marry in November in Charlotte. You can see that story here if you missed it.
Jilen's parents still live here in Charlotte. Her younger brother, who was also a good swimmer, graduated from Harvard and now works for a bank in New York. They're an accomplished family, but very down to Earth. One thing I didn't get in the story was what Jerry Siroky, Jilen's father, told me about how the kids spent their time. He said he and his wife Helen basically had their kids in one of three places for most of the kids' young lives: school, sports or church. Not a bad trio.
What really struck me about this story was how different the lives of Siroky and her competitor in the 200-meter breaststroke in 1996, Amanda Beard, turned out. Both were 14-year-olds back then, but Beard's life has taken many more glamorous turns since (many of them the sort of turns that Siroky was mostly happy to avoid). Here's the story about Beard, who will compete in her fourth Olympics in Beijing a year after posing nude for Playboy.