Former Olympic swimmer enjoys life at a slower pace
When Marley Tobian watches the swimmers in the new pool at the Glenwood Springs Community Center, she can’t help but wonder whether the facility might someday produce an Olympian.Why not? Something similar happened to the Glenwood Springs resident.When she was 8, her parents moved to Exeter, Calif., in the San Joaquin Valley. The town had just build a pool. Anyone who swam on the team there got a pass for the whole summer.Tobian – Marley Shriver at the time – and her brother signed up.”We decided it was worth it because it was pretty hot in the San Joaquin Valley,” she said.The five years or so Tobian spent in Exeter turned out to be the beginning of something great. By the time she was 19, she was participating in the 1956 Summer Olympics in Melbourne, Australia, where she finished fourth in the 400-meter freestyle.Afterward, Tobian returned to Exeter to be honored by the town and thank townspeople for the role they played in her success.”The fun of it is just knowing that a small town can produce an Olympian,” Tobian said.A few years ago, Tobian gave another talk, in another town, to help out the fund-raising effort that led to the January opening of Glenwood Springs’ pool. Speaking before a Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association lunch, she repeated her message about how world-class athletes can get their start at community pools.
“It’s nice to have someone that has the experience of swimming in the Olympics come out and say this is great that a community’s getting a pool,” said Terri Miller, who is leading the Glenwood pool’s fund-raising effort. “She’s one of those people who understood why we needed an indoor facility in our community.”The pool is not yet fully paid for. LAP has raised $1.88 million of the $2.5 million it has pledged to contribute to the pool’s $3.2 million cost.Said Tobian, “If everybody in this town – 10,000 people – if everybody gave $50, you realize that we’d have things taken care of. And that’s not much when you think about it.”Although a big pool booster, Tobian isn’t a diehard swimmer these days. She is happier helping out as a host at Sunlight Mountain Resort and getting in some turns there a couple of times a week, along with painting, knitting, doing crafts and basket-weaving, and enjoying visits from her grandchildren.But all she has to do is start swimming laps, and the competitive fire returns. She starts feeling as if she should train harder, even at age 68. After spending so many years earlier in her life pushing herself in the pool, she’d rather take life at an easier pace, enjoying things she didn’t have time for when she trained so much.Tobian wasn’t allowed to risk injury skiing when she was swimming competitively, so she’s making up for lost time now. She lives in Glenwood Springs largely out of a love for skiing. She came to Colorado to teach dental hygiene at Colorado Northwest Community College in Rangely, and bought a house in Glenwood Springs in the early 1980s, renting it out until she could retire here in 1999.Her swimming careerBorn in Michigan, Tobian moved as a child to Southern California. After heading up north to Exeter, she moved to Glendale, outside Los Angeles. She competed in an annual town swim meet there, and the event’s starter was the swim coach for the Los Angeles Athletic Club. Tobian won a scholarship with the club.Her Olympic year, she broke the American record in the 400 freestyle at nationals. So she was disappointed to come up short of a medal at the Olympics when another American edged her out for third.
Still, Tobian’s accomplishments impress Howard Jay, a master’s national champion who has coached swimming in Glenwood Springs for years.”Anybody that swam at Marley’s caliber … certainly gets my attention and my full respect,” he said. “To reach that level is just unbelievable,” he said.Remembering the OlympicsTobian has only a few mementos of her Olympic experience: a framed certificate of her participation in the Summer Games, and a United States 1956 Olympic Book.But she has memories common to many Olympians: “just representing your country and meeting people from other countries … the camaraderie and goodwill, and finding out that people from other countries are the same as you are,” she said.The Games took place the same year as the Hungarian revolution, which was crushed by the Soviet Union. Tobian said several Hungarians defected at the Olympics. She got to know some Hungarians in the Olympic Village, and admired the courage of those who defected.She recalls attending a water polo game between Hungary and Russia.”It was pretty bloody, as I recall, as water polo sometimes gets,” she said.Hungary defeated Russia 4-0, and went on to win the gold medal as Russia settled for the bronze.
One of Tobian’s favorite Olympic memories involves the swim team’s beloved manager/chaperone, “Vee” Toner. One night the team put Toner’s bed out on top of an outhouse.”The next morning she was sleeping in it. We thought that was such a great thing, that she was such a good sport,” Tobian said.In 1957, Tobian married diver Gary Tobian, who took a silver in the 1956 Games and a gold and silver in 1960.She finished her schooling and started her career, and later helped get her husband through school. They then had a daughter and son, and later divorced.After she quit competing, Tobian coached swimming, but not for long. The experience confirmed her belief that some athletes have the desire to excel, and others don’t.”I find I’m too demanding. I was very demanding right after the Games and I don’t have the patience to do that (coach). I guess it’s because if you don’t see the drive in the person it’s frustrating to me. And I’m not that way about dental hygiene. I mean, I can teach that.””I think the best you can do is introduce your children to as many things as possible in hopes that they’ll take an interest in something, because it will sure keep you out of trouble,” she said.Contact Dennis Webb: 945-8515, ext. email@example.com
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