Who Dat?

Back in the 80s, long before the X-Games existed, Tom Haig traveled the world as an extreme athlete. He visited more than 50 countries as an international high diver, doing multiple somersault tricks from over 90 feet.

That life came crashing down one Sunday morning in 1996. While training on his mountain bike, he smashed into the grill of a truck and became paralyzed from the waist down. But less than a year later he completed a 100-mile ride on a hand-cycle and traveled by himself to Europe and the Middle East.

Since then he has continued to travel the world as a consultant, writer and video producer. He spent six months launching a Tibetan radio station in the Himalayas and shot documentary shorts on disability in Bangladesh, France, Albania, Ghana and most recently Nepal.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

20 Pools - A Swimming Odyssey: Primer

About a month ago I started counting all the swimming pools I've worked out in over the past 18 months and realized that I'd just hit my 20th pool on 3.5 continents (South Asia is a SUB continent!) . Originally I was going to do a simple FaceBook post ranking them from best to worst; both indoor and outdoor. As I started putting them in order I thought I needed to add little notes as to why one was better or worse than the other. What started out being short pithy quotes ended up being longer descriptions. And then I realized that there was usually a strange or unique situation that brought me to each pool. Before I knew it, I actually had a series of short stories.

So without further ado, here's the first issue of 20 Pools - A Swimming Odyssey.


Before I get started on the pools I'm going to explain a bit about my personal history of swimming.

I hate swimming.

That sounds pretty strange from someone who spent nearly his entire life between the ages of 12 and 30 at a swimming pool. I'm a pool rat, just the same way Steph Curry is a gym rat. Between the ages of 18 and 30, I didn't even own underwear. I just wore swimming suits. Whichever suit hanging in my locker was driest after practice became my underwear for the next day.

I started out swimming for the Nicolet Swim Club in Glendale, Wisconsin because my brother Andy was on the high school team and our entire social network seemed to revolve around that team. All I remember from that first year was that nobody used goggles and my eyes burned so badly I had to cry for 5 minutes to get the chlorine out. I also remember I wasn't any good. I would see my friends load up meet after meet with ribbons and medals, and I only once won a heat ribbon- because they screwed up my seed time and I got put in a slow race.

After a year, the head coach, John Malloy (sp?),  offered diving lessons for anyone who could make it to the pool at 6:15 a.m. In the dead of winter, I began waking up at 6:00, walking through freezing Wisconsin winter darkness, then strapping on a Speedo and learning the basics of diving. As soon as I learned how to jump off a board properly, I was hooked. I never swam another workout. Diving paid for half my college and sent me around the world, but I never so much as swam 200 yards in a pool until I broke my back. Then for therapy, I cranked out a couple 1000-yard workouts in my thoracic brace - which made me hate swimming even more.

In lieu of swimming, I had become an avid cyclist. I rode my bike all over the world and even chose to live in the French Alps for four years because it was the best biking on the planet. Even when I broke my back, I was only off the bike for six months. My friends and family (mostly old swim-teammates) popped for a competitive hand cycle, and one of my French families (I've got three of them!) put me up for the summer. Before my back really had a chance to fully heal, I had done a century ride in the Alps.

Over the next 17 years I put thousands of miles on that bike and even won some big races. Then one day as I was lifting my leg onto my couch, my left shoulder popped. It hurt like hell and I spent two days on the couch without getting up. Eventually the pain went away and I got back on the bike. But only a month later it popped again as I was transferring from the bike to my chair. I went to a sports medicine doctor and he diagnosed me with a minor rotator cuff tear.

He didn't advise surgery, but I had to rest it until the pain was gone and I recovered complete range of motion. 12 months and 25 pounds later, I still had the pain and my range of motion was even worse. I was starting to have trouble transferring from my chair to the bed, the toilet and even my car seat.

Which brings us to Pool #1: Buck Community Rec Center, Denver, Colo. 


  1. I guess that's the appropriate cliff hanger ending to your post. Boy, can't wait to read about that pool!