Volume 1 Number 12 Lynn Kachmarik April 1, 2008

Lynn Comer-KachmarikLynn was a Gold Medallist at 2007 Aquatics World Championships, 30+ Women’s Water Polo, Stanford University. She was among first group of women to be inducted into the United States Water Polo Hall of Fame, (February, 2004). First woman inducted into the Collegiate Water Polo Hall of Fame (April, 2003). She was the Assistant Women’s National Team Coach from1991-93 (She was an assistant coach for the World Aquatic Championships at Perth in 1993). She was inducted into Slippery Rock Athletic Hall of Fame (1991). Lynn was the first women to Coach any NCAA Division I Men’s Team Sport (She coached water polo at Bucknell University from 1986 to 1990). She was the only Woman named as the Eastern Men’s Water Polo Coach of the Year (1986). Also she was the Women’s Swimming and Diving Coach at Bucknell from 1982 to 1998. From 1995 to 1998 she coached the Men’s Swimming and Diving Team and was the Women’s Water Polo coach at Bucknell from 1998 to 1999. She was a twelve-year member of the U.S. Women’s National Water Polo Team (Team Captain, 6 years). Lynn competed in the 1980, 1984, and 1988 World Aquatic Championships and she played in many FINA World Cup Championships as well. She was the first woman to play on the Women’s National Team from outside of California. Lynn was named to the All-World Team during her playing tenure on the US National Team. She was inducted into the Neshaminy High School Hall of Fame (1985). She was the recipient of the Sullivan Award for Outstanding Achievements in United States Aquatics (1981).  This is a shared aquatic award that is rotated among United States Swimming, Diving, Synchronized Swimming and Water Polo that recognizes that individual who has done the most for their sport over a four-year period of time. She was a four-time A.I.A.W. All-American Swimmer at Slippery Rock University. Lynn was an eight-time U.S. Water Polo All-American. Currently she is Director of Athletics and Recreation at Saint Mary’s College in Notre Dame, Indiana, and she is a member of the USAWP Board of Directors where she is the Ethic’s Committee Chairperson. (As you can see Lynn was both a pioneer player and a pioneer coach and she chose to tell her stories from a player’s perspective.)

Remembrance of Things Past


To this day, I can not remember who won or lost the tournament, but I can see perfectly the hospitality of the wonderful people of Malta and the true beauty in their own brown dirt.  Before we knew it the games were over and it was time to say goodbye to an adventure of a lifetime.  Our team Manager, Jane Hale, began the process of confirming our flight home.  In a panic, Jane found the team to inform us of a huge problem that was unfolding.  At the time, Malta was a tourist trap.  They were flying four or flights in each day, but one or two out.  No one was getting confirmed on any flights.  Instead of leaving the next day, she was told it could be another four or five days before our team could get off the island.

More panic settled in for some of us as this was late in August and for me I was already late getting back to Bucknell University. This is where I coached swimming and water polo during the school year and the school year began in August.  A few others were also pressed to get back to their full time jobs. After some long dialogs with the locals, we were told that a few of us could possibly get back to the mainland if we were flexible by how we got there.  “No problem”, we all said and so, the next part of my story begins.

Early the next morning, the cooks packed four of us some brown bag lunches.  I can remember thinking, no need to do that as we will be in the Rome airport, before lunch! Our yellow bus, drove us down to a boat dock, where we saw this huge flat deck barge boarding people.  Our driver, pointed to the boat and off we went.  As we approached the boat, there was the captain holding a brown paper box.  As each person went by him, they were dropping something into the box.  When it was our turn, he kept yelling something like ….passport….passport…. He wanted us to drop our passport into this box if we wanted to board the boat.  Dion Gray, our goalie tried to argue with him but it was no use.  No passport in the box, no boat.  One by one, we said goodbye to our most valued possession when traveling internationally, our passport. 

As we moved out onto the boat, the only place for us to sit was on the flat deck of this barge, out in the hot sun.  My memory has faded for some details, but I do remember that we were out on the sea for hours with nothing to drink.  We did have our brown bag lunches.  I remember finally opening up our lunch bag to find what started out as a cold cheese sandwich on the homemade bread had now turned into a grilled cheese sandwich.  After what seemed days, we finally reached the mainland.  We were later getting in and we knew that time was of the essence if we were to make our next connection.  As we picked up our belongings and moved to the exit area it was then that I thought my teammates were going to loose it.  There was the ship’s captain, pulling one by one, each passport out of the box and reading off the name of which not one of us could understand.  We now had to wait among the other many, many people on this ship to hear our name be called before we could get off.  It was one long nightmare with Dion’s name being called last.

The next part of our journey was written down for us and it looked like we were now to get on a train.   Problem was, it was an overnight trip with reserved sleeping cars of which we had no reservations.  So for the next 8 hours, we took turns standing by an open window and sitting on the floor until someone came along and we needed to move.  With my head sticking out of the window, no shower since the day before, my hair had taken on the wind blown matted look hopefully never to be seen again.  I remember closing my eyes long enough to open them to wonder, where on earth were we now?  While my eyes were closed, the train was broken into small sections and put into the base hull of a huge ship to be carried across the sea.  I remember thinking it was hard to breathe and fear that we were going to die was creeping back into my mind.  Once we got to the mainland, the pieced the train back together and we continued with our nightmare as we moved closer and closer to the Rome airport!  

Back to standing and hanging our heads out the window for air.  There was a very nice family from New Zealand that once in a while gave us one of their seats in the train car.  We rotated every few hours so we could each experience a little bit of heaven on the ride.

As we approached the end of the train ride, we collected our bags, fixed our hair…..not, and got ready to hunt down a cab ride to the airport.  (On our written directions it said get cab to airport)  We found a cab, paid $50 American dollars up front and went twenty seven seconds around the corner to the Rome Airport!!!!!!  Robbed again!!  As we jumped out of the cab and ran into the airport and up the counter, my teammates from California were told that they could catch a flight right away.  So without missing a bit, we hugged and off they went.  I had another six hours to wait before my flight for New York was scheduled to take off.  Mind you this was in the day with no cell phones so I had no idea if my parents got any message telling them when and if I would ever arrive back to the states.  I found a spot and sat down to wait by myself. 

About thirty minutes went by and I heard this commotion coming from a recent plane arriving.  Lots of laughter and American women talking.  I looked up to see the REST OF MY TEAM as they arrived from a: 30 minute flight from Malta.  I just traveled through hell for two days to get to this airport and I could not believe what I was seeing.  My face was fried, my hair was stuck to my head, I had not showered in three days and here comes this perky, good looking group of women.  No…….this could not be happening….. after being on a barge for eight hours, then on a train for twelve which was broken up and put in the bottom of a ship, then ripped off by a taxi driver who is still laughing, no way could they be in this airport. 

It was true…..they somehow got a flight out and arrived in the Rome Airport the same time as us.  They were shocked and appalled when they saw me.  There laughing stopped when they saw my appearance.  Shock was slowly taken over by their realization of what had happened.  Laughter overtook them all and what else could I do but join in.  As my story unfolded, the tears started rolling as they could not believe what I was telling them.  They only thing that convinced them that I was telling the truth was how I looked and smelled.  Surely I had to be telling the truth!

Since I was the only one on the team from outside of Californian, the story gets a little worse.  Only to add insult to injury, their flight out still left before my flight.  Here I was in the Rome airport….no one would approach me as I looked like an immigrant from a very poor country with no running water to drink or shower facilities….

Good thing I loved my coach,  Sandy Nitta……Good thing I loved Jane and Doc Hale, our manager and team doc….and good thing I loved my teammates……..As I get to share this story with all of them time and time again whenever life brings us back together.  Since I love to tell stories, this one gets better and better every time I tell it!

Lest We Forget: Pioneers of Women's Water Polo

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