Honoring Falmouth's Olympic Champions

Celebrating the athletic prowess and success of Colleen Coyne

Falmouth’s own Olympic Gold Medalist.

I remember the event like it was yesterday. Standing on the stage in the auditorium at Lawrence School, in front of hundreds of cheering Falmouthites, feeling the energy in the room and basking in the adoration, I was proud on that day to be from Falmouth.

The applause and adulation of course, were not for me. I was just lucky enough to be the emcee for the event celebrating the athletic prowess and Olympic success of Colleen Coyne, Falmouth’s own Olympic Gold Medalist.

Jim Bowen, Helen Kennedy and I, along with a great team of locals arranged a great community event that day that gave Colleen a big Falmouth-sized hug and demonstrated the gratitude of an entire town. In addition to the event that day, the town placed a marker on Academy Lane, naming the square at the intersection with Main Street Colleen Coyne Square, making a lasting notation of Falmouth’s affection and pride for our Olympic champion.

Fast forward a few years, and another Olympian with Falmouth ties, Erik Vendt, started his own hardware collection, earning swimming Silver Medals at the 2000 and 2004 Olympics, and put the icing on his Olympic cake with a gold in the 4X200 relay at the Beijing games in 2008. His dad Bill, a North Falmouth resident, had heard about the festivities for Colleen, and called Selectman, community leader, and get-things-done-type Pat Flynn to see how his son’s successes could be recognized.

Pat called me and I called my go-to Rotarian Jack Rosenbaum, and another celebration was born. We’ve been meeting, chatting, and planning for a year now, and Falmouth is ready to celebrate. Next Saturday, Falmouth will pay tribute to another Olympian. Next Saturday, a community will once again come together and show some gratitude and civic pride, and next Saturday, I’ll join a crowd of what will hopefully be hundreds of Falmouthites at Peg Noonan Park to cheer for the accomplishments of Erik Vendt.

The day will begin with a swim event at Surf Drive Beach at 8AM, where kids of all ages will participate in an organized competitive swim; all swimmers will be awarded their own “Olympic” medal by Erik Vendt himself, graciously donated by Falmouthite and prosperous entrepreneur Johnnie Hatem. At the conclusion of the swim, participants will parade down Walker Street to Peg Noonan Park, where the crowds will convene at 11AM and celebrate and enjoy music by one of Falmouth’s most notable volunteers and retired peace keeper “Officer” Cheryl Atherton.

As with most successful community celebrations, this one has grown from a simple idea to a large-scale festival of Falmouth with the energy, input and dedication of many supportive citizens. When the Falmouth Aquatics Club heard about the event, they dove (pun intended) into action and offered to coordinate the swimming event. Patty Gaynor, Jim Preisig, and a host of others have been eager and welcome members of Erik’s celebration team. Even legendary event organizer Rich Sherman has lent his advice and lessons learned.

This has been, like so many others, a gathering of neighbors and friends, each pitching in their part to fulfill the notion that a community is so much more than the name of a town. Former VISA Ceo Dee Hock said it best. ““The essence of community, its heart and soul, is the non-monetary exchange of value; things we do and share because we care for others, and for the good of the place.” This place, this community, has come together to share its values of togetherness and friendship and to honor a champion.

So, if you are looking to catch a glimpse of an Olympic Champion, show your civic pride, see an American Flag waving in the late summer breeze, or all of the above, then join your community next Saturday to pay tribute to our latest Olympic Champion, Erik Vendt on right.

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