Granite Bay’s Anderson shares Olympic medal, experience with young patients at Kaiser Roseville

By: Bill Poindexter/Roseville Press Tribune Sports Editor
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It’s been a physically and mentally demanding summer for Haley Anderson of Granite Bay, but the Olympic silver medalist in the women’s 10K marathon open-water swim had plenty of energy to visit the pediatric Intensive Care Unit at Kaiser Permanente Roseville on Thursday morning.

Anderson, having just returned home from across the pond earlier this week, watched with young patients, their parents, staff and family as highlights from her race were shown. Anderson has a handful of relatives who are on the staff at the hospital.

She visited with patients in rooms and hallways, stopped by a nurses’ station, posed for pictures, signed autographs and let people touch and hold her heavy silver medal.

Anderson explained portions of her race during the replay. She pointed out the feeding station — “I know, it looks funny,” she said — and explained why swimmers occasionally do the backstroke during the two-hour race, “to see where the other swimmers are.”

Viewers applauded when Anderson touched the wall four-tenths of a second after gold-medal winner Eva Risztov of Hungary.

Following the replay, Anderson was hammered during a Q&A session, like this one from 4-year-old Diego Nevarez: “Do you have games on your phone?”

Anderson answered Diego with “Angry Bird,” and, “What’s your favorite game?”

On a more serious note, Anderson described her Olympic experience as “surreal.”
She met several Olympians, including the new Olympic record-holder in all-time medals, swimmer Michael Phelps, though she has crossed paths with him on previous trips.

Anderson watched the last two days of the swimming competition and had one day to take in London. Her biggest thrill was sharing the experience with sister Alyssa, who won a gold medal in the women’s 4x200 freestyle relay.

“Everything was just so exciting, and to have my older sister there competing was even better,” Anderson said. “It was good to see all the support everybody was showing my parents and me and my sister.”

Anderson said she was more nervous watching Alyssa race than she was for her own event. And while she was in Canada training and missed the opening ceremony, Haley Anderson did walk in the closing ceremony.

“It was really fun to see everybody dressed up in our funny outfits,” she said.

Some of her stops at the hospital were planned, like her visit with patient Samantha Dacong, 9, and her parents Regina and Steven. Anderson spent several minutes with Samantha, who’s battling cancer and recently had a leg amputated.

Other meetings were by chance, as when a 4-year-old known as the “Ironman” was wheeled by and introduced to Anderson. Ironman wanted an autograph.

“Would you like to hold this?” Anderson asked, handing the lad her silver medal.

Anderson said she didn’t think she’d wear the medal often, although, “Everybody’s been making me wear it. My aunt wouldn’t let me come see her without it.”