Father of Olympic Swimmer Falls To Ironic Death

I generally operate under the assumption that the Big Guy (you know, upstairs) not only has a pretty decent sense of humor but that anything really ironic in this world is a fascinating twist on things. I am, occasionally, however, reminded that this is not always the case and that irony plays just as much towards tragedy as it does comedy.

Alon Mandel Swimming

I suppose that’s the lesson — if there’s any lesson — to be learned from the sad, sad death of Kostia Mandel, the father of Olympic swimmer Alon Mandel, who passed away this past weekend. Mandel had been celebrating his son’s achievement - reaching the global stage of the Olympics - by hanging a flag outside their house in Israel, when he fell and suffered fatal injuries.

From John Niyo of the DETROIT NEWS:

It’s hard to imagine a more cruel twist of fate than that, and that’s a thought that has no doubt haunted Alon in the days since.

He went for a walk with a couple of his coaches after he hung up the phone with his mother Thursday morning. Then he came back to his room and took a sleeping pill.

“I managed to sleep for another three hours, but the sleep didn’t take away the pain that I’m dealing with now,” he told reporters the next day at a flag-raising ceremony for the Israeli Olympic team.

It’s one of the most horribly tragic things I’ve heard in a while, and while I am certain that Mandel wants his father memoralized, it may actually be mentioned more times than we need to hear it, depending on NBC’s coverage schedule.

Mandel is lined up for heats today (200-m butterfly) and Thursday (100-m butterfly), and depending on how he fares, he may have to fit a seven-day period of mourning and a funeral in between Olympic time trials. But the thing is, Mandel wasn’t ever supposed to even be in Beijing, having been an underdog enough that his father bet the young man he would shave his mustache if he made the Olympic team.

“Alon decided several years ago, when he was probably half the size he is now — and when I still as able to beat him up — that he was going to be an Olympian,” said Maya, 24, a two-time Israeli national champion in the pool who also competed for the Wolverines. […] Even their mother hadn’t seen Kostia without that moustache, Maya laughed. Until a few weeks ago, that is.

“He shaved it the day Alon left with the team for the Olympics,” his sister said.

In an ideal world, Mandel would win the gold and we could get the perfect amount (read: pleasantly eulogizing without oversaturation so as to actually dishonor Mandel’s father in the name of ratings) of coverage from the press on this. I don’t think that’s a likely scenario, but then again, I’ve been more surprised by less surprising things before.