By Kevin Posival
Killeen Daily Herald
TEMPLE – Army swim coach Mickey Wender didn't want to hear what his recruit was telling him. Stewart Glenister, a 2007 graduate of Temple High School, explained he'd been playing football with some friends over spring break and he had fractured his femur.
"I put it bluntly. 'Coach, I have a fractured leg. I was playing football with some buddies over spring break,'" Glenister said. "We tried to stay optimistic about it."
Added Wender, "We were concerned, disappointed and scared and, quite frankly, I didn't think that he was even going to be let in."
From those initial conversations, Glenister and Wender are now bound for Beijing to represent the South Pacific island American Samoa at the 2008 Summer Olympic Games.
The injury kept him from competing at the World Championships for American Samoa last year in Australia and because of that, he won't be able to swim his best event at the Olympics: the 200-meter butterfly.
Because Glenister didn't register an accredited qualifying time, the International Olympic Committee, specifically the International Swimming Federation (FINA), chose his event, the 50 freestyle which he will swim on Aug. 14.
"He's a 200 butterflier," said Wender, who will be the American Samoan Olympic swim coach. "I'm not going to say he would've beaten Michael Phelps, I just would've liked to have seen him compete in his best event."
According to the U.S. Military Academy's goarmysports.com Web site, Glenister registered the team's third-fastest times in the 100 (53.02 seconds) and 200 (1:57.84) butterfly events during his freshman season, while also ranking seventh in the 100 backstroke (57.32) and 100 freestyle (48.81).
"About as fast I could before (the injury)," Glenister said. "I was hoping to beat my best time in the 100, I was just about a second off. That was kind of disappointing. In the 200, I dropped 2 seconds, so that was good.
"(The 50 freestyle) is just like whatever you've got, you lay it all out there."
Glenister explained that even though he'd been recruited by West Point, he would still have to pass a military physical and a fractured leg would definitely be a red flag against him. He filed all his paperwork, which had increased because of the injury, and was allowed into the program, which began with basic training.
"When I got there ? my medical screen showed I had previously broken my leg and it wasn't completely healed. I couldn't even do the diagnostic test," Glenister said. "As basic training went on, it helped a lot. I felt my leg getting stronger. By the third week, I felt pretty good."
When Glenister was finally able to get into a light workout routine, both he and Wender noticed the affects of his injury and the subsequent time out of the pool.
"He had a hard time doing anything involving his legs, but he didn't complain ? and adapted well," Wender said. "It took him about three or four months but he's back to that point he was before the injury. We're not even sure what he's really capable of."
Glenister's parents are from American Samoa. His maternal grandfather was the first popularly elected governor and Glenister's cousin still lives there, working on an aquatics program and is a member of the island's Olympic selection committee.
Glenister said the military has as much of a tradition in his family as American Samoa does, which is why he chose West Point.
"We're Samoan, but we also have a long line of military service," Glenister said. "My dad was in it for 23 years, all the guys on my dad's side of the family served in some branch of the military. My dad told me if I was going to serve, I should be an officer and West Point is known for making great officers. Plus, I could join the military there and I'd have a chance to swim."
He almost didn't. Wender liked his potential from the get-go, but even he underestimated his determination to achieve what he sets out to do. He dives in head first and lays it out all there.
"It's a great success story," Wender said. "He was a great example for the rest of the team. If someone was complaining about a blister, you could point to Stewart and say he had a fractured leg just a few months ago," Wender said.
"He understands, better than most what it means to serve his country."
Contact Kevin Posival at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7562.