A few hours before her induction into the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame Thursday, Livonia’s Sheila Taormina turned the spotlight away from her illustrious athletic career and shined it directly on the city in which she was raised and the supportive contingent of people who guided her.
“The opportunities and facilities I was blessed with growing up in Livonia, and the incredible coaches and family I’ve had supporting me, made everything I’ve accomplished possible,” she said. “During my travels around the world, I’ve seen children who, if given the opportunities I had, would have crushed me in swimming.”
Taormina competed on four United States Olympics teams (1996, 2000, 2004 and 2008) and was the first woman to qualify for for the Olympics in three different sports: swimming, triathlon and modern pentathlon.
A swimming and academic standout at Livonia Stevenson High School and the University of Georgia, Taormina failed in her first two attempts at making the U.S. Olympic team, but remained persistent, training with a Livonia club team before and after her auto industry-related job.
Taormina said Thursday night’s ceremony would be special because of the presence of people close to her, including her longtime coach Greg Phill and her good friend and former teammate at Livonia Stevenson, Michele Siroky.
“This isn’t about me as much as it’s about the people who have helped me along the way,” she said. “People like my coach Greg Phill, who knows how to put everything in perspective and knows that one bad race isn’t the end of the world. And people like Michele Siroky, who has been an amazing friend.
“It’s people like Greg and Michele who should be getting the attention, not me.”
Taormina has authored a book – Swim Speed Secrets – about freestyle swimming techniques. She also travels around the globe as a motivational speaker.
Thursday night’s induction class was one of the most high-profile in the Hall of Fame’s history.
In addition to Taormina, Livonia resident and Dearborn Heights native Aleta Sill was honored after carving out one of the most-impressive professional careers in the history of women’s bowling. Sill was 13 professional titles and was the first woman bowler to exceed $1 million in career earnings.