NARRAGANSETT– Two-time Olympian Elizabeth Beisel of North Kingstown goes for the gold today in her second swim event, the 200-meter backstroke, at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. Beisel, who set a personal best of 4:31.27 in the 400-meter individual medley on Saturday, earning a silver medal, and the honor of taking second place in the world, is a fierce competitor.
“She was going for the gold,” said Beisel’s grandfather, Milton Wolferseder after the race. Seated in VIP manner in front of the big screen at Twin Willows restaurant in Narragansett, Wolferseder and his wife Gertrude were honored guests in a community viewing party attended by hundreds of family, friends and local residents who came out in support to cheer his granddaughter on to a win.
“Elizabeth is a competitor. She hates to lose at anything,” he said in an emotional moment. “I know she is happy right now.”
Pointing to the conclusion of the race, the beaming Grandpa spoke of his admiration for Elizabeth’s character more than her accomplishments as an Olympic athlete. “At the end, she hugged the gold medalist. That’s the kind of girl she is.”
Calling attention to the hundreds of supporters gathered at “The Willows,” Wolferseder spoke of the communities of North Kingstown, Saunderstown and Narragansett, banding together to send Elizabeth and her family across the pond. When informed that more than 100 supporters had gathered just down the road at North Kingstown High School, Wolferseder became emotional. “The community is always here for her. She appreciates it.”
Elizabeth, as told by many speaking highly of her dedication, left for London determined to capture a medal for the people cheering at home in Rhode Island. Cheer her on is exactly what they did on Saturday. The crowd, jockeying for position in front of big screens in the local pub and restaurant, came from across the state to watch Elizabeth’s success in a place familiar to her.
Local resident Diane McGregor grew up with Elizabeth’s mother, Joan, in Providence. Motioning to the crush of more than 40 friends behind her, McGregor imparted a tale of family and friends who had stuck together for decades. The crew who grew up summering together at Bonnet Shores in Narragansett, now gathered as one of their own prepared to compete in her second Olympic games.
“We are here to support the family. We were all here Tuesday night [attending a fundraising event to send the family across the pond] and we are all here today,” explained McGregor. “The families who grew up together and spent time right here and at Bonnet - the Fogartys, Farrellys, McCarthys, Sullivans - we are family.”
“She is such a good girl,” smiled Wolferseder as he and his wife were surrounded by a crowd of well-wishers. “She once said to me, Grandpa, I don’t know why they are making such a big deal out of me.”
The Olympian, world record holder and 3.9 GPA student at the University of Florida is a big deal across the state with a brigade of well-wishers waiting for Beisel’s next chance to bring home another medal on Friday afternoon.
When asked what he would say to his granddaughter after the race, Wolferseder, surrounded by his wife, son Frank and daughter, Jane Duran, was resolute in response.
“What would I tell her? Well, I would tell her that she has the proudest grandfather in the world.”
Tracey O’Neill is a freelance writer with Southern Rhode Island Newspapers.