Kirk sisters cheered on from home

As swimming stars Tara and Dana Kirk narrowly missed Olympic medals in Athens, Greece, last week, people by the dozens packed in front of television sets in their hometown of Bremerton to cheer them on.

“This is the best thing to happen to the community in a long time,” said Denise Zaske, personnel director at the Bremerton School District.

Sixty school district employees and community members breaked from work for a few minutes Monday morning to cheer on Kirk, 22, who was hunting for Olympic gold in the 100-meter butterfly event.

She received a sixth place finish time of 1:07.59. Luo Xvejuan of China won the gold with a time of 1:06.64.

Tara’s younger sister Dana, 20, just missed qualifying for the finals in her event, the 200-meter butterfly. Her time of 2:11.69 knocked her out of the competition by .22 seconds.

Kirk and Dana are the first sisters to ever compete on the American Olympic swim team at the same time.

“I just admire them for what they have given up to achieve their goals,” said Ann Ryan, who attended the gathering.

She has lived several blocks down the street from the Kirk family on Lower Marine Drive in Bremerton since the young women were just toddlers.

Her eyes welled with tears when she described why she came to watch.

“The fact they are in the Olympics is just so wonderful. We all feel like we have a personal connection like we’ve never had,” she said.

Rather than moving to train closer to their Tacoma swim club, parents Margaret and Jeff Kirk kept Tara and Dana in school in Bremerton.

Although Dana’s Olympic television coverage was not available, administrators watched Tara in awe on Monday through a live feed on the Canadian Broadcast Company channel at the Bremerton School District Administration Building.

Although Kirk appeared to lead through the first 25 meters, the others overtook her.

Some of the people in the Monday gathering stood up and yelled at the television set to Tara, cheering her on.

They clapped, stomped their feet, and crossed their fingers. Some wore T-shirts with the sisters pictured on the back and the words “Go Knights!”

The knight in armor is the symbol for Bremerton High School.

Elementary school principals Gayle Sackman (Naval Elementary School) and Flint Walpole (West Hills Elementary School) sat and cheered side by side with community members like Ann Ryan and Bremerton School Board member Vickie Collins.

The Kirk sisters have had many successes in their swimming careers, including the Class 4A championship.

Tara broke the world record in the

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