Every four years when the Olympics roll around, the world suddenly rediscovers the sport of swimming. Over the past two weeks while swimming aired on primetime television, my Twitter feed blew up with swimmers and non-swimmers alike tweeting about swimming races, different swimmers’ toned physiques, and whether they were Team Lochte or Team Phelps. I’ll be the first one to say that I LOVE the attention that our sport receives during the Olympic games.
As you may have figured out from the topic of this blog, though, I’m interested in getting the message out that becoming a world-class swimmer comes with a long journey. Perhaps this is why I was so frustrated after the first day of swimming coverage when Michael Phelps failed to medal in the 400 I.M. and the world collectively turned on him. Suddenly, according to my Twitter friends as well as the media, he was a failure and none of his previous achievements mattered. I was most disappointed when I saw my own swimming peers bashing the man that changed our sport and made history just four years ago. Every swimmer has experienced a disappointing race during their career, but most don’t have to have that race broadcasted for the world to see.
Four years ago in Beijing, I believe the world was left with an unrealistic representation of our sport. They watched everything work in Phelps’ favor and believed that it could all be done again. The truth is that swimming is a lot more like what we saw at these Olympics in London. While we saw a man officially become the greatest Olympian of all time, we also saw him make mistakes and face disappointment. We saw fresh faces of the sport dominate in one event and falter in another. Ultimately, we are left with the realization that the career of a swimmer is a long journey with bumps along the way. In the end, though, we will remember the legacy these athletes leave behind and the adversity they overcame.
Congratulations on a fantastic career, Michael Phelps.