“On your marks, get set…” the referee shouted half-muffled into his microphone. I gripped the azure diving block, and my vision grayed thanks to the tint of the goggles. Everyone waited to hear the “beep!” Leap early. and my effort could earn me a dreaded “DQ” on my race sheet. If I dove too early. my race would become a near hopeless uphill slog. “Beep!” the lights flashed. my muscles and joints tensed in unison. and I lept into the cerulean water- like I had a million times before in practice- back straight, toes pointed, shoulders squeezed tight against my ears.
The smell of chlorine and the accumulation of swimmer pee filled the air. There is always a brief shock from the cold. but today it barely registers. My head is a tunnel. focused on a single beam of light: the next stroke the next and the next. and then a breath. until I saw the blue and white flags marking out five metres until the bulkhead.
Nothing else matters the cheers of my teammates. not the expectations of my coaches, not the torrent of white water coming from the lanes beside me. I am one with the water and one with my goal: to win this race. My practice paid off. and the technique I had built through hundreds of hours of repetition was in full fruition like an expert artist painting his masterpiece. On the other hand, my teammates were taking injuries to skip out on difficult training that would refine their abilities.
They had all the tools to excel but lacked an obsession with the sport. They enjoyed it. but I lived it swimming was something that I could look fonrvard to every day no matter how crummy or lousy my day was going I always had a smile knowing that I could go to practice. This was one of the last race weeks of the season. and I hadn‘t hit a Provincial Standard. Swimming standards were categorized into groups of three. single A double A and triple A. The more A‘s in the title the faster the time requirement was it was a pivotal race.
If I achieved the astandard. I would be eligible to progress to “PAG” which was short for the provincial age group. If I had failed my work would have been for nothing I’m on my final lap, sprinting towards the steel-concrete wall, and just passed the hanging sets of blue and white flags I could vaguely remember my coach yelling. “Push it push it, push it! Go go go!” I held my breath while flailing my arms through the water. refusing to turn my head and lose the split fraction of a second that breathing took I reached with all of my might and finally touched the wall. It all started when I was younger I was always very competitive: if my siblings got a particular grade or a specific time I would try to beat them. The three of us all began swtmming from a very young age: however, they were always very talented.
They understood the fundamentals and easily improved practice after practice. day by day, year by year I on the other hand struggled in the beginning. Despite my struggles with understanding the basics I fell in love wtth swrmming the moment I staned. The feeling the water gave me when I was in it was like nothing I had experienced before. It brought me true peace inside and allowed me to escape from the stress of school and life and just be in the moment. Although I may not have had the talent I did have something neither of them had a perpetual obsession propelling me funher and further toward success. It was like a never—ending famine. and swimming was the only way to satiate my hunger with time my body would develop, and I caught up to my siblings, who were plagued with injuries over the years. Ultimately both pursued other forms of amusement in their lives; however, I was driven by a goal a purpose I dreamed of becoming an Olympic swimmer, soaring into the water on the world’s biggest stage.
I gave everything I had to swim every day without fail. For most people. the practice was boring; it was the dull and grey parts required to see improvement. Yet on the other hand I loved every practice because I knew it would bring me closer to my goal every time I lept into the water. I often pushed my body to its absolute limit, resulting in constant sickness. Due to my habit of over-working, I missed an entire month of school from being sick. Despite my illness, I knew that if I did the work and listened to what my coaches told me, I would see improvement in time, speed, and technique, I knew that it was all interconnected; the more work you put in, the better results you get. The manner in which I saw improvement lit a fire inside me to work even harder to improve. However my desire to become an Olympic swimmer and my longing to improve led me to the descent into my darkest pit of misery.
It was a hole so deep that no matter how hard I tried to climb out, I could still feel the sorrow left behind. My friends and I were enjoying ourselves and working hard at practice, progressmg forwards and surpassing the time standards required to move on to the next level. The way swimming worked was split up into groups by time standards I was currently in the “RD” group which stood for the regional divrsion and the group above was PAG. We all thought we would make it, despite many skipping out on practices and lacking motivation. That was when the letter arrived I tore open the white envelope and took the piece of paper out I was excited yet anxious at the same time I prepared for good news, praying for my promotion to PAG. I read the letter. and then my heart stopped. My mind went blank, and I stood there in that moment frozen in time.
Everything around me was like me empty void of space “We are sorry to inform you that…” once I had seen that crucial phrase, I knew everything was about to change. It was a crushing defeat for me if asked to back then, I would not be able to even put into words how I felt I began processing the failure in whatever way I could. “Am I not good enough? Did everyone else out—work me? Where did I go wrong?”My mind was clogged and filled with memories of the time spent swimming my entire career flashing through my head I was sure I would advance and was finally prepared to take that next step toward my dream. I felt shattered I went through a period in my mental space that would leave me wounded for some time. Anger, regret, and sorrow are all going through my head I tried and tried, over and over, trying to ﬁgure out what I had missed. What was the thing that separated me from everyone else who had advanced? I thought about it and began making excuses for myself.
“Hard work beats talent. but if people wrth talent work hard, how can hard work wrn?” I thought that maybe some things were just not meant to be I sat at home, unmotivated to do much as all I could think about was how it was impossible to accomplish my goal. Everything that I had worked so hard for was inconsequential, I felt like a piece of me had been ripped out, like I had lost a part of myself. For the first time in my life, I had learned what depression felt like. Up until this point. the only clue I had of what I wanted to be in life was a swimmer. It was the one thing that I could truly rely on, no matter what I did, I would always be able to go swim. It was ironic in a way; swimming had brought me to my darkest hour, yet had also made up some of the happiest moments of my life.
It pushed me to my knees and held me there, but It also was the heroic hand that would help me up and allow me to move forward. In the end swimming taught me what it means to put your hean and soul into something. It showed me what success meant and what it felt like to fail I realized that despite not achieving my dream I knew deep down that I could work harder than anyone else. It gave me the discipline I needed to excel in all other areas of my life. Without swimming I would not have been able to become the person that I am today. It is only through hardship that someone can grow and experiencing such heanbreaking failure so early on in my life allowed me to figure out how to cope with my emotions and move past failure to find success swrmming shed light on what failure truly was. Accomplishments do not measure the level of success, the lessons do. Through my loss at swimming, my perspective on me changed allowing me to learn how to look at the bigger picture sure, I may have lallen short of my dreams. However, I am sure that whatever I am meant to do on this planet. whatever my calling may be. the lessons I learned through swimming will allow me to leap off the blocks and dive into whatever trials and tribulations await me.