July 25, 2009. After months and months of hard work, I’m swimming the last races of my season at long course state- seven events and three relays. For one of those relays, the 400m free relay, my coach moved me up to swim with the older girls. I met up with my relay as the only 14- year old, the shortest and the smallest. It’s safe to say that’s the most nervous I have EVER been in my entire life. I stood behind the blocks as the smallest, the youngest, and the most nervous one there. I assured myself that because of the suit I wore, the goggles on my head, and the pre-race rituals, I would help my team win the state. I knew that we had a great chance of claiming that title. It could be ours. The only variable that could screw that up was me. My previous time for the 100 free wasn’t going to win that relay for us. So I just stood there and told myself that I had done everything right- from wearing the right suit to preparing my body. As I stood, giving myself this false sense of courage, it finally hit me. Jason Lezak should not have come back to win that 400m free relay at the Olympics. Michael Phelps should not have out-touched Cavic in his 100m fly at the Olympics. On paper, nothing like that ever seems to work out. The mind is where every race is won or lost. So I could’ve stood there and thought of EVERYTHING, and we still would’ve lost. But instead, I stood there thinking one thing- about how much I wanted that title. Never in my life had I wanted anything so bad. So while Jason Lezak and Michael Phelps should not have won those events, their strong desire to win brought them to that wall faster than any human being ever swam before. The race started, and all I could think about was how much winning this relay meant to the rest of my team and me. The first girl went and she produced a strong lead for the second swimmer. When the second swimmer was halfway across the pool, my turn was nearing. I stood up on that block and told myself that if I wanted this, nothing could stop me. I dove into the pool with a sturdy lead; I was determined to not screw that up. Clearing my mind during that race, thinking of nothing other than getting back to that wall, I kept the lead in the first 50. As I turned, nobody was near me. I didn’t slow down after I saw my lead; I just kept telling myself how much I wanted this and how much it meant to my team. I finally touched that wall, having swum the fastest 100m free of my life. Our anchor swam fantastically, and my team won! At the beginning of this story, there was a nervous girl who thought about everything that didn’t matter. At the end, that same girl truly in her soul believed that because she wanted that title, she was able to swim faster than she ever had before.
The Will of the Win
September 4, 2010