the olympic swimmerpublished: 2011-08-17
The Olympic Games. A woman wanted to be a part of something grand. So she used her charm and pleaded with an acquaintance of hers. He was a very important person of some sort. He told her, “you just got lucky. The Dutch national team is out of swimmers so there’s an empty lane for the competition. Take it, it’s yours.”
The woman was overjoyed. She had been listening to the audience’s cheers and chants, the stomping of feet, the waves of hurrays and ooooohs, the display of national flags. Soon, this was all going to be for her. She hugged and kissed the man, and he blushed.
As the competition neared, she contemplated how good she actually was at swimming. Not that good at all. She could swim, like any other person. She wasn’t exceptionally good.
One of the professional swimmers said, “once you hit that water, there isn’t anything like it. For the rest, endurance is key.”
Endurance? Not speed?
“Not for the 3 kilometer race no. Endurance.”
3 kilometers? She envisioned how long that was. She could barely run 3 kilometers, let alone swim that distance. Falling back on a 50 meter race didn’t feel all too disastrous. The moment would pass as fast as it had begun. But 3 kilometers. The distance between winner and loser would become painfully visible and it would last for hours. Cameras, audience, commentators.
She wanted to pull out. Oh no no, she couldn’t do that, said her acquaintance. She really couldn’t. His respectability depended on it. And that of her country.
But, she said, I am going to lose. And horribly so!
He disappeared and she watched the professional swimmers put on thei gear. She herself was wearing her holiday bikini.
“I don’t have one of those suits!” she cried, “and was I really supposed to shave my entire body?”
There seemed no way back and so she told herself that failing wasn’t the worst thing in the world. As long as one failed graciously and elegantly. Comically maybe? She could try and act the village clown. And if she managed to do that, is she could pull it off well, she would go down in history as “that funny woman who attracted all the cameras with her antics.” Who the entire world watched, an hour long, or more. If she could do that, instead of try to be good. If.