As I was heading to bed last night, I couldn’t decide whether or not to get up at 4:58 AM to watch Phelps go for his 8th gold of the Olympics. Having played a few hours of beach volleyball yesterday, I was pretty tired and actually fell asleep while trying to decide whether or not to get up and reset my alarm clock for 4:57 AM. I guess my decision was made for me. Oh well, I would see the results of his race on the Internet as soon as I woke up anyway.
Then, in the middle of the night, I woke up inexplicably. I glanced over at the alarm clock; it read 4:57 AM. This was clearly fate intervening so, blurry eyed, I turned on Zattoo, found a channel that was showing aquatics, and tuned in just as the 4x100MR was about to start.
I’m glad I did–what a race! Things didn’t start out too well for the US and the BBC commentator remarked several times that he didn’t think we were performing well enough to fend off the strong Australians in the anchor leg. In fact we had slipped to third place when Phelps dove in for the third leg. 100m later we were in first and Jason Lezak wasn’t about to give it up.
8 gold medals and 7 world records in 9 days. Michael Phelps, what a machine. Sure he’s genetically predisposed to swimming but it takes much more than that to accomplish what he has. Years of focused, intense practice; discipline to maintain perfect form even when exhausted; mental toughness to push harder even when there is nothing left; heart to persevere even when unthinkable success has already been achieved.
What I love most about his feat is that some of his golds came from team events. His fate rested not just in his hands but also in the hands of others who wouldn’t share the media attention, glory, or financial reward. Yet they all rallied around him and dug down deep–Jason Lezak, especially–to make it happen.
I’m glad I woke up to watch; I was inspired by the drive, dedication, and teamwork of those representing the USA.