As the 2012 Olympics begin in London, my brain is flooded with memories.
Memories of the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, but perhaps more than just the Olympics, it was the few years prior. The few years prior when I was swimming. Swimming and dreaming of making the times. Knowing that the 1996 games would be my best chance.
and yet… as close as my dreams were, in reality I was still a long way away.
1996 was the year that USA Swimming won 13 gold medals. It was the year of Amy van Dyken, Gary Hall Jr., Tom Dolan, Brooke Bennett, Jenny Thompson and the cute Amanda Beard.
Amanda Beard. She was 14, and carried a teddy bear everywhere.
Amy Van Dyken was 23(ish)
Jenny Thompson was 23(ish) – *Note: I count Jenny Thompson in this memory because she was a part of the dominant swimming force than was Stanford University but failed to qualify for the Olympics at the trials. She was however, included in relay’s in the ’96 Olympics.*
My dreams of the ’96 Olympics started when I was watching the ’92 games of Barcelona. In 1992 I was 13 years old, and in the pool almost 5 hours a day. My dream was possible, my dream was going to happen, my dream lived in the water with me, breathed with me, ate with me and slept with me. My dreams included my entire family being able to afford to travel to Atlanta and watch the competition. My dreams included being able to meet Summer Sanders, Janet Evans, Dana Torres, Lea Loveless and Jenny Thompson. My idols. The Goddess’s of the water. My Yemaya. My Oshun.
By 1993, the dream was there… it was growing and dying in exponential parts equally. With every practice, with every breath, with every touch of the wall and with every hundredth of second.
By 1994, the highs and lows came at an astonishing rate. The hope lived, and died in splashes.
By 1995 my dream suddenly died. Was buried. And I never entered the water as a competitive swimmer again. I never looked back. There are no pictures left, no medals or little gold statues, they have long since found their resting place in the bottom of a garbage pit.
Now, 16 years later. I wonder what might have been.
*I sorta talk about this in my upcoming memoir titled Breathe. Mark your calendars, November 11, 2012 is the release date!