All of us swim enthusiasts have watched countless interviews of our idols as, a huge grin on their faces, they explain to everyone how much their success means. We have heard stories of triumphs over obstacles, tales of the pride they feel at being able to represent their country, and have seen heart warming medal ceremonies.
The past few months have been incredible for the swim community as athletes become Olympians and as the 2016 Games quickly approach. The media has exploded with facts and footage centered on how the Rio-bound athletes are feeling, but what about the athletes who are watching from behind the television screen – what does the Olympic hype mean to them?
For one (and this is no surprise) swimmers worldwide are definitely starting to get animated. I have friends messaging me with medalist predictions, and my social media is filled with coverage about everything from the venue in Rio to the athletes competing at the Games. We may be a considerably smaller community than other sports, and swimming may not garner as much publicity, but we definitely make up for it in the passion and excitement that our fans and athletes share. The approaching Olympics means being able to unify as one for our sport, and show our pride over all sorts of different social platforms.
Not only that, but Rio presents the opportunity for swimming to be noticed on the kind of international scale that only comes around once every four years. I always love the Olympics because it is the one time where people who are not as intimately familiar with the sport get to see it broadcasted, and can appreciate the lengths (literally and figuratively speaking) that swimmers go through. I remember back in London in 2012, one of my friends from school talked to me about how exciting it had been to watch the swimming finals, and had asked me questions about how certain aspects of the sport functioned. For the average swimmer, the Games are an opportunity to have our non-swimming friends get a glimpse into our world.
Finally, and arguably most importantly, the Olympics often act as an eye opener to swimmers watching from back at home. We get chills watching our role models achieve their dreams, and it gets us thinking. It makes us want to work harder, put in more hours, and achieve greater things. The Olympics is filled with so much hope and accomplishment that it forces swimmers everywhere to look at themselves as athletes and wonder “can I do better?”. For every underdog that wins their heat and surprises the world, or for every record that is broken, there is a swimmer watching from behind the television screen who is left asking themselves “if they can do it, why not me too?”. That is what makes the Olympics so important to the swim community, and every sporting community for that matter. It raises the bar for sports, and inspires youth worldwide. It shows us that greatness is possible, and leaves athletes with something to aspire towards. In many ways, it is life changing for swimmers everywhere – those on and off the screen.