15:06:11 August 20th
I see the time, my heart thumping inside me. My arms lie weak at my sides, which is ironic because I’m supposed to be a swimmer. My legs feel stony and I’m afraid I will lose my balance.
Hundreds of people swarm around me, their voices merging into one before hitting my ears like a torpedo. They’re all unknown, but that is the least of my worries.
It takes some time to realize what has happened, and what is happening. Reality hits me hard.
I have won the Summer Olympics.
The medal is hung around my neck, its metal icy and cold against my skin. I take it in my hand, my fingers numb. The gold medal glistens under the luminous lights of the hall, and I tilt it around several times, studying it with childlike curiosity.
Everything is being aired on television. The entire world can watch me from their homes. I have never been broadcasted like this, except in the actual competition. But then, I had been thrashing with all my might in the water, so I had never noticed.
Everyone will know now that there is someone called Walter Smith, and he is the latest Olympic Gold Winner.
A dream come true. That’s what it was.
I scour all the people, my gaze moving across each face. They promised they would come. Will I find them? I’m beginning to think they didn’t make it to the ceremony when I finally glimpse them.
A boy no older than seventeen, leaping in the air, waving his arms at me is my younger brother. Beside him are my parents, their faces shining with pride and honor. This is my mother’s dream too, and I cannot imagine how happy she is.
I remember watching the Olympic games when I was younger. I would miss none of them. I would cheer and yell at the television, urging the athletes to go on and push their limits even though I knew they couldn’t hear me. My favorite part was the awards ceremony, where the athletes would finally reap what effort they had sowed. I still can’t forget the look on their faces when it hits them that they’ve won.
My mother was my first trainer.
She always wanted to be an athlete when she was younger. She had wanted to take part in the Olympics one day, and though she won many laurels in tournaments at the state level, she never fulfilled her dream. I think it is because she didn’t get the right training, but when I ask her, she says it was her own decision that held her back.
When I was a young boy, she was the first to put all that work into me and make me better at swimming. She never forced her ambitions on to me, but when I announced I was made to be a sports person, she was the happiest person on this planet.
‘Walter,’ she said, “I know whatever you decide to do in your life, I will always be proud of you.”
I remember when I told everyone I was serious about this, my mother took me to the best sports training center in our city. It wasn’t the best because it was famous or rich. It was the best because it had time and time again, churned out some of the most successful athletes in our country.
The day I stepped into that training center, I knew that this was only just going to begin.
I won many medals and awards, but my coaches, family, and friends would always encourage me to aim higher. Right now, I am thankful for their advice. If I had been content with winning tiny prizes, today would have never happened.
I can see them in the crowd, too. My trainers and all my friends, standing with my family, cheering me on and on without stopping.
I remember all the people who gave me confidence, but I also remember the people who made fun of me. They told me I would never make it. They were everywhere: in my training center, at school and in my neighborhood. If they are watching this now, I want them to know that I don’t dislike them for their harsh words.
I thank them, too, because it is their scorn that has made me push harder to achieve my goals.
I remember the endless days of training when I had almost given up. It feels so long ago. The last stage of my training for the Olympics had undoubtedly been the hardest to undergo. It wouldn’t be enough to merely do my best. I had to outperform myself in every single thing.
The water had become like second nature to me. I was twenty-one, and instead of attending university like others my age, I had spent almost all my time in the water, training, training, and training. My coach never let me be too sure of myself because the last thing I needed was to become overconfident. I am glad he did that, because now that I have won, I am sure he is proud of me.
The National Anthem begins playing, and I lift my chin. Nothing has ever sounded sweeter than hearing my own country’s National Anthem being played and televised live to the entire world. I tell myself that I am making my country proud. This was what I had always wanted to do. The National Anthem makes complete sense to me now, and nothing can describe how I feel after hearing it like this. A cascade of memories, images and emotions flows through me. I have never been the expressive type, but my eyes brim with happy tears.
I can’t wrap my mind around the fact that I have truly won in the Olympics.
All I want to do now is hold on to the moment, so I can relive it again and again whenever I can, because this sure is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
How I wish these ten seconds could last forever!