Last week, after eight days of intense competition at the US Olympic Trials in Omaha, forty-four men and women were selected to be members of the Olympic team which will represent the United States next month in Beijing.
The team's first stop on their way to China is a 19-day pre-Olympic training camp at Stanford.
[Shown above: US Men's Swimming Head Coach Eddie Reese, and me. Photo by Andrew Scheiner.]
That means that my masters swimming team, Stanford Masters, is sharing water with the Olympians! I usually work out at noon, but Saturday I got up early for the 5:15 am practice. As we were finishing up at 6:45, the Olympians were arriving on deck. All the big swimming names were there: Michael Phelps, Aaron Peirsol, Brendan Hansen, Dara Torres, and Amanda Beard. I felt like a "12 & under" again!
The highlight of the morning for me was getting to spend fifteen minutes talking with Eddie Reese, the Head Coach of the Men's Olympic Team. [Eddie is one of the most successful coaches in swimming history: he's produced countless Olympians, and has led Texas to nine NCAA championships.]
I'm not sure if he remembered me, but I first met Eddie in the late 1990s when I had been the announcer for Stanford's home swimming meets. When I saw Eddie on deck, I said, "I've got just the thing to help you select who's going to swim on the Olympic relay teams," and I gave him a Ball of Whacks. He smiled. I then asked him about a variety of topics: who has a fast kick, dealing with the Japanese media, energy drinks, and managing expectations.
The one comment Eddie made that still sticks in my mind was his response to my question: "What motivates these Olympians?" He replied:
"If you ask a general population of athletes what motivates them, 80% will say something like 'the joy of winning.' The other 20% will say along the lines of 'I hate losing.'
"But 95% of the people here [i.e., the Olympians] are in the 'fear of losing' category. Their distaste for losing means they're prepared to work tremendously hard. But above all, it means that they are fierce competitors."
Interesting thought. And one that I've discovered has application in many other avenues of life beyond sports.
Good luck to all the US Olympic swimmers in Beijing!