EXCLUSIVE! Ben Michaelson’s Pan Am Diary: Heading Home — Finally!

This is the final installment in Ben Michaelson's Pan American Games diary.

By Ben Michaelson

ATHLETES' VILLAGE, Santo Domingo, August 17. TODAY is our last day here at the Village.

Last night we wrapped things up by dominating the meet for a sixth straight night, capped off with a Games
record 400 medley relay. I was honored to be chosen to swim the fly leg, and it was definitely my best swim of the week.

Today the team went to the beach to relax and have some fun in the sun before we head back to our normal lives back home. Closing ceremonies are tonight, which we will all be attending. It will be fun to mingle and be social with the athletes from other countries that have been our rivals for the last two weeks.

Two days ago, I was very fortunate to be able to visit some children in Santo Domigo that aren't quite as lucky as most of us. Several swimmers, a weightlifter, USOC officials, and I first visted a children's hospital.

I was able to speak anough Spanish to have some conversation with the kids. Their smiles when they got to wear my gold medal was priceless. It felt good to make some kids smile that don't usually have much reason to smile at all.

The U.S. Ambassador to the D.R. accompanied us to the hospital and our next stop, a shelter for boys living on the streets. Their living conditions in the shelter seemed pretty poor, but they are better than the streets or the homes from which they came. They were also happy to have vistors that cared enough to take time out to talk with them. The Ambassador even played some baloncesto (basketball) with the kids.

For our time, we received an unexpected gift: lunch at the Ambassador's residence. He kept telling us how informal and last minute it was, but anytime you're eating off of official State Department flatware with the official seal of the United States on it, it's a big deal.

Anyhow, I suppose that's about all she wrote for Pan Ams 2003. From here, each of us will set our sights on Long Beach 2004. Some members from this team will swim in Athens, some won't. In the next 11 months, I'll be doing everything I can to have a great swim at Trials, maybe even good enough to make the team. Certainly no guarantees, but that's what sports are all about.

Thanks for all of your support. You are all a part of Team USA.

Ciao.

Ben

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