Michelle Engelsman: Her Olympic Experience

Sixth in the 50-meter freestyle at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, Australia’s Michelle Engelsman packaged a piece that discusses her experiences from the event, both in a competitive nature and as a fan.

ATHENS, May 13. People say that the Olympics is the ultimate sporting event, with some 10,000 athletes competing at their best. It's two weeks that rise above conflict and politics, an occasion when countries experiencing animosity for each other can join together at the ceremonies.

The Olympic motto of faster, higher, stronger is something every athlete in the village in Athens strove toward. It is a dream we all shared. Those two weeks were an entire lifetime. So much happened that I'm still sorting through it all in my mind, and I have a feeling that I still will be for years to come! It will take me a while to catch my breath and recover from such an amazing experience, one that I will cherish for the rest of my life.

The first week of the Olympics was momentous for the swimmers because it was the week when we competed. It was full of adrenaline rushes, team support, expectations and goals. There were so many amazing moments, so many awesome swims. There are always the highs and the lows at any swim meet, and the Olympic Games is not immune to such emotions. However, there were no low moments in our team support and camaraderie. We were all able to feed off the energy of our fellow Australians.

For me, racing in the Olympic games meant fulfilling a life-long dream. Hearing the crowd roar as I walked out for the final in the Olympic arena is a moment that will forever be engraved in my memory. I was pumped, relaxed, excited, confident and ready to race. I finished sixth in my 50 freestyle. I had a fantastic start, and a great 40 (meters). Too bad 40 (meters) isn't an Olympic event! I am proud to be an Olympic finalist, but I am hungry for more.

I believe that all of us at the Olympics were success stories. Everyone who enjoyed the experience and learned from it is a success. I know I appreciated and enjoyed the racing, and have learned a lot! All the build up, the years of preparation and sacrifice, structure and hard work, they were all worth if for that one moment out on pool deck with the spotlight shining brighter than ever. I may wish I'd swum a best time, but just being present at the Olympic Games has painted a smile across my face and sparked a twinkle in my eye. I was already a winner when I walked out on deck, a winner for reaching the final at the Olympics, and a winner for being present at the greatest sporting event.

The second week was a chance for all of us to relax and soak in the atmosphere. It was an opportunity to spend time watching other events, and returning the favor by cheering on our fellow Australians. Again, we formed memories to last a lifetime. There were moments that week that will forever stay close to my heart, that have motivated me and inspired me onward. True champions stepped forward, and efforts like Natalie Cook's in the bronze medal match of the beach volleyball epitomize the spirit of the Olympics.

A part of me wishes that the experience didn't have to end. But all great things come to an end, and the most special moments in our lives often only last for an instant. I know one thing though: I've already got the itch to compete at Beijing! Onward and upward, these Games were my debut, and I'm looking forward to returning more experienced in four years time.

Always follow your dreams, and enjoy the journey toward reaching them.

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