The Unifying Passion of Olympic Swimmers

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Photo Courtesy: Blue Buoy

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Editorial Coverage Sponsored By FINIS

By SuSu Almousa, Swimming World College Intern

We live in a society that glorifies the road to success as being paved with expensive training, high-end resources, and an outrageous expenditure of investments. As we watched our Olympians take on the pool with grace and skill, we thought in awe about how hard they must have worked and how many sacrifices they must have made to get there.

Many of our U.S. Olympians are college students, swimming with others who have the same great coaches, tireless competition, and hunger for success. Others are well out of college, and are competing in their third, fourth, or fifth Olympic Games— the ride is not a new one to many. Living where we do, we hear of our Olympians taking on Rio and all of the training that has gone into their achievement of their goals; but we remain unexposed to the stories of other Olympians around the world and their different paths to Brazil.

Yusra Mardini, a swimmer on the first ever Olympic refugee team, began her professional swim career after her boat broke down as she fled Syria for Europe. Mary al Atrash, one of six Palestinian athletes competing at the games, has been denied access to train at an Olympic sized pool, therefore has settled training in a 25-meter meter pool containing no starting blocks.

These woman are but a glimpse of those around the world that came together last week to compete and share in union an experience that has surely left a lifelong impression on them. They stood on the blocks, representing their countries and spreading their messages loud enough for the world to hear.

We have been conditioned to associate success with the exposure to resources—but amidst this glorification, we mustn’t lose sight of the true beauty behind success: passion.

Michael Phelps swims because he loves it. Even without a regulation pool to swim out of, Mary al Atrash has put her passion for the sport above the political strife and occupation she lives under daily. Missy Franklin began swimming because her mother feared for her in terms of water safety, but she has continued because of her love for the sport. Yusra Mardini found swimming as her savior and haven. Each Olympic athlete has a different story as to how they have made it as far as they have, but each jumped into the pool having their love for the sport carry them all the way to Brazil.

To be good at a sport, of course you will have to train tirelessly, and remain utterly focused. But neither of those two things are possible without a desire to continue competing. In order to pursue something seriously, there must exist a sort of love —a passion— for what you have set out to do.

And here is where the beauty of the Olympics lies. Yes, it is a competitive atmosphere where everyone is dreaming about or seeking the gold; but more importantly, it is an accumulation of people who simply fell in love with swimming. Everyone that stepped up on the blocks this Games has a different story to tell about their journey to Rio, and a different purpose as to why the Olympics are important to them. But every swimmer has a similar passion burning inside of them for the sport that has changed their lives.