Teo is a member of the Singapore Olympic team.
It has been two whole days since I concluded my competitive outing at the Beijing Olympics and I still am unsure of what happened. My performances at these Olympics did not remotely go the way I thought they would. On the night after my 200 breast, I could not fall asleep until 6:00 am in the morning even though I was physically and emotionally spent. I just lay in bed and could not stop thinking. That is my greatest weakness - over analyzing and over thinking everything! I constantly struggle with switching off my mind and just going with the flow. Needless to say, I have been doing a lot of thinking in the past two days.
I know some may think I am being overly dramatic by saying that I am totally heartbroken over my swims, but one would have to understand where I am coming from. When you have spent the past year putting your heart, soul and absolutely everything you have into your preparation, failing to attain your goals is devastating. I can honestly say that I have never been more prepared for any meet in my entire swimming career, nor have I trained as hard or as well as I have in the past year. Going into these Games I knew I had done everything I could to put myself in a position to swim fast. The people who surrounded me and have watched me train for these Olympics were constantly telling me that it was my time to shine. Furthermore, I knew I was going to swim fast because of all the work I had done. It may sound cocky, almost foolish in fact considering the outcome, to say I knew but I had faith in my preparation.
Unfortunately, things did not work out the way I planned. My 100 breast swim really shook me to my core and I don't think I really recovered mentally and emotionally in time for my 200 breast. It would be easy to blame my 100 breast swim on my cap and suit malfunctions
but it was so much more than that. I think I wanted to swim fast so badly that I over-swam the race and started spinning. I could list 100 more things that I would change but such things would bore and/or confuse you if you don't understand swimming and more importantly, I am not trying to justify nor come up with excuses for my performances.
Instead, I will share what I think is my biggest lesson. Before Beijing, I was focused solely on swimming and that was it. It was all I had. In addition, I equated my entire self worth to my success in the pool. You would think I would have figured it out by now that what makes me special is not how I perform in the pool but is measured by the people who I love and who love me. They are the ones that make me worthwhile. They are the ones that make me extraordinary. My biggest obstacle is to really buy into this fact and to realize that my whole life worth is not based on this Olympic performance, that I am so much more than that.
Right now, I am at the point in my career where I am done with college swimming, (therefore, once I graduate, my scholarship from UCLA will be terminated) and I do not know if I will be able to get the support and funding from Singapore that I need to continue swimming. I hate the thought that money could be the reason I retire but it is a fact of life. However, right now the main thing on my mind is do I want to keep swimming?
I have been swimming competitively for 15 years of my life and while the thought of having time to do whatever I desire excites me, I am also deathly afraid. What will I do without swimming? Who will I be? On the other hand, there is the fact that I am still so, so in love with swimming and everything it has to offer. That love, coupled with a burning vengeance to show everyone (and myself) that I can compete at the level that I have been training at, is telling me to keep swimming. But I also know that such a need to prove myself is not the right reason to keep swimming and that such an outlook is just another inner demon I would need to overcome. I need to swim because I love it, because it is a part of my life but not my entire life. These are the things I need to contemplate and mull over in the next few weeks.
All this being said, I just realized that the majority of my blog entries have been characteristically deep and serious, with a huge serving of misery. Therefore on a lighter note, I will say, that I am insanely proud of how my young team of four rookies (not including me) performed at these Games. All of them managed to not get overwhelmed by the grandeur of the Olympics yet use the excitement and atmosphere here to fuel national record-breaking swims. Additionally, one of the girls broke the Asian record and in the process placed fifth in the 100 fly! FIFTH! That is such a big deal for Singapore swimming and I cannot express how happy and excited I am for her.
I will also say that despite the disappointing outcome of my swims, I am proud of how well I prepared myself for these games. Like I said earlier, I have never been more prepared for any meet in my life and I am very proud of that fact. Although I have no results to show for it, I have learned that I am not afraid of doing the work and more importantly, I had a great time doing so. I guess you could say that even though the outcome was not what I desired, I thoroughly enjoyed the process of training for these games. And for now, I am working on convincing myself that that is enough.
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But why are you retiring if you love to swim, and still have the strength and the will to do so?
I am 23, a very recent Phelps Phan, and I am only getting started. ^_*
Go ahead and feel lousy for a while, then get back in the pool and have a good time swimming your heart out. That's the point, isn't it? Swimming your heart out? Most Olympic competitors do not win medals. Sometimes those who win do so because they happened to have a nice dream the night before, or their bodies kicked in a freakish bit of adrenalin that they were able to channel, or a judge overlooked an error. Excellence is not measured by gold, silver, bronze. It is measured by heart and effort---and, yes, achievement---and you get gold medals in all of these categories, by any rational measure. It is very nice to win something, and to be recognized by others. But this is not the sole indicator of greatness, or "winning." The greatest baseball players in history have struck out in the 9th with two out and one run down. The greatest basketball players in history (including Kobe) have thrown up bricks when the game was on the line. These words might not help much, but they are the real truth of this situation. Your achievements are great. Don't shortchange yourself.