Carteret, New Jersey, USA. – I already know the results, but my heart is racing and I can barely breathe.
The nervous tapping of my foot has increased from a steady, legato beat to an intermittent staccato nuisance.
“Yes!” I holler.
Every part of me is on fire.
“We did it again! We won!”
A cloud of euphoria envelops me, my extremities are tingling and I am unable to do anything but gab to everyone within hearing distance every detail of the amazing race.
Why all the excitement over the U.S. men’s Olympic swim team, my colleagues wondered.
Four years ago, I wasn’t interested in the swimming races at all, so why the sudden change of heart? The answer is simple, two words – Michael Phelps! For many, this vague answer gratified their interrogation, but one person challenged my response, “What about him? He was there four years ago, too. Are you watching him because he is an amazing athlete? Why?”
I didn’t seem to have a justified reason as to why – I sincerely had no idea.
“I just do … because he’s awesome,” I immediately responded, but it satiated neither of us.
Phelps is known as America’s golden boy, winning eight gold medals in the Beijing Olympic Games, more than any athlete in a single Olympics.
He’s a 14-time gold medalist, more than any other single Olympian in history.
But that is not the greatest of his achievements.
His most triumphant accomplishment is that of becoming an inspiration to thousands of people internationally. As a successful young man with a dream, others are destined to look up to him.
Even more amazing, Phelps has persevered through many hardships in his past – a broken family and his own ADHD – to become an efficacious, victorious sensation.
Many people use past ordeals as a crutch, diagnoses as a disadvantage, or a reason “why not,” but Phelps took these liabilities and proved to the world the power and importance of perseverance. Not only has he turned detrimental situations to beneficial ones, but he managed to go where no other athlete has gone.
And, he did it without succumbing, as many others have, to the pressure of drug abuse.
I realized all of these things while reflecting on why I so admired this swimmer, but it still didn’t seem to answer the question.
Yes, Phelps is an amazing character, and yes, he is the source of inspiration to many, but that still leaves the question unanswered.
Finally, after much pondering and contemplation, I came to the conclusion that the reason why Phelps is such a “big deal” is not because of his accomplishments – though that is a plus – it is because he provides this country with something we, as humans, are in constant search of: hope and unity.
We live in a world that is void of optimism, a world that has become synonymous with a black hole of despair, and in all of this desolation, we’ve found a ray of light. We’ve flocked to someone that has hope and shows others the possibility of doing something meaningful in life.
So my reason for being so excited and enthralled with Michael Phelps is that he provides something that we all search for and we all desire: a glimmer of light in the darkness of night.
Michael Phelps, in my vocabulary, has become tantamount to hope and unity.
I became engrossed in the race because I realized that it isn’t the competition that matters, it is the unanimity of support and our own optimism.
That’s what captivates me.
Shekinah-Glory Dhanie-Beepat is a Junior Reporter for Youth Journalism International.