“What I Did on My Summer Vacation”
By Joseph Schooling (written by Charles Hartley).
This summer I went to Rio de Janeiro in Brazil. It’s a big country in South America. Lots of beaches and volleyball.
There is where the Summer Olympics took place. Being a swimmer for my home country, Singapore, I qualified for the 100 meter butterfly event.
There were phenomenal swimmers in that race. They included Michael Phelps, the greatest swimmer who has ever lived and my boyhood idol; and Chad le Clos, who beat Michael in the 200 meter butterfly in the 2012 London Olympics. That was a stunner. Michael doesn’t usually lose that race.
Le Clos made a big deal about that upset. He splashed around in the pool as if to say “hey everybody, look at me. I beat Michael Phelps in his signature event.” It seems that ever since then he’s been splashing around in the pool calling attention to himself that he beat Michael.
During the first week of the Brazil Games Chad shadowboxed in front of Phelps in the waiting room before the semi-final race of the 200 meter butterfly. It is believed to be the first time a swimmer has shadowboxed another swimmer on worldwide TV in the waiting room.
This became an international TV and YouTube virus that went sick. The whole world saw how le Clos played mind games with Michael. Michael got a really angry look on his face. It looked like the two might start fighting right there. If they had, I wonder if it would have made them swim slower. Fighting takes energy.
Le Clos shouldn’t have shadowboxed. His pre-race antics proved to be fruitless. Michael smoked him in the Gold Medal race. People said he made himself look foolish.
The First Rule of Swimming is “Don’t taunt a guy before a race and then lose to him.” The Second Rule of Swimming is: “Don’t taunt the greatest swimmer of all time ever anywhere.” You can scroll through the other 983 rules on Swimswam.com.
Another big shot swimmer in the 100 meter butterfly final was Laszlo Cseh. If a Westerner, you may not have heard of him. But he’s one of the greatest swimmers of our time. Throughout his career Phelps has overshadowed Las. If not for Phelps, Cseh would probably have about four or five more Olympic Gold Medals and might even be a household name in kitchens of swimming families around America.
Anyway, Michael, Chad and Laszlo were in my heat and were the ones to beat.
You could not put together a butterfly race with more butterfly stars in it except, maybe, if the heat also featured Ian Crocker and/or Mark Spitz. But those two guys competed in the Olympics many years ago. This essay is about this summer. Let’s stick to the assignment.
Michael is known by everybody in the swimming world and beyond. He’s on TV commercials. Chad is known by Michael and lots of swimming people. And Laszlo is known by lots of swimming people especially those in Europe because he’s from Hungary.
Then there was me, Joseph Schooling. Not many people knew me before the race and maybe still don’t. There were four other guys in that final heat. But they are not central characters in this essay so let’s leave them out of this.
So the race for Gold was supposed to be between Michael, Chad and Laszlo. Rowdy Gaines, a swimming luminary, thought so.
Turns out the three favorites did race each other very closely. But I swam a different race way out in front of them. The Gold was mine. They were in a panic to try to get Silver. This wasn’t my concern. Panic was not me. The three of them tied for the Silver but that’s a footnote for swimming historians to annotate.
Standing on the top pedestal as they played Singapore’s national anthem, I felt proud and a little distracted because three guys were standing on the Silver Medal stand.
In my mind as I stood on the pedestal, I shadowboxed Michael and Chad and Laszo. Right then I envisioned this day back here at the University of Texas when I would read this essay to my class.
Not to blow my Texas Longhorn, but what I did on my summer vacation was swim a faster 100 meter butterfly than any man alive on that day, on the world’s biggest swimming stage.
This is written by Charles Hartley as an opinion piece.
Charles Hartley, a free-lance writer based in New Jersey, has written more than a thousand published sports articles. He earned Master’s degrees in Business Administration and Journalism. In addition, he was awarded his Bachelor’s degree from Wake Forest University where he majored in English and Communications.