This summer, many swimmers’ careers will end. Some, like Eugene Godsoe and Tyler Clary, will say their goodbyes to millions of fans around the world. Others will say goodbye just to their families and teammates. Almost all swimmers will end a season this summer, and in either case, it means the end of a cycle. In the narrative of swimming, it’s the end of a verse, the end of a chapter, or for many the end of the entire story and a plunge into new adventures.
Neil Walker, a two-time Olympian and four-time Olympic medalist in 2000 and 2004, sent this poem out to his team at the Rockwall Center of Excellence outside of Dallas about swimming and the end of a journey. A member of his team shared it with SwimSwam in the hopes that it might inspire others.
One thousand steps to get here, and you’re almost at the end,
up and down the mountain, good thing you have a friend.
Through broken glass, and coals on fire, not sure the path is right,
through thick and thin you force a grin and continue on to fight.
Pushing against a boulder, then climbing a slippery wall,
carrying those that need it, you feel you’re about to fall.
You’ve pushed so hard with courage, fighting tooth and nail,
so often at the brink of it, you half expect to fail.
Receiving help from teammates, just when the end is near,
one more step to go, but you’re frozen stiff with fear.
You’re on the starting blocks my friend with one more step to go,
no one is there behind you, to give you one last tow.
But wait there is a feeling, that surges from the depths,
you do have those that walked with you, those thousand grueling steps.
They are there to help you, by cheering loud and clear,
so focus on what got you there, and fight away the fear.
You’ve trained so hard to get here, the path was rarely clear,
but now the clouds have parted, the starter’s gun is near.
Take that step you’ve worked for, you’ve earned it through and through,
take that thousandth step that’s been taken by so few.
Finish this last race, knowing it’s a job well done,
and no matter where you finish, you should know that you have won!