Now that the 2012 Olympics have ended and we have had some time to reflect on what was certainly something special, we ask ourselves some simple questions:
- Was it the games we anticipated?
- Will this truly be the end of the legend that is Michael?
- Who will be the next superstar?
- Will our sport grow without him?
To use a euphemism from the sport itself, when many swimmers pester their coaches during swim training to have the next set or to know the next send off interval, I ask this simple thing…what is the next lap?
In 1984, as a young and awkward teenager, I sat behind the only television in our home (a brown, cathode ray tube monstrosity that had 12 or so VHF channels and a bunch of less interesting UHF choices- fuzzy, and many in Spanish…). I was watching something that, at the time, I did not yet truly understand…something called the Olympic Games.
What do I remember about watching the games of Los Angeles? I remember the Opening Ceremony and watching a woman run the final lap of the torch relay—she happened to be the granddaughter of Jesse Owens (of course I knew his name, but not the significance). The torch was then handed off to the 1960 Olympic champion in the Decathlon. He stood at the upper archway of the LA Coliseum, raised the torch and lite the 5 Olympic Rings above his head, which in turn carried the flame to the Olympic cauldron. The image still brings chills to my skin.
I have been blessed with seeing every Olympiad on television or in person since 1984. Every “Games” has left its mark in the aquatic world we call swimming. Los Angeles gave us Rowdy Gaines and “The Albatross” Michael Gross from West Germany. 1988 in Seoul shined with Matt Biondi and a small 16 year old named Janet Evans. 1992 Barcelona brought us a historical moment when Pablo Morales claimed gold in the 100 Butterfly after failing to make the team in 1988, and a certain Alexander Popov from the Unified Team dethroned the American sprint kings. Atlanta 1996 was special in so many ways, the controversy of Michelle Smith and the continued success of the sprint Tsar Popov. However, the United States had some new names reaching the podiums and making headlines: Gary Hall Jr., Tom Dolan and the newest sweetheart of the US women’s team, Amanda Beard. 2000 games down under yeilded some guitar smashing and the “Thorpedo.” A tie in the 50m freestyle between Anthony Ervin and Gary Hall Jr. was a surprise and incredible moment for all. Dara Torres again made her mark on the 1st of two comebacks. Probably the most historically important occurrence at these Olympics was the participation of a 15 year-old boy finishing 5th in the 200 butterfly. Little did we know then…he would become a LEGEND! 2004 in Athens, 108 years after Pierre de Coubertain re-launched the modern games, a certain Michael Phelps would embark upon his historical path and completely own the Olympic spotlight. He won 6 gold and 2 bronze, but he wanted more. 2008 in Beijing: MP=8 Gold…enough said! That brings us to 2012. There was so much hype, there was so much expectation, there was so much to hope for: Phelps vs. Lochte, Missy and Magnussen who were both labeled as “missiles”, and could the French finally get it done?
Did the London Games disappoint? In my opinion…NOT AT ALL! It was simply AWESOME. It was for me why I have spent 28 years and 8 Olympic Games scrambling to record on VHS, flip through TV stations, look for Wi-Fi connections and nowadays DVR or TiVo, etc. One week of my life where only one thing matters…swimming!
What is the next thing for our sport? RIO? More from the “Missiles?” Michael goes for 23? I am not sure. What I can say is that our sport…swimming, is one of the greatest sports ever! We continue to anticipate every 4 years. Our other great non-aquatic athletes “tweet” about how they met Michael Phelps or how they admire the swimmers and how they work so hard—crazy to wake before the sun! We have shown that the technical suits were not so technical after all. World Records can be and will be broken. Unknown swimmers will dazzle us at the games- win events and lift their countries spirits. Of course there will be controversy; disqualifications due to technique failures or allegations and/or positive doping controls. Then the sun will rise and we are happy again with swimming.
What is next? What is the next lap? How about a 50 easy? Everyone likes that 🙂
Chris Morgan is a swimming coach in search of the next pool, the next set, and the most creative workouts. Follow him on Twitter @swim4chris