I hear the whistle blow, bellowing a long note that echoes, bouncing off the tall bleachers on the far side. I look down, gazing at the deep blue water. It laps onto the gutters as the ripples smooth out and meet at the sides. My heart skips as the whistle blows a second time, this time shorter. I slowly step up onto the white, smooth block. The blood pulsing in my ears, my hands shaking as they reach down to grasp the slippery surface. Deep breath, deep breath, I tell myself. Then the starter machine beeps and my body leaves the ground and plunges into the cool darkness.
As I dive it seems as if time stands still. Time freezes all around me. The light flashing on my side. First, in slow motion, my hands divide the water and make a path in the calm, waveless liquid. Then follows my body, the water submerging me in complete coolness. As soon as my feet enter the pool, they kick vigorously, sending tiny bubbles up to the surface. I open my eyes and am suddenly surrounded in a blue world. The reflection of the water casts blotchy shadows on the smooth, white bottom.
I drift to the surface and turn my head to the side. I gasp for a breath that refills my needy lungs with sweet oxygen. Automatically, my face falls back into the water and my arms slice through the waves. Out of the corner of my eye I see the spray of droplets of water spewing out from my legs.
Above the water it is very noisy. People cheering, whistles blowing, and the yelling of coaches can be heard from the other side of the structure. But under, enveloped in this flowing atmosphere, is silence.
The essence of silence all around me. Like the water suffocating my ears, drowning them in a pool of tranquility. The water slips through my fingers like air, only denser. I am thinking about the next turn, the next stroke, the next breath I am going to take. Looking towards the far wall, I eat through the water, driving myself to the next level. I pick up the pace, feeling the competition drip into my brain, taking over all other thoughts floating around. My lungs ache for air, but I don’t relieve them, instead I force my head down and sprint towards my goal.
The wall is so near I can almost taste it. But instead I get a mouthful of chlorinated liquid. The tips of my fingers tingle in anticipation. Three more strokes… I am so close. Every muscle in my body stretches forward. I finally crash into the wall, touching it with my fingers first, then my whole hand. I pop out of the water, dip my head back and glance around. A big smile spreads over my face as I realize I have gotten there first.