After four years of waiting, we suddenly find ourselves at the halfway point of the Olympic swimming competition. And while there is lots of racing left, we have already witnessed a handful of unforgettable moments that will be shown in Olympic highlight reels for years to come.
As I sit to write this, we are entering the fifth day of swimming competition at the Olympic aquatic center in Rio, and it is already apparent as to why swimming has risen to become arguably the most popular Olympic sport.
Katie Ledecky is swimming at a level that is head-and-shoulders above her peers, displaying remarkable versatility through her dominance of both sprint and distance freestyle events. American teenager Lily King has become voice of protest against proven dopers allowed to compete in the Games through a finger-wag and record-breaking performance in the final of the 100m breast. And the greatest of all-time, Michael Phelps, continues to shock swim fans around the globe with his pure dominance and astounding now-20 gold medals.
Yet, even with all of these compelling storylines unfolding in Rio, my favorite moment of the swim competition thus far comes from a less-publicized event from day 2.
It was an event whose outcome was a foregone conclusion. Heading into the finals of the men’s 100m breaststroke, Great Britain’s Adam Peaty had proven himself to be in a class of his own, having broken the World Record in the preliminary heats. He entered the final with the fastest time by over 1.5 seconds.
Peaty went on to re-break his own World Record in that final, an won by the largest margin of victory in the history of the event at the Olympics. It was truly an impressive display.
But, what will forever remain with me from that race was first-time Olympian Cody Miller’s reaction to taking third place. The American, who took second place at the US Trials to earn his right to compete in Rio, had the race of his life, and, despite not winning the race, celebrated like a gold medal winner.
Swimming is one of those rare sports that offers many different definitions of “victory.” Miller did not win the race–he did not even place second–and yet it was an overwhelming triumph for him in many ways. It culminated a life’s journey leading up to qualifying to represent the United States at the Games. It represented swimming his personal best time in the biggest race of his life and earning the right to stand on the Olympic podium next to the best in the world. It meant living out a moment most of us can only dream of.
And we all dream of being the best. Yet, there are only so many who can enjoy gold medal winning moments. Maybe a better thing to dream of is performing your absolute best when it matters most.
Swimming is a great sport because it shows that true victory is in the trying and the failing. It’s in the journey, not the outcome, and bronze can be just as good as gold. This is what our film is about.
By the purest definition of ‘winner’ and ‘loser,’ Cody Miller technically lost that 100m breaststroke race. But he is a true winner to me and I will not soon be forgetting sharing in the pure joy he felt three nights ago.
Use the link below to watch Cody’s incredible Olympic moment:
For those of you familiar with the story that takes place within the book Gold in the Water, Miller’s reaction may remind you of a certain 200 IM race that took place one September night in 2000…