The 2012 Summer Olympic Games, officially the Games of the XXX Olympiad, will take place in London, United Kingdom, from July 27 (when the opening ceremony is held) until 12 August 2012, During the course of the Games, Miami University's SCOTT USHER, assistant coach of the RedHawk men's swimming team and a former Olympian from the University of Wyoming, will be writing a blog that offers insight about the events that were the highlight of his career as well as personal commentary about the London Games themselves.
During his swimming career, Usher was a member of the U.S. National Team, competed in the 2004 Olympics, qualified for the World Championships four times between 2004-2007, earned a bronze medal at the 2005 Pan-Pacific Championships, and earned bronze at the 2008 U.S. Olympic Trials.
It is an honor to be asked by Miami University to share my experience representing the United States of America when I qualified for the 2004 Olympic Swim Team. Having the opportunity to represent Team USA at the Olympics has been one of the greatest achievements of my life.
I would like to begin by sharing an experience that I have held close to my heart since the Games in 2004.
I was waiting for a connection in the San Francisco airport. This connection was taking me to Greece and the Olympic games. I had been outfitted with Team USA gear but did not truly understanding the significance of wearing the American flag across my chest. I was then approached by a college-aged individual. He was wearing military apparel and was also wearing the American flag across his chest. He proceeded to ask if I was an Olympian and I, of course, said yes. He continued to thank me for representing the United States of America and expressed how proud of me he was. My jaw hit the ground instantly and I quickly had a new respect and understanding for the adventure that I was taking on. This experience quickly humbled me and made me realize what wearing the American flag truly meant.
The training that took place leading up to Olympic trials was intense and something that seemed to be more a test of my mental strength than physical. I never believed that I could out train everyone else in the world. However, I did believe that my desire to compete would help me to shine. Training consisted of six hours of conditioning, eating four meals a day and, of course, the all important nap. The dream of becoming an Olympian had its sacrifices but never once were they regrets.
The United States Olympic Swimming Trials are like no other event. At this competition athletes have trained a lifetime and have less then 60 seconds to become one of the fastest swimmers in the world. There are not many sporting events where athletes are ranked third in the world but still don't qualify for the Olympic Team, at the United States Olympic Swimming Trials that can be a frequent occurrence.
So what was it like turning around and seeing my name as a qualifier for the 2004 Olympic Games? It was the culmination of every dream I had ever had. It was years of training for one thing, coming true. It was the moment I'd envisioned so many times, never knowing if I would ever see it. It was a fist-pumping, stadium-shaking yell, tears-filling-my-goggles kind of moment. At this biggest event of my life, I placed second in the 200 Breaststroke behind a world-record performance and was ranked fourth in the world going into the Olympic games.
The completion of trials started a new and exciting adventure in my life. Training camp was the first step. I spent two weeks in Palo Alto, California rooming with Ryan Lochte, terrorizing the swimming staff with the guys and building a bond with all the Olympic swimming qualifiers from different parts of the country. Competitors became teammates here. At camp I became close friends with several swimmers including Michael Phelps, Lochte and Natalie Coughlin and even met a few celebrities like Muhammad Ali. It was awesome!
This was just the beginning of life-changing experience for a corn-raised, small-town, Carhart-wearing, young man, from Grand Island, Nebraska.
NEXT ENTRY: Thu., July 26 - Scott Usher's participation in the 2004 opening ceremonies