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How Does it Feel to Compete in the Olympics?

Photo of an Olympic medal. Courtesy of U.S. Synchronized Swimming.Photo courtesy U.S. Synchronized Swimming

The life of a synchronized swimmer demands no small commitment: 10 hours in the pool six days a week for a decade or more -- all for a competition that lasts just four minutes.


Competing for Olympic Gold in Atlanta in 1996 was one of the finest moments of my life. My teammates and I were in perfect harmony. We could feel the same bubbles as we broke the surface and hear each other breathing. It was effortless, yet it still burned.


When I am competing, my mind races through hundreds of thoughts at once, and thank goodness my body is on autopilot by that point. I am reliving every practice, every tear, every smile, every world championship I competed in throughout the journey, but somehow my vision is completely clear. I can pick out my parents among an audience of 16,000 people, and I can hear my coaches cheering above all the noisy fans.


I went on to compete in Sydney in 2000 and then coached the 2008 U.S. Olympic Synchronized Swimming Team in Beijing. We placed fifth in both of those games, but the medals and memories that led up to the competitions are just as cherished as our gold win in 1996.


It is a wonderful feeling to be on top of the world with everybody looking up to you. But being the underdog and fighting to win delivers a liberating pride. Fifth or first, competing in the Olympic Games is an experience that cannot be compared to anything else in the world.


-- In recent years Tammy McGregor (B.A., '98), an Olympic champion swimmer, has transitioned from competing to coaching. The team she led to the 2008 Olympics included fellow Gator Kim Probst (B.A., '06).


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