EDITOR’S NOTE: Tim Ellsworth, who was in Beijing Aug. 6-16, is continuing his coverage of the 2008 Olympics for Baptist Press. Ellsworth, director of news and media relations at Union University, has been assisted with photography by David McIntyre, a freelancer based in Asia. Baptist Press will publish features about Christian athletes in the Olympics and give results of their competition as well as highlight and summarize the Summer Games, which end Aug. 25. Also, Tim will blog about each day’s highlights.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Brooke Abel was 17 and competing on the junior national synchronized swimming team, but she wasn’t having a good time.
“The junior team is really hard,” Abel said. “You have to be away all summer long. You’re away from your family and away from your friends. That was always a really hard time for me. When you’re growing up and you’re not around people who are influencing you in a good way, you’re lost.”
Fed up and frustrated, Abel planned to quit swimming. She didn’t love it anymore.
But for some reason, the next year she went right back to the pool.
“The next year I showed up to the pool. I practiced, and I kept going,” she said. “I still can’t explain today why I kept going, but I think that was God. I’m so thankful that I kept going, and I can’t even explain why I did.”
Abel, now 20, is grateful — because she will make her Olympics debut on Thursday on the U.S. synchronized swimming team. She’s been dreaming specifically about the 2008 Olympics in Beijing since she was 12 or 13.
“It’s kind of a relief,” she said about making the team. “It’s such an accomplishment. I didn’t just do it for me, either. My family has sacrificed so much for me to get to where I am. I’m super happy to have the chance to get this far.”
Often the whipping boy for hardcore sports fans, synchronized swimming is more difficult than many people realize.
“It pretty much feels like you’re drowning for four minutes,” Abel said.
Combining elements of acrobatics, swimming and dance-type movements, synchronized swimmers perform a routine of about four minutes in length. The goal for the swimmers is to get their legs or their bodies out of the water as high as possible and to keep perfect time with the music.
“It’s hard, because we’re in a judged sport,” Abel said. “So the outcome is kind of however the judges want. It’s not about the clock or beating the person next to you. It’s up to the judges.”
Because the results can be subjective, Abel said that affects the team’s goals.
“Our goal is to have the best swim we’ve ever had as a team,” she said. “We feel if we can do that, hopefully we can get a medal. I would be happy if I swam my best and the coaches thought we never swam better.”
Throughout her training and preparation for the Olympics, which can often be stressful and mentally draining, Abel said her faith in God provided strength and support.
“Through this journey of being on the national team and this experience, I’ve really grown in Christ in the last two years,” she said. “I feel like my faith has gotten a lot stronger.
“I don’t know how someone could do it without knowing God and having a relationship with Jesus,” Abel said. “I rely so much on Him every single day.”