My first and only World Championships was in Perth, Australia, in January of 1991. I had no idea I had hit the jackpot of locations until years later. What a magnificent place with a tremendous love and respect for the sport of swimming. Aussies are magical sport fans, and they worship their swimmers. The pool was outside, and beer was flowing in the stands. The crowd was excited and rowdy, all of which fed us swimmers and made us swim faster. It was really only my third big meet, and I started it off with the 400 IM where I won the bronze medal, fighting Australia’s Hayley Lewis and China’s Lin Li to the finish. Then the my 200 IM, where Li and I again were in a battle and I took home the silver. And finally, on the last day, I had my best event. I remember feeling like I was literally flying over the water in my 200 fly. It was a perfect night with my whole family in the stands, and as I touched the wall, I turned around to look at the scoreboard, saw I had won, shot my fist in the air with a huge scream and smile, and then awkwardly changed it to a thumb’s up with my tongue out. I will never forget how exciting that moment was. I felt like I had made it. It was a huge stepping stone for me with only a year and a half to the Barcelona Games.
And now, the World Championships are being held in Barcelona, where I won my Olympic gold 21 years ago. And while the Olympic Games are in a category all their own, World Championships are a close second, and they showcase the best and certainly let the world know who to watch in the water. This will be the first major swim meet in a long while that we will watch without Mr. Michael Phelps. It is a bit sad knowing the pool will be missing the best swimmer of all time, but he left his mark and built the sport up so much that it is now truly a platform for the swimming leaders of today.
There are many personalities that will shine without Michael absorbing the spotlight. So watch for these Olympians you fell in love with from London last summer…Ryan Lochte, Missy Franklin, Katie Ledecky, NathanAdrian, and more. And besides the big names, be prepared to be introduced to some new faces, who will experience a moment like I did in 1991. I can think of one butterflier that is itching to make his mark. Those new faces experiencing that exciting moment, the rush and the results that show world the are contenders and that their Olympic moment is next on the list…turning their lifelong dream into a real, achievable goal.
You can catch the action on Universal Sports and NBC from July 28-Aug. 4. Check your local listings for time and channel.
More FUN and PRIZES
In honor of world championships being held in a city near & dear to my heart, I’m holding a daily contest on my Facebook Fan page to get fans one step closer to the action by showing our support for the sport and spreading some great Speedo gear in the swimming community. Here’s a link to the “Back in Barcelona Contest” tab, which will be updated daily with contests and prizes. Prizes will include Speedo shirts, hats and goggles, a Ryan Lochte giftbag, a world championships goodie bag, and the grand prize of a Speedo racing swimsuit! First contest is already posted: Day1 – Show your Team USA Spirit by filming your best team cheer with Instagram, tagging it TeamUSA_BCN2013, and uploading it to the contest page. The best cheer wins a World Championships goodie bag, similar to that provided to the Speedo sponsored athletes of Team USA. Here's an example. Go USA!