Dear Uncle Ted,
Is there any way I can get to be as good an Olympic swimmer as Michael Phelps?
– Andrew Ridgeway, Boise, ID
Thanks for your question, Andrew! Mr. Phelps is pretty badass, no doubt, and an inspiration to millions. To achieve what he’s done, there are several paths to the medal podium available to you.
I’m hoping that you’re a youngster, Andrew – and tall and lanky, with freakishly long arms and legs. Because for option 1, you’ll need them, as well as a willingness to punish yourself and sacrifice just about everything else in your life – friends, family and fun – in thrice-daily practices, accompanied by rigorous out-of-the-water physical training, to pursue your dream. The kind of work ethic required to achieve an elite level of excellence in Olympic swimming is a relentless, unforgiving one – and even after years and years of training, all you may get for your effort is a mouthful of wake from some young upstart even more talented and driven than yourself, pushing past you in a fraction of a second towards a glory that might never be yours.
If that sounds discouraging – take heart. Option 2 – pursued by a small but growing minority of Olympic swimmers – is to undergo a series of bites from a group of radioactive dolphins, raised in water drained from the cooling towers at Chernobyl. A special “training” facility secreted away in a remote Latvian hillside is quickly becoming the destination of choice for competitors looking for that extra edge. After “treatment,” swimmers experience, on average, a 5-to-15-percent reduction in lap times, along with a predilection for baitfish. And except for the resulting herring smell and the inability to communicate except with clicks and squeaks, the procedure is undetectable by today’s anti-doping testing methods.
Option 3 – equipping your Speedo LZR Racer suit with a small outboard motor – is a risky strategy and might get you disqualified from any meets you might compete in. Hopefully, any officials watching will be too distracted by the swimmer in lane 3 spraying water out of his blowhole to notice.
Lemme know what you decide to do – and good luck!