A* GCSE English Literature Personal Writing Essay

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"Winning"

Swimming..

..One of the hardest, most time consuming sports in existence. To be a swimmer requires talent. To be a successful swimmer requires talent, effort, commitment and an indefatigable attitude that never falters towards the concept of hard work. There can be no breaks, no rest, no compromise. Hard work must continue throughout a swimming season. Without hard work, there can be no winning, and no improvement.


In other sports such as hockey or football, players train once or twice a week when they are my age. I train nine times a week for two hours, week in, week out. I have come accustomed to the profound silence of the morning. My day starts at 4.40 am when I wake up to the familiar sound of the unwelcome “bleep” that echoes from the regularly used alarm clock sitting unsympathetically on my bedside table. I wake quickly, and avoid thinking about going back to sleep. My fatigued body is yearning for rest, begging me to just lie down. “five more minutes,” I think helplessly to myself, “just five.” But I know that five would soon turn to ten, and ten to thirty, and thirty into a late arrival and an enraged coach. There is no point in thinking about more rest, I must get up. I pull my body out of bed and reluctantly put on my school uniform. I put on a warm hoody to avoid getting cold. That is the worst thing before a training session, especially in winter. The cold air penetrates through the layers of clothing and causes the body shiver uncontrollably; only to dive into what seems an ice cold pool. It is not pleasant first thing in the morning, I have never became quite used to it and nor, I am sure, will I ever. I pull open the car door, glazed with thick clear ice, and get in. The drive to the pool is never memorable. I always fall into a shallow sleep, my body impressing on me greatly the need for sleep, my mind lost in a maelstrom of fatigue and random thought. I arrive at the pool in good time and swiftly pace inside the leisure centre to the warm air inside.


The black line. The thick, black definable, straight line at the bottom of the pool is all I see as I swim up and down the lane. My body temperature quickly increases and soon I am enjoying myself uniquely. The main set approaches. Another hard anaerobic lactate set that will push my body once again to its limits.

And then warm down. Slow, steady and satisfying, the endorphins racing through my recovering body as my blood returns to its normal velocity.


I have trained well in the past few weeks and feel I am prepared for the competition approaching. Even though I feel nervous I realise that that the hard work is done and now the fun of competition begins.


I travel up to the competition venue a day before I am due to swim my event: the 100 metres Butterfly. This year it is going to be held in the renowned Ponds Forge International Sports Centre in Sheffield, where many dreams have been slashed with the merciless reality of losing. Not losing the race by coming second, or third or even last, but getting out of the water knowing you could have done better.

“I will not lose,” I think to myself confidently, but these words have been said by so many people, and many people can’t win a race. Only one person can. Indeed, coming in last is better than knowing you could have done better.

The morning arrives with an air of excitement and nervousness as the competitors, including myself, get ready for warm up. Before I get in I confer with my coach and together we decide a routine for warm up.

“Feel the water, don’t slip it,” he says eloquently as I listen intently, “and don’t go too hard otherwise you’ll have no energy for your race.”

As I do the warm up I remember his advice and swim with determined concentration to effectively prepare myself for the race.


I swim extremely well in my heat, touching in 4th place. I never expected this and I have the most amazing feeling of satisfaction.

“Well done, that was a great swim,” my coach tells me, “I want a repeat performance for the final.”

“Thanks” I state contentedly as I think fixedly about the final that will take place later on in the day. I am hungry for a medal and feel that I am completely capable of getting one.

The day passes slowly, but I enjoy watching the other races while I eat plenty of carbohydrates, satisfying my body with energy that I will exert in the final.


It is time for me to warm up once again and this time I feel great. All the nerves I had have been forgotten and as the warm up nears its end I am more confident than ever. I look at the start sheet and find to my relief that my race will be the 10th final. I get changed into my racing costume and take in plenty of fluid.

The finals of other races are passing quickly, until eventually the last final approaches. My final. The whistle blows, silencing the crowd until the whole arena is

quiet with anticipation. A second whistle blows and I climb onto the stationary blocks,

ready.


“Take your marks,” the starter barks and I grip the edge of the blue block tightly. I listen intently, straining my ears for the “bleep” of the machine until finally it sounds.

I power off the blocks and into the water, kicking with determination. It is essential that keep my swimming controlled, putting ever last bit of energy and adrenaline to good use, wasting nothing. I swim as controlled as possible for the first 50 meters and at the turn I am in 4th position. I can see the other swimmers in front of me and suddenly I remember the words that I have so often heard people saying,

“It is not the fastest person that wins the race, but the person who slows down the least.”

I kick as hard as I can and power through the last 25 meters with an inconsolable desire to win. I attack the wall and touch. I look up at the scoreboard and can’t believe my eyes. I have won.


Winning a race is a strange experience. Everybody thinks it must be ecstatic from start to finish and of course much of it is, but the range of emotions is diverse. The first reaction is a starburst of joy. With experience you can judge an opponents relative position of all other swimmers in a race. With years of it you can tell the exact moment you touch the wall. The arm raised to punch the air, the shout of glee or roar of a score settled or favourite overturned can all happen before your reign as winner is more than a second old.

But then your body has more important issues to deal with. The body is capable of amazing things as a normal human being, but train it for a few years and it can work for minutes on end without enough oxygen to sustain it properly. You can make your legs work harder than the internal mechanics of heart, lungs and blood are comfortable with. It is a perfectly natural state and one which everybody is accustomed to. The run for the bus, the sharp incline in a path or the extra flight of stairs all produce it – a lactate burn. Your mouth gapes, your limbs burn and the only way to let the symptoms die back is rest.


But in a swimming race there can be no rest. Rest means losing, simple as that. You need to get your opposition into the position where they can’t match your speed, but you have to make sure that you do not slow down and the limiting factor is pain.

It starts in the legs, mainly in the thighs, and then the stomach, too, and the chest where the heart is racing up to 200 beats per minute. Hanging on to the lane rope doesn’t make the pain go away, but it feels natural to collapse down. The pain fades from a peak after about 20 seconds, but it’s far from over. The legs will ache and turn blue as the oxygen starved blood courses through them; your shoulders will ache as

well after the pressure of all the power you can generate has been pressed down on them. Throats are parched, burnt by the hundreds of litres of air every minute that has been sucked through.

But after about a minute, I was standing on the poolside, smiling with satisfaction. I had done it – National champion. The words echoed in my mind and I loved the sound of it. Pure and simple.

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