I open the door to the aquatic centre and breathe deeply through my nose. The fabulous scent of a chlorinated pool awakens my senses and kicks my body into moving a little faster. After scanning my card and roving through the turnstiles, I make my way down the steps knowing that the trek back up will be either filled with elation or disappointment after the day’s events. Making my way into the locker room, I glance at the windows that look onto the pool deck. I can’t see anything on deck except colour and movement; the windows are covered in pieces of paper showing lists of the swimmers in each event. As each event is completed, the results will replace the lists and will show who makes tomorrow’s finals. Maybe me. Probably not. At least ten swimmers would need to drown for me to make the finals. I just want to be here and take it all in, getting to see some of the swimmers that I idolize take to the pool.
I head into the locker room, glancing into each area to find a good spot to change. The first two sections are used primarily by dry land athletes; I feel like an intruder going in there and getting the floor and bench wet. I continue on, trying the third section but it’s filled with swimmers from an opposing team. I dump my stuff in the next section, feeling the sting of arriving a bit later than my teammates, hoping they have put their stuff in here too. If not, I’ll move mine later. I quickly strip and get into my racing suit; a blue and yellow girls bathing suit that is about six sizes too small. The small size is supposed to drag less and help me swim faster but what it really does is dig into my skin and make me wish I had stuck with synchro. After stashing my clothes in a locker and securing it shut, I slip on my Speedo sandals and make my way onto the deck with my swim bag slung over my shoulder. I’m not sure why we bother putting away our clothes; there is enough in this swim bag to last me a weekend away – snacks, sweats, towels, and water bottles.
Coming out of the locker room onto the deck is like walking out of the airport into a tropical paradise. I look around at the people and the pool like I’ve never been here before. It will only look the same from my view in the pool, face down and staring at the bottom. Everything else is different. Stealing a glance at the opposing teams, I smile to myself and slowly make my way to our team’s home base. The pool is like a beehive, full of swimming bees, pushing for a spot in the splashy mess of water. I grimace, thinking about how much I hate warming up with a hundred other people in the pool. Walking past the piles of swim bags and sandals, I see our swim team getting ready over by the diving tank. The familiar blue and gold bags, coats, and bathing suits put a skip in my step and I feel the energy of my team from head to toe. Heading over to my friends, the busyness of their activity is contrasted by the tank which sits empty, its still dark water awaiting our arrival.