He crawled out of the pool, clearly forcing a smile — however, the whole world could see the tears behind the oversized, tinted goggles. To him, this was the World Championships, he was Michael Phelps at the 2008 Olympics if he lost the 100 fly to Michael Cavic, his heart was shattering, and the world around him may as well be.
He looked up at his opponent, bright-eyed and oblivious to her victory, not comprehending she had taken the world championship title from him, and extended his hand.
“Thanks! Nice goggles!”
His lower lip quivered with a sort of pout Kylie Jenner would kill for, hands crossed over his chest, he looked up as if looking towards the heavens for some sort of shining light of what’s next.
Everyone around was silent, holding back muffled laughter — how dare they! With such high stakes on the line, the level of respect given should be greater.
“Can I go to the bathroom?” the sports hero asked, goggles clearly still filling with tears, and face beet-red.
“Yes, you may.”
Assuming the sports hero would turn with a valiant victory over the mental battle taking place in his head, the rest of the competitors resumed chatter about the days activity.
“Today I traded my PB&J for pizza at lunch!”
“For Halloween — I want to be Professor McGonagall!”
The chatter was broken by the sound of goggles thrown on the pool deck, our sports hero had succumbed to defeat to the mental game that captures oh so many. Breaking into full-blown tears and crawling into the lap of his number-one fan and biggest cheerleader — former D1 college athlete playing her most important position, mom, she consoled him.
“Losing is part of being an athlete — quit your crying, put your game face on and get out there.”
Even if losing is a well-played game of sharks and minnows between 10-and-unders at swim practice.