POSTED: Monday, January 7, 2008 - 8:24am
UPDATED: Wednesday, March 17, 2010 - 11:59am
TYLER - More than 34 million Americans watched the "Opening Ceremonies" of the 2008 Olympic Games on NBC - making it the most-watched non-U.S. event ever.
And last night, when the Americans won the 400-meter freestyle relay, NBC reports it was likely the most-viewed sporting event in history.
Although the Games are taking place halfway around the world, Americans everywhere, including our young swimmers in East Texas, have gained a renewed sense of Olympic spirit and American pride.
To understand the impact of that race, is too understand the complete picture.
The storyline was set in place. The trash-talking French, a long-time rival of the United States, were the favorites.
The entire world was watching.
Yet under intense pressure, four Americans, by hundredths of a second, came from behind and won 400-meter freestyle by literally - a fingertip.
Those four Americans - Cullen Jones, Jason Lezak, Michael Phelps and Garret Weber-Gale, instantly became household names after breaking the world record with a time of 3 minutes, 8.24 seconds.
Here at home, over 1,600 miles away from the Olympic Games, swimmers at TISD Aquatic Center say they'll forever remember the moment.
"Michael Phelps was yelling and shouting," said young Ethan Oliver, who, along with his seven siblings, swims. "I watched the whole thing!"
Brittany Wilkens of Tyler describes a similar reaction: "It was really exciting at my house because my dad swam in college. We were all cheering!"
Many of these Tyler Olympic-hopefuls - start out swimming as young as four. They say they don't dream of becoming Michael Jordan or Tiger Woods.
They want to be Michael Phelps.
"To be able to swim in the 2012 Olympics, as a free-styler, that's one of my goals," said Michael Quam, a competitive swimmer.
Matt Franks is the Aquatics Director and head coach of the Robert E. Lee and Hubbard Middle School teams. In addition, he coaches competitive swimming for all ages brackets. Coach Franks says since he's been in East Texas the last six years, he's watched the sport grow dramatically.
"We're hoping with this Olympics," said Franks, "Wth all the success the United States is having, we'll see even more swimmers."
So for the next four years, until the London Games of 2012, these Tyler swimmers will push hard each day in the water.
And dream of the moment, they too, may perhaps represent our country.
If you have an Olympic-related story you want to share, email reporter Tamara Jolee at firstname.lastname@example.org.