Ben was a 6-year-old who was taking swimming classes. His dream was to one day be as good as Michael Phelps. Like many young swimmers, Ben was extremely excited to see how team USA will perform in this year's Olympics in Tokyo, Japan. On the day of the Olympic opening, something incredible happened. Ben and his friends from swimming classes got to meet Michael Phelps!
Michael Phelps was very nice to Ben and his friends. He signed Ben an autograph, and he also taught the kids some fun games to play in the water. Michael Phelps was a busy person, but he also wanted to have some fun with the kids.
Ben was so excited that he couldn't stop talking about the meeting with Michael Phelps for the rest of the day. At night, when Ben had trouble falling asleep, his mom said that she would read him a story about Michael Phelps if he tried to go to sleep now.
"But mom, I don't want to go to sleep. I want to hear the story about Michael Phelps!" Ben said.
"No, Ben, you need to go to sleep right now, or you will be really tired and cranky tomorrow."
"Ok, mom. I'll go to sleep right now." So, Ben closed his eyes waiting for the Michael Phelps story.
Ben's mother opened her book and started reading: "Michael Phelps was born in 1985 in Baltimore, Maryland. He started learning how to swim at the age of seven."
Ben couldn't fall asleep at all, because he was so excited about the story. He loved the idea that he started learning swimming earlier than Michael Phelps.
Ben's mother kept reading: " Michael started competing in swim meets all over the country winning a lot of competitions. At the age of 15, he became the youngest male to make a US Olympic team in 68 years."
"Wow! US national team at 15! That is incredible!", Ben thought. "Maybe there is a chance that one day I will be as good of a swimmer as him? Maybe I can be part of the US team too. That would be awesome!
Ben's mother turned another page and continued: "Michael Phelps' gold medal streak began at the 2002 Pan Pacific Championships in Japan. He won three golds and two silvers. In the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, Michael Phelps won eight gold medals and set seven world records!"
Wait, what?! Did my mom just say that Michael Phelps set seven world records? What kind of crazy swimming trick did he do?! Was it like backstroke or butterfly or maybe freestyle?! I should ask my coach about it so maybe one day I will have more chances of setting a world record myself!
Ben couldn't remember exactly when he fell asleep, but he did dream about swimming for sure.
The next day at school, Ben's friends were all very excited to hear about his meeting with Michael Phelps. They couldn't believe that he got to meet one of the best swimmers in the world!
"Wow, Ben," said one of his friends. "You are so lucky!"
"I know!" Ben replied. "Michael Phelps was really nice to me and my friends, and he taught us some cool swimming tricks too! I can't wait for the Olympic games to start!"
"And that's not all," Ben continued. "My mom read me a story about Michael Phelps last night before I went to sleep."
"Oh yeah?" said another friend with a big smile on his face. "What did the story say about him?"
"The story said that he was born in 1985 in Baltimore, Maryland," Ben explained. "It also said that when he was ten years old he started competing in swim meets all over the country."
"Huh," said one of his friends as she stared at him with her mouth hanging open wide in disbelief. "I never knew that Michael Phelps was from Baltimore!"
"But wait," Ben continued. "There is more! My mom said that when Michael Phelps was seventeen years old, he competed in his first international competition – the 2002 Pan Pacific Championships – where he won five medals."
"That's pretty impressive," said another one of Ben's friends. "But I'm sure that there are many other swimmers who have won five medals in their lifetime too."
"Yeah, that's true," Ben agreed. "But Michael Phelps still holds the all-time records for Olympic gold medals! A total of 23!
Ben's friends were all very impressed after hearing about this incredible feat, but then they started asking him more questions.
"What is the 100m butterfly race?"
"What does 'setting an Olympic record' mean?"
"And how far is '100m' ?"
"Who is the fastest swimmer from the USA right now? "
"Why don't we use our arms when we swim backstroke?"
Ben didn't know how to answer all these questions because he didn't know how to swim backstroke yet!
After the swimming practice ended this day, Ben stayed behind after everyone else had left because he wanted to talk with his coach about something important.
His coach looked at him with a big smile on her face and asked him if everything was alright.
"Yes, everything is ok," Ben answered her as best as he could while trying not to cry. "I just wanted you to tell me some swimming tricks that I can use in my races tomorrow," Ben quickly added, as tears started forming in his eyes.
He then told his coach how he wanted to be as good as Michael Phelps. He needed her help so bad as he felt so behind compared to Michael Phelps.
His coach smiled and gave him a big hug until he calmed down. She said to him gently, "No matter how big our goal is, we need to take it one stroke at a time. Okay?"
Ben nodded his head while his coach talked him through tomorrow's races. "One stroke at a time, one stroke at a time", he repeated to himself.