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Thursday, December 15, 2011
Michael Phelps, others try to keep fire alive

By Summer Sanders

Keeping the fire alive and the passion fresh ... sounds like a marriage, right? Nope. I am talking about athletes and longevity in a sport, specifically, those who manage to stick around for multiple Olympics. Being part of more than one Olympic team is truly amazing, and it needs to be recognized.

I was just reading about Andrew Luck in my Stanford Alumni Magazine. He just loves football. He said, and I quote, "I'd probably go crazy if I couldn't play football." That is fire. That is passion. And that's what it takes for athletes to keep going.

I loved swimming when I was competing. But in December 1993, after Barcelona, I dove into the pool for an afternoon practice and simply realized I didn't love it anymore. You can't train to be the "best in the world" without loving it. Just like any healthy relationship, you have to be able to grow, become better together and keep it fresh. That is even more challenging when the view rarely changes -- like that black line at the bottom of the pool.

I point this out because there are several athletes who are training to make their third or fourth Olympic team in 2012, not their first or second. Yes, their fourth. In case you didn't know, that's 16 years of training and being the best, 16 years of passion.

That's amazing! Michael Phelps is not just amazing for winning eight gold medals in one Olympic Games, but for having the desire and passion to go for his fourth Olympic team.

What drives each athlete is different. Some long for more medals, others long for faster times, but the bottom line is when it comes to the Olympics, money can't drive you. A paycheck doesn't get you the gold medal. It still comes down to fire, passion and love for the sport.