Lesson 1: Michael Phelps is all of us. I don’t mean that we are all built for swimming. I mean we are all built for something. And like Phelps we are all built for something great. We are all a combination of spirit, heart and body built for something great. On the 11th of August 2016, Phelps won his 22nd Olympic gold medal and his 25th Olympic medal. He has won more Olympic medals in his life than Portugal has ever won as a country. But his journey to this point has been marked by obstacles which he has been able to overcome, he has had people come alongside him, and there has been times of self-doubt. He retired and returned; learned to fall in love again with his passion. And that is all of us. Watching him play with his son at the poolside and tear up during the medal ceremony, I learn that Phelps is all of us, because we have many dreams inside of us, we need drive, we need determination, we need love and we need balance. And we need to believe even when we don’t.
Lesson 2: Ten-ten needs to be an Olympic sport. Prior to Rio 2016, Fiji had never won an Olympic medal. In Rio 2016, Rugby sevens was included for the first time. So in the Rugby 7s final, Fiji decimated their opposition 43-7 to win their first ever medal and it was gold! Rugby is their thing. They won without remorse. Listening to them singing after the match, the hairs on the back of my neck stood on end. In life you have to do you, and sometimes you get a big stage to do the thing you know how to do best. Take that chance, decimate your obstacles. I am writing to the International Olympic Committee, asking that Ten-ten, Ayo, and Country Game should be added to the Olympic movement. Sure gold for Nigeria niyen!
Lesson 3: Name your daughters Simone. I jest. Sort of. On day 6, 19-year old Simone Biles won the women’s individual all-around final in gymnastics. Her dominance in the sport have had people comparing her to Bolt and Phelps. In response she said ‘I’m not the next Usain Bolt or Michael Phelps. I’m the first Simone Biles.’ On the same night Simone Manuel jointly won the 100m freestyle swimming event to become the first African American woman to win an Olympic gold in an individual swimming event. Growing up, gymnastics and swimming were not sports I associated with black people and especially not black women. This. This is why representation matters. Because there are markers in the sands of time. A black girl who watches the Simones knows that these are possible dreams, these are valid dreams. Because black women carry a million dreams on their backs. The dreams of those watching their screens with wide-eyed smiles and seeing the Simones say to themselves, ‘I can do this, that could be me.’ The Simones draw a line in the sand, for the next generation to step over, till we get to the Promised Land.