The Amazing Relay

Charlotte ChudySeptember 14, 2018Competition and AchievementAwesome Moments
The Amazing Relay

There is nothing like the excitement that runs through you when you are playing a sport and think you can win.

Although you're not quite sure, you are determined to give it all you’ve got. You push and push and push yourself. Well, it’s terrible when your efforts don’t pay off, but truly incredible when they do.

When I was ten years old I first qualified for Junior Olympics in swimming. In addition to my individual events, I was assigned to the “A” team for the 100-yard freestyle relay. We were racing the fastest person in our age division, Annie Zhu from the Twisters, and her team of very good freestylers. Jacqueline, I think, was going to swim first for us, then Abby. I was going to swim third—a big deal. I was the person who had to give our anchor Lia a big enough lead to hold off Annie.

As we adjusted our caps and lined up, my heart was racing. The gun sounded and Jacqueline jumped into the water. I watched and couldn’t help but think about all the things that could go wrong—all the tricks and techniques I knew but wasn’t quite sure I could perform. Jacqueline finished strong and Abby was off the block. This was it! I was next. I was praying that I wouldn’t let everyone down. The timer told me to get ready. I stepped up onto the block, waited for Abby’s hand to touch the wall, and then dove.

I was even with the girl next to me and felt myself going faster than I had ever gone before. The water was rushing, all around me. Bubbles streamed past me and the air seemed sucked out of me. I kicked, I stroked, and occasionally took a breath, swimming as fast as I possibly could. The wall loomed in front of me and I flipped. I was in the lead. The girl from the Twisters was still at the flags, about half a body length behind and I caught a glimpse of her taking a big breath. I felt adrenaline taking over my body, filling me with energy I didn’t know I had. I had two laps of this amazing race left.

As I turned again I could see I was a full body-length ahead of the closest swimmer. But I was beginning to get tired.

Could I make it the whole way?, I wondered. Yes, I told myself, I can! One more lap, and this must be the fastest of all. I must give Lia enough space. I was at the flags, then boom, touched the wall. I heard Lia dive.

I could barely get out of the pool. I ripped off my cap and goggles, and heard “good job, Charlotte” all around me. I saw Lia turn at the wall. Only two laps left. The whole team was cheering her on. Lia was on her way back going super fast. Oh, my, God, I thought, we are going to win! What’s the time? A record!!! I was so happy. We were all laughing and jumping up and down.

The whole team surrounded us. Eddie and Kostya, our coaches, grinned as they shook our hands. I felt so proud. We had beaten the team record and the metro record for ten and under girls.

These days, I am still swimming, now seven times a week at least two hours a day. It’s not always easy to make myself go to practice after a long day at school, with lots of homework still to do. But I go, and I try. Sometimes it’s great, sometimes it’s just hard.

There have been times when I’ve been hundredths of a second off a qualifying time and stayed that way for months. I keep at it, though. Is it because I like winning? Not really, swimming isn’t like that. There is always another goal, a time to be improved. The fact is, swimming is about 30 percent ability, 68 percent hard work and 2 percent magic. I guess I like that mix—particularly when the magic kicks in.

And that relay swim was magical. The record still stands. It’s posted on the board at the pool. I don’t check often, but when I do, I am happy it’s still there. It reminds me of all I can do and, that sometimes, if I’m ready and willing to give it my all, and the stars just line up right, amazing things can happen.

Charlotte Chudy lives and goes to school in Brooklyn, New York. She swims in Manhattan for Asphalt Green Unified Aquatics (AGUA). Last year Annie Zhu (formerly of the LaGuardia Twisters) joined Charlotte and Lia Neal on AGUA. In November, Lia and Annie represented the U.S. at the Junior World Championships in Stockholm, Sweden and Berlin, Germany. The results of their races were not available at the time of publication but can be found at: