Andreas Vazaios


I’m sitting on the edge of the pool.

My back against the wall.

I watch the lanes.

I watch the others go back and forth.

I just observe, I struggle to do anything else, because my brain doesn't function today.

It moves slowly.

It almost seems like it doesn't accept something.

Something from yesterday or something from tomorrow.

Maybe both. It makes no difference.

The body is destroyed, it no longer responds as it used to do.

It’s tired.

Full of pain.


At least older than it actually is.

Andreas Vazaios

It’s a moment that returns, cyclical like an ocean tide.

And that moment, it’s all mine.

For better or for worse.

Because when I feel like I no longer have a single reason to train, when I feel like I no longer have the ability, or the desire, or maybe the courage to swim, in that very moment, everything is resolved.

And it does so with immediate, and elegant, simplicity.

The water.

Water is my answer.

At the precise moment in which I convince myself that I just have to find the strength to dive into the water, the rest evaporates.

As if I were covered in mud, not fatigue.

As if I had dust on me, not thoughts.

And then, as soon as the head re-emerges for the first time, everything slips away.

Everything is washed, everything is clean.

Everything returns to its place.

Andreas Vazaios

There must be a deep reason if I function like this.

An origin story.

A romantic start.

An ancient seed, planted inside me.

Which has taken root, and which is impossible to remove.

My parents say that when I was a child and they took me out of the sea, especially the ocean, I began to cry desperately, and I didn't stop until, upon returning home, they immersed me in a swimming pool.

As if I never wanted to get out of the liquid.

As if I never really wanted to be born, but preferred to remain suspended forever, in the nameless space, between sky and earth.

A space made of water and love.

I don't remember those cries, I simply can’t.

I was too little.

But I remember very well the summers at the seaside, in the family home.

The island and its dolce vita.

I remember the slow repetitiveness of a routine that I never wanted to interrupt, a cycle made of delicious food, ice creams, walks in the center, cartoons.

Made, above all, of water.

So much water.

Andreas Vazaios

A little later, I started swimming, in the sense of practicing the sport, partly because water was my element and it was impossible to get me away from it, and partly because I was jealous of my sister.

My older sister.

Every now and then she left home for training and I didn't understand why she didn't stay there with me, like she had always done.

I didn't get it.

I wasn't interested in competition.

At least, not at first.

However, I liked the feeling of frenetic ecstasy that learning new things gives you, the silent satisfaction that comes from understanding something on your own, from memorizing a movement, from mastering a stroke.

I loved the idea of improvement.

Of growth.

Of lowering the stopwatch.

The exact same elements that still today, three Olympics later, give me the strength and motivation to continue. To dive into the water even when my head and body repeat, obsessively, “no”. Not today.

The outline is different, however.

Water remains water, but I have changed.

When I was young I only cared about performance, distance, effort.

When I was younger I didn't think I needed rest days, and I thought lighter workouts were just a waste of time.

If I don't suffer I don't get better, if I don't get better what am I swimming for?

Today this is no longer the case.

Today I also know how to enjoy an easy session, I know how to concentrate on the single stroke, on the technique, even on the time that passes, lap after lap.

Days of glass.

An apparent calm, in which to resume the conversations with my soul.

Andreas Vazaios
Andreas Vazaios

Four Olympic cycles, in the existence of an athlete, mean many years and also many kilometers. I left home when I was little more than a child and, like Ulysses, I have not yet returned.

The United States, Great Britain, and then London, Rio, Tokyo: a life-long Odyssey, my life, which takes me further away, plane after plane, but at the same times makes me feel more connected to my land, day after day.

My land as my Greece, with its habits and traditions.

And land as my family, with its rituals and gestures.

It will take some time to actually return to Ithaca.

Time to start a new life, outside the pool, but always in the water.

A life for which I am studying, for which I know I will be ready.

Close yet still far.

Capable to do it but not anxious yet, since I feel I still have a lot to achieve for the athlete who lives in me.

And of course, I no longer have the exuberance I had when I was a boy.

Nor the physical ability to recover energy so quickly.

But, never like today, have I been so aware of the meaning of this adventure, of the value of the long-term program, of the pleasure of the little things.

I have never been so aware of the fact that sometimes it is necessary to get lost along the way. That the error can be enormous.

Which can make you doubt, which can even make you quit.

And that's fine too.

Because in the end everything finds its way back, everything finds its balance.

Find its space again.

Paris is upon us, and then there will be Los Angeles.

And then, again, who knows.

Ultimately, it's not my problem.

My problem is simply to continue sailing, in the sun and in the storm, with my eyes fixed on the horizon, a little eager, and a little not, to sight land.

Andreas Vazaios / Contributor

Andreas Vazaios