The pandemic and a postponement have not in any way diminished the luster and the prestige of the Tokyo Olympics.
The Olympics remains the most popular sporting event in the world, attracting 3.6 million television viewers in both the 2012 London and 2016 Rio Games. The numbers are expected to be even higher in this year’s edition.
For most athletes who will be flying to Japan this month to compete in the games, the Olympics serves as a validation of a lifetime spent trying to become the best versions of themselves, both in and out of the athletic arena.
Remedy Alexis Rule was 10 years old when the dream to be an Olympian was first conceived. She had just started to swim competitively under the mentorship of Coach Ryan Sprang at the Shenandoah Marlins Aquatic Club. Before that, swimming was just one among a number of sports that she played.
She shared with Midlife Halftime, “I remember watching the Beijing Olympics, cheering Michael Phelps on through the TV as he went for his eight golds when I was eleven.”
This time, she will be the one who will be seen on tv as she splashes the waters and attempts to set new records. It is an idea that has yet to sink in for the Philippines’ top female swimmer. “When I received the official letter of invitation from FINA (or the Fédération Internationale De Natation, the international federation for swimming) forwarded from Tita Lani Velasco, I could not stop smiling and my body was filled with adrenaline.
“I went on a celebratory sunset paddleboarding outing with one of my friends to celebrate and help get out my adrenaline.”
Rule has been an elite swimmer from the time she was part of the Western Albemarle High School team with whom she won a state championship.
She was 16 years old when she qualified for the 2012 United States Olympic Trials in three events – the 200-meter backstroke, 100-meter butterfly, and 200-meter butterfly. She also made it to the US Swimming’s Junior National Team in 2014. Going up against a top-level field in the Olympics is not something that would intimidate Rule.
“I am looking forward to competing against amazing swimmers from all over the world. I think one reason the Olympics is so special is that this event brings people together from all different backgrounds,” she said.
“In Jerry Lynch’s book, Spirit of the Dancing Warrior, he writes, ‘The word competition comes from the Latin word competere, which means to seek together.’ So on the Olympic stage, we Olympians look to our competitors as our partners. We seek greatness together.”
Rule is a two-time All-American as a member of the University of Texas in the US NCAA. In 2019, she started representing the Philippines in international events beginning in the FINA World Championships in Gwangju, South Korea where she established a new national record in the women’s 200-meter butterfly with a time of 2:11.38 minutes.
That same year, she reset her own national record when she clocked 2:10.99 minutes in the SEA Games. She missed out on gold by the slimmest of margins as defending SEA Games women’s 200-meter butterfly champion Quah Jing Wen of Singapore finished in 2:10.97 minutes. Rule won two silvers (200-meter butterfly and 4×100 freestyle relay) and two bronze medals (200-meter freestyle and 4×200 meter freestyle relay) in her first-ever SEA Games.
With only two weeks to go before the Olympics opens on July 23, Rule is now focused on conditioning herself psychologically. “I have done the bulk of the work. Now it is about fine-tuning the mental game,” she revealed.
“The Olympics is a high-pressure situation, and fears and doubts can take over during high-pressure situations. What is key for me is turning my focus back onto the things I can control. I can control my effort and my attitude. And it is not like I am being asked to do something I am unfamiliar with.”
With the postponement of this year’s Southeast Asian Games in Vietnam, the Tokyo Olympics might just be the swan song in Rule’s illustrious career. She has enrolled in graduate school at the University of Miami where she plans to finish her Masters in Professional Science. Rule, who majored in Biology in college, plans on prioritizing her education and career outside of swimming after the Tokyo Olympics.
Until then, she will be devoting every ounce of her concentration and energy to the task at hand – to represent the Philippines with pride in the biggest competition of her life. It is something she looks forward to, even if being an Olympian is a concept she admits she still has not been able to grasp yet. “I don’t think it will feel fully real until I am on the plane to Tokyo.
“It will be surreal walking into the Olympic Stadium with my Filipino countrymates and all the other countries especially after the tumultuous past year the world has gone through. I have swum for over half my life. I have competed in countless 100 and 200 butterfly events,” she said.
“Now, it’s time to have fun doing what I love in this Olympic dream that I have had for so long!”