All the kids were excited about the swimming carnival. A day at the pool, instead of a day at school? Amazing! A day at the pool, with all their friends? Even better. My kids started preparing as soon as the date was set. We had to find red zinc ("It's got to be house colours!") and practice swimming laps. It was all they talked about.
As the day got closer, my youngest daughter who is in Year Two, started to worry about the races. She was pumped for the novelty section – but the popular race, the 50 metre freestyle was suddenly quite daunting.
She has always been a good swimmer, but 50 metres is a long way for a six-and-a-half-year-old. She practiced at our local pool, but was starting to panic about the breathing. She worried that she wouldn't make the distance.
My eldest daughter with the swimming carnival experience (she is in Year Three) suggested her little sister went in for the 50 metre backstroke instead. "That way, you wont have to worry about the breathing," she reasoned.
It was a good plan. My youngest was happy again and switched her practice laps to backstroke. It was all go.
But there was a small flaw with the plan. The 50 metre backstroke is nowhere near as popular as the 50 metre freestyle. When the race was called, my daughter was the only girl in her entire year group that put her hand up.
And so they put her with the kids in the year above. But there weren't enough of them either. And so it went… until the final line up consisted of ten-year-olds, nine-year-olds, eight-year-olds – and my little six-and-a-half-year-old.
Standing at the end of the line she looked tiny. She was by far the youngest kid in the race. At that point a lot of kids would have bottled out – and fair play to them if they did. It wasn't going to be close. Not by a long shot.
But she stood firm. The whistle blew and off they went.
This isn't the bit where I tell you that my daughter defeated the odds and came in first. It wasn't like one of those underdog movies where the kid shocks everyone and makes the crowd go wild.
The older kids totally smashed it. The winner was out the water before my youngest had even made it to the halfway point. It didn't put her off though. She kept kicking. She her arms going. She didn't give up in the face of obvious defeat.
Of course she came last. It was the only possible outcome. But watching her finish the race and pull herself out the water filled me with pride. In fact, I don't think I have ever been so proud of my little girl
Later, she told me that when she realised she was much younger than the other swimmers her goal was to just complete the distance. "Someone has to be last, Mum," she said. I really admire her determination and her guts.
In an environment where sporting prowess is celebrated and winners are cheered on by the whole school, my daughter reminded us all that winning isn't everything. In that moment she epitomised the true sprit of taking part.
She didn't need a ribbon. In my eyes she is an absolute legend.