She answered all the questions in a pleasant, self-conscious way. Food? She likes snacks. She likes candy. She likes chicken McNuggets and English muffins with cinnamon sprinkled on top. Sleep? She is usually in bed by nine o'clock. She needs 10 hours of sleep or she feels cranky. School? She has had trouble with algebra. She doesn't get it. Friends? Most of her friends swim, but she has other friends who don't. Pressure? She hasn't felt it. Improvement? She needs work on her turns. A lot of work. High school competition? In fact, at the time of the class visit she still hadn't swum for the high school team; the season hadn't begun. But she didn't plan to give anyone a head start.
She was normal. Maddeningly normal. Salo pointed out that there is less pressure on a 14-year-old than there would be on a swimmer of 24 or 25 who was trying to finish her career with the performance of a lifetime. Amanda will go from the Olympics to three more years of high school and tour years of college. She could end up back at the Olympics, maybe more than once.
Q.—Could we have your autograph?
The college football players and basketball players and volleyball players and gymnasts struggled out of their one-armed classroom seats and formed a line. They opened their textbooks, How to Play the Game of Your Life, by George A. Selleck, to the front page. The ninth-grader, the smallest person in the room, signed her name again and again.