From somewhere off in the distance, Susan Carol Anderson thought she heard her father's voice, which wasn't possible because her head was underwater and she was searching for one last spark of energy to close the ten-meter gap between her and the wall. And yet, even though she knew she couldn't possibly hear his voice this clearly, there it was again.
"Susan Carol, sweetheart; are you listening?"
She was in lane six in a swimming pool in Shanghai, China, and yet she kept hearing her dad's voice, almost as if they were back home in Goldsboro, North Carolina, sitting in their living room.
"Susan Carol, snap out of it."
That's when it hit her. She was sitting in her living room in Goldsboro. Shanghai was thousands of miles away and nine months in her past. She had drifted off into her own safe little world in the pool while her dad was talking to the three people seated across from her.
And now her father was looking at her expectantly, which was a problem since she had no idea what he was expecting. Finally, the man seated directly across from her, whose name she remembered was Jeffrey Paul Scott--"call me J.P.," he had said, walking in the door--gave her a clue.
"You don't have to decide anything now, Susan Carol," he was saying in a soothing voice. "We just want you and your dad to have an idea of where this could all go. We aren't in the business of trying to pitch fantasies; we try to tell people what to expect realistically. In your case, the sky's the limit, but even if you don't hit the sky, the bar is pretty high."
Susan Carol nodded because that felt like it was the right thing to do. She looked back at the coffee table and all the brightly colored folders that J.P. and his two partners--William Arnold (she was to call him Bill) and Susie McArthur--had laid out in front of them. One was labeled Swimming Sponsors, another said Beauty Sponsors, a third said Teen Sponsors, and a fourth said modestly How Lightning Fast Will Make Susan Carol Anderson a Star.
Maybe it was that one that had sent her spinning back in time to that amazing week in Shanghai last summer. She had gone to China hoping to swim the meet of her life. She never dreamed that succeeding would completely change her life.
Her father was talking again. "Susan Carol, I think J.P., Bill, and Susie understand that this is a lot for a fifteen-year-old to digest in one evening," he said. "Actually, it's a lot for a forty-six-year-old to digest in one evening."
As if on cue, J.P., Bill, and Susie laughed as though her father was David Letterman and Jimmy Kimmel rolled into one.
"Your dad's right," Susie said. "All we really want to know is if any of this makes sense to you, and if not, what would make sense to you. Our job is to make sure you're comfortable with all this."
In that case, Susan Carol thought, please take your folders, and let me go back to being a fifteen-year-old girl who loves to swim and loves to be a sportswriter. She thought of something one of her heroes, Duke basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski, had said: "When you're growing up, you train to be an athlete. Then you train to be a coach. But you never train to be a celebrity."
She hadn't trained to be a celebrity and, having had brushes with it in the past, had no real interest in it. But the dollar figures that the Lightning Fast trio had been throwing around were stunning. Even her father, who had some experience in the world of professional athletes, had been wide-eyed. Speedo was willing to guarantee $1 million for the first year, including a $500,000 signing bonus, with another four years open to negotiation depending on how she did in London. That...