Chapter 26

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"You're raising your head too much when you go up to breathe, son," the coach said, reading from his notes. "That makes you lose valuable seconds. And remember to exhale through your nose constantly. Don't use your mouth. I saw you doing it a few times."

"Got it, coach," he said, getting out of the water. The swimmer cleared the water from his face and nodded.

As Nelson walked to the starting block again, the coach turned to Cris. The manager, sitting on the ledge with his legs in the water, nodded once and grabbed the chronometer around his neck. With the device in one hand and the tablet in the other, he was ready to time every lap.

"Okay... Go!" the coach's voice echoed inside the indoor and warmed pool.

Nelson jumped forwards the moment his coach screamed. He felt his body slamming against the surface of the water and then was already swinging his arms and legs, pushing himself to the other side. The swimmer had lost count how many times he had done that today alone.

As he was reaching the other side, he prepared the flip-turn, bending his knees. With the impulse from his legs, he managed to gain a little more speed on the way back.

Ah, so this was what coach was talking about, Nelson realized when he caught himself ready to breathe. Whenever he raised his head above water, there was a little delay when he got back because he was using his mouth to breath. It's like the blink of the eye, but thanks to the drag, I'd be a little bit behind every time I breathe. But if I do it like this...

Nelson forced himself to breathe through his nose. I don't know if it's making any difference... I'll have to ask Cris if my time changes anything.

"Okay. That's all for today," the coached announced when Nelson's hand touched the wall. "I gotta go now. I'm meeting my in-laws and I'm already late. Apparently, we have to prepare the baby room now, or we won't have time. Sorry I can't stay and talk through it all, but I made notes where you can improve. Ask Cris about it."

The coach's phone rang, and he answered. Then he was gone.

"Good work," Cris said, handing Nelson a towel.

The swimmer hesitated to take it, glancing back at the water as he bit his lips.

Cris tiptoed, put the tower on Nelson's head and forced the athlete to face him.

"I'm not letting you back in the water today," he said, shaking his head while staring Nelson in the eyes. "The coach specifically said to not let you practice anymore today. Anymore and you'll be exhausted for tomorrow."

"Tomorrow..." Nelson took the towel and dried his hair, taking extra time on his face to avoid Cris' eyes. "The day has finally come."

"Not really. It's just a local competition, not 'the day' or anything close to that," Cris said in a casual tone, shrugging. "From the participants' list, there's no one who can beat you."

"What every athlete wants to hear. You'll win 'cause the competition is weak." Nelson let out a hollow laugh.

"That's literally the first time I hear someone complaining because he should have an easy time winning," Cris said, smiling and rolling his eyes exaggeratedly. Then he sighed and shook his head. "I can never get you athletes. A victory is a victory to me. And an easy one? Even better. But I guess I'm just a simple manager who doesn't understand the complex mind of a professional swimmer."

Nelson stared at him with a blank face. Then he sighed and threw the tower at his manager's face.

"Liar. You know very well what I'm talking about," he said, walking towards the changing room. "Hey, how did it go with your dad?"

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