You're tapered, timed and trained for multiple medals. You're on your way to Europe for a grueling Olympiad -- bathing suit, goggles and a nation's great expectations in tow. So much poise, so much promise.
So much pressure at 19.
Summer Sanders, please walk Michael Phelps through this.
"If he does it, he's going to be flying high," said Summer, U.S. swimming's golden girl in Barcelona 12 years ago.
"But if he doesn't win seven gold medals -- and it's such a long meet -- he needs to keep it in perspective, to feel good about what he did and how much he's already accomplished.
"I mean, what he's trying to do is insane."
It's more than insane; it's Spitzean.
Phelps first brought the masses from their feet in this makeshift outdoor stadium last Wednesday, breaking his own world record in the 400-meter individual medley. He qualified in the 100 butterfly on Tuesday night, finishing second to rival Ian Crocker.
When his U.S. Olympic trials had ended, the rangy, jug-eared teenager from the Baltimore suburb of Rodgers Forge had qualified for an unprecedented six individual events at the Athens Games next month, and at least two relays. The only two people to beat him, Crocker and Aaron Peirsol in the 200 backstroke, set world records in the process.
No one has ever qualified for six individual events. Not Shirley Babashoff, not Tracy Caulkins, not Matt Biondi, not even Australian phenom Ian Thorpe or the immortal Mark Spitz.
This is crazy, but equaling Spitz's gold medal haul of seven -- accomplished at the Munich Games 32 years ago -- is no longer just a Speedo promotion.
And with all respect to Spitz, Phelps's chore will be much tougher because of all the semifinal heats he must race. Spitz won his seven golds in 13 races -- including three relays, which the American men never lost back then. Phelps not only has the Australians and Russian to contend with, with preliminary heats he will have to race 20 times in eight days to win seven golds or more.
Twenty swims over eight days, including three times in less than 90 minutes on Aug. 19. He went through that regimen on Tuesday night, calling it the "hardest night I've ever had."
That adolescent summer by the pool when a good day meant swimming from one end to the other without taking a breath? Or putting a welt on your best friend's leg with a towel-snap? Very juvenile. It's the magnificent seven or bust for this kid.
"If he pulls it off, I would say it's the greatest single feat in the history of the Olympic games," Sanders said.
Summer, of course, is biased. Before her TV career blossomed -- before "The Inside Stuff" and her new Fox Sports News show, "The Sports List" -- Sanders was the heir apparent to Janet Evans. At the 1992 Games, she competed in five events, including four individual races, and five golds was considered a long shot. She won two gold medals, a silver and a bronze. She also went through an emotional and physical gantlet -- crying after one race, laughing after another, until winning an individual gold on her last day of competition in the 200 butterfly, after which she felt "relief."
Relief? After winning gold?
"When I first won the bronze, I was so proud of that medal," she said. "I came back to my room, sat it on my bed and people from the team wanted to come and see it.
"But the pressure of the Games adds up. It just kept growing. If I hadn't won that gold medal, I would have been disappointed. I'd be lying if I couldn't admit that."
Speedo is offering a $1 million bounty to Phelps if he can tie Spitz's mark, which is tremendous for ratings but also more than disconcerting.
So, six gold medals is worth zilch? If the masses actually tune in and watch Phelps, does that mean the sport is unworthy of viewership unless some other wunderkind comes along and threatens Spitz?
When millions of corporate dollars become part of the motivating force behind eclipsing sport's great physical barriers, well, you get Nike and that mess at the U.S. track and field trials.
The money almost devalues a single gold medal, like the individual gold Jenny Thompson will try for at her third Olympics.
You try to get Sanders behind this logic, but she does not bite.
"You could say that with some people, but not with him," she said.
When Sanders lit up the Olympic trials in 1992, the first paragraph of an Associated Press story read, "Move over Janet, it's Summer Time." She was once the new kid on the American swimming block, lighting up the pool deck with her strokes, her tan, her smile.
"But you can't even compare us," she said. "I was such a long shot to win five golds. With Michael Phelps, it's, 'Move over, the history of swimming.' I've never seen anything like him. I just love his attitude, how he's confident but not cocky, how you have to set a world record to beat him.
"I really want to see how he does in the pressure of the Games," Summer added. "He could really start thinking about that gold too much. Or, he could completely thrive on the fact that he's in the best shape of his life and just go with how well he's swimming. It will be interesting over the next month to see a 19-year-old coming to grips with exactly how good he is."
Phelps looked haggard and physically shot when he finally came to the podium for his post-race interview Tuesday night. He sounded much like Sanders after her Barcelona odyssey.
"I remember sitting up here when the meet started and -- even though I was hiding it -- I was a little bit nervous," Phelps said. "I'm relieved it's over."
He was asked about Spitz, what he knows now about the journey that he did not before the trials began.
"I knew what he did was very challenging and what he did no one has done before," Phelps said. "I wouldn't say it's harder than I thought, but it's definitely going to be tough.
"After competing in six events and making it in six events, it puts it into perspective."
If Michael Phelps has that to combat the pressure in Athens, poise and promise may yet carry him to all that hardware.