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Rush for Gold

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Grade 7 | Narrative | Text-Dependent


Learning Standards


Read the following excerpt from the novel Rush for the Gold. The excerpt was written from the third-person point of view. Rewrite the scene from either Susan Carol’s or Liu Zige’s first-person point of view. Describe the same events in your narrative, but from this different point of view.


Rush for the Gold

by John Feinstein


The trip to China had been a blur. Susan Carol knew almost nothing about Shanghai and was stunned when she Googled it and found it was almost twice the size of New York City, with a population of 14 million. The pool was an indoor facility-which was good because the temperature was close to ninety almost every day they were there. 

Frank Busch, who was coaching the American women, told her she had to conserve her strength in the heats and the semifinals. “You’ll only need to go about 2:12 or 2:13 in the heats,” he said. “Anything under 2:10 should be enough in the semis. You’re going to have to swim the 200 fly three times in three days. I’m guessing you’ve never done that before.” 

She’d done it twice in two days on occasion but never three times. Still, she knew she was in the best shape of her life. Ed had made her do a set of five 200s on three minutes’ rest in practice before she’d left. It had hurt-really hurt but she had felt okay, even after the last one. And sure enough, she cruised through the heats and the semifinals, qualifying fourth with a time of 2:09.12. She was amazed how 
easy that swim felt. Easy!

Liu Zige, the Chinese world record holder, had gone the fastest time in the semifinals: 2:05.99-well off her world record time of 2:01.81. She was in lane four. 

Teresa Crippen, the other American, had qualified second and was in lane five. And Susan Carol was next to her in lane six. Susan Carol planned to let Crippen pace her for the first 100 meters so she wouldn’t go out too fast. Crippen was too experienced to make that mistake. 

Susan Carol followed that plan for fifty meters. But coming off the first wall, she could see she was already half a body length ahead of Crippen, and she had almost been holding back. She decided to just swim smoothly and not look around at all. She went into the routine she used in practice to try to keep her stroke steady: 

Nice and easy, she kept repeating with each two-stroke sequence. Nice … and easy …

At the halfway point, she felt as if she was just starting the race and could go 200 more meters if need be. Crippen was nowhere in sight, but as Susan Carol turned, she glanced over two lanes and saw that she was dead even with Liu. A little bit of fear crept through her. Was her mind fooling her body? Had she gone out too fast? She could hear the building getting very loud as she and Liu churned through the third length. That wasn’t surprising; Liu was a national hero in China. 


Sometimes, though, a swimmer can actually hear a tone to the crowd. There is a difference between cheering and pleading. Susan Carol thought the crowd’s tone sounded as if someone was threatening Liu. She knew she wouldn’t see Liu on her last turn because she would turn her head away from her not toward her. That’s not important, she told herself. Holding your stroke and kicking hard for the last fifty is what’s important. 

When she came off that final wall, though, she got a shock: As she pulled out of the turn and started to take her first stroke, she saw Crippen go by her heading toward the wall. That meant Susan Carol was at least ten meters ahead of her. Was something wrong with Crippen? Or was it possible that something was incredibly right with her? 

Halfway home, she felt her arms start to tighten, but she still had energy left and she picked up her kick. She could now see the flags in front of her and the noise had become impossibly loud. Could she actually be in medal contention? Suddenly she was under the flags that marked five meters to go. She took one last breath, put her head down, and reached for the wall with her last bit of strength, just getting her fingertips on the timing pad without having to add an extra kick. 

She surfaced in time to see that Liu was on the wall but others were just touching. Did I finish second? she wondered. Could that be possible? She heard shrieks from where the American team was sitting, and she pulled her goggles up and glanced over to see people jumping up and down and waving their arms. Becky Ausmus, who had made the team as a freestyle relay swimmer, was pointing at the scoreboard.

“Rush for the Gold: Mystery at the Olympics,” John Feinstein. Copyright © 2012.

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Last modified
13:43, 18 Apr 2016


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