The same night as the Parade of Nations for the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics in Rio’s Maracanã Stadium was going on, a second Parade of Nations was happening in Mesa at SWIMkids USA.
The Rio parade was awe-inspiring as it featured top athletes from across the globe marching together including Gilbert gymnast Alex Naddor, Tempe diver Sam Dorman and legendary swimmer with Tempe ties, Michael Phelps who was carrying the American flag.
The Mesa Parade of Nations was charming as it featured children from Gilbert, Tempe and other East Valley cities who were waving flags from different countries around the world as they marched around the SWIMkids USA facility where they are in the early stages of learning to swim or do gymnastics.
Even if the little swimmers and gymnasts are not taking lessons to be a future Olympian, they are gaining so many life skills from simply participating in sports. They are learning discipline, goal setting and they are gaining self confidence.
Every athlete in the games of the XXXI Olympiad started learning in a facility just like the swim school they East Valley students are learning in. It is in community swim, gym centers or recreation facilities where the foundation for their future success was laid. The athletes then with long and hard hours of learning and practicing became the elite athletes that everyone can admire.
The children who were in the Mesa parade see from the Arizona athletes in Rio that Olympic dreams begin in cities just like the ones they are growing up in. They see that friendly competition can be fun and they learned by being part of a the SWIMkids USA Parade of Nations that the world is a wonderful place.