Hall of Fame
As he stood atop the glistening, pristine platform he replayed his life in his mind. The victories, the injuries, the devastations. While he scanned through the events that had made him in his head, he realised that the most prominent emotion the sight of water gave him was sorrow. Sorrow and heart-break and anguish. Well, He was here to change that. He was an Acara, and water was his friend. He smoothed his grey horns behind his ears, his paws prickling with anticipation.
He wanted to be famous, he wanted his portrait hung in the Neopian Hall of Fame. He wanted to be added to the list of famous Acaras. Unfortunately, his name was close to being penned on the list of people who gained fame for all the wrong reasons.
He did not want to be like Vira, notorious for her attempts to influence fellow neopets with evil magic or Masila, a thief associated with the assassination attempt on Galem.
No, he wanted to be like Fauna, known for her generosity and kindness. He wanted to be known for being an athlete, like his hero Elon Hughlis or Tulah Kisner. This had been his dream his whole life; this is what drove him to the pool. However, his plans did not go as he wanted them to.
He started off as a swimmer as most sporty Acaras do. In competitions there were three types of categories his species could compete in: Maraquan, converted and unconverted. Maraquans had an advantage over other types of pet and so were put into a class of their own, while converted pets had a freer style of swimming and unconverted pets had to perform a more traditional type of stroke. Being an unconverted pet, he found himself suffocated by the strict rules placed upon his trial and the competition was fierce with there being so few of his kind around. His swimming instructor was converted, and so over the years he had adapted his body to carry out the freer stroke. This did not prove to his advantage.
He painstakingly made it to the Acara Aquatic Festival Swimming Finals, a special contest held once a year. He knew that this may be his only chance to shine, his only way to make it into the Hall of Fame. He practised day and night for weeks leading up to the competition, swapping sleep for more pool time. By the time the morning of the finals came, he was exhausted.
The first few laps in the pool seemed to go swimmingly with him in second place behind a rather dashing plushie Acara. With only two more laps of the race his hopes were high. He would definitely get a podium place at this rate. However, just as he reached the end of the lap and began to turn, he felt the burn of fatigue in his limbs. His legs felt numb and limp, hardly able to perform the movements of the traditional stroke. He didn't have far to go until the end of this final lap, but already his opponents were starting to catch up to his drained body. In a last ditch effort to grab a medal and become a star, he resorted to the easier and faster style of stroke that converted Acaras used. A mistake he would always regret.
Relief and joy swept through him as he hauled himself up on to the edge of the pool. He had made it, and had even managed to salvage third place. He relished the cheers of the crowd knowing that his dream had come true. A couple more wins like this, and he would be as idolised as Elon Hughlis, maybe even more.
Suddenly, there was silence. The crowd were no longer roaring, the band was no longer playing; the festivities had stopped. He looked around in panic, a feeling of foreboding sweeping over him. Officials in heavy dark suits were making their way over to him, their expressions grim. He had been disqualified. He had used the wrong stroke, giving him an advantage, and he was paying for it.
He swore himself off swimming. His reputation was ruined and no one trusted his sporting ability any more. He didn't even trust himself. However, his passion for the water remained.
A few depressing and lonely years later he found himself at a diving competition watching fellow neopets twirl and curve elegantly in the air. He felt that passion rise up in him again. This was what he wanted to do. This was what would take him to the Hall of Fame.
The first time he'd gotten to the championships, it was amazing. He had been so confident that he would win, so confident that his life would change from hereon in. He had been right about the second part. As he walked up the stairs of the platform, he felt none of the usual jitters. His legs were not like jelly, there were no springabees fluttering in his stomach. He was the epitome of cool, calm and collected. During his ascent he did not rehearse his moves in his head or picture what he had to do. Instead he thought of how famous he would be when he won this event, what room in his neohome he would put his framed medal, how many neopoints he would amass, all the interviews he would do for the Neopian Times. By the time he reached the top he had already written his victory speech. He strode towards the end of the board and, immersed in his thoughts of triumph, slipped on the smooth white surface, tumbling over the edge of the platform and belly flopping into the pool below. It had not gone as he had expected.
The cool water did not wash the red shame from his face, nor did it soothe the sting of his embarrassed tears, his ego hurt by the cruel laughter from the spectators. He never wanted to see a diving board again.
Usually, he would be excited after a dive, alive with hope and expectation as his eyes fixed on the scoreboard. However, he already knew what his score would be. Out of ten, he knew he would get zero. Out of the three points he could get for take-off he would get none because he fell, and not very gracefully at that. He was supposed to do a hand-stand before flight, not flap around like an idiot.
There was then the three points the judges could give him for the flight itself. Well, that obviously didn't go according to plan. He did not have a good height, no twists or somersaults were performed, no rotation or revolution, nothing that he was supposed to do. He literally fell into the water like a ton of bricks.
His entry into the water was also not up to par, and so he would lose those three points too. A diver should enter the water straight, without any angle and he had entered horizontally, legs splayed and horns swinging. He had also made the biggest splash the history of diving had ever seen, drenching the judges and causing a mini tidal wave. Dripping wet and spluttering, the judges definitely would not be on his side, and so that last flexible point the judges could give him would not be awarded. Maybe they would give him a pity point for being amusing? He doubted it.
He had become a recluse after that incident, hiding away in his parents' house, hardly going near any large bodies of water. He was a laughing stock, the pictures of his devastating final dive plastered over the pages of the Neopian Times for weeks on end. He had lost his passion.
But then, the itch started. He hadn't finished with his life yet; his dream had yet to come true. He walked out into his garden, fresh air blowing through his short fur. He climbed the ladder up to his diving board, bounced a few times and somersaulted through the air, sliding through the water. He felt alive.
His passion grew and grew and now here he was, at the same championship in which he had failed all those years ago. This time, he would not fail. He would make himself proud
With his ego in check, he lifted his paws into the air, jumped and dived downwards, towards the Hall of Fame.