Adam Pinson is paying his dues.
The Sacramento California teenager has been swimming competitively since the age of four. His team STAS (Spare Time Aquatics Sacramento) competes against some of the best developing future U.S. contenders across the country.
His coach, a former national Brazilian breaststroke champion, was brutally beaten years ago. The severe injuries prevented him from a probable place on his nation's Olympic team and he is driven, almost obsessed, to groom an Olympian.
Adam is not far from the age at which Phelps emerged on the global scene at the Sydney games.
Watching world records fall is one thing. Every patriotic American's chest should swell watching history being made by an exceptional athlete. This is what it means to a young man working to one day also represent his country against the best the world has to offer.
"His determination and how much he will do anything to win" inspires Pinson, who also notes that Phelps is helped by unique physical attributes. Not the least of these are his massive six-foot plus wingspan and unusually rare ability to recover rapidly from intense exercise.
What then would you need to do to compete against Phelps if you were in the same pool with him? "Get out and run," Pinson says—not so tongue in cheek.
"He (Phelps) defeated all odds, worked harder than anyone can imagine, and achieved his dream regardless of what obstacles there may have been."
Adam knows about the work part. "To compete on that level takes years, perhaps six to eight hours a day, no breaks even on Sundays with a very focused goal in sight."
During the summer, when many kids are sleeping in, swim practice for Adam begins at 7:00 AM. On school days he is at the pool at 5:15 AM, and so he must get up at 4:30.
Evening practice in the summer is an hour of "dry land," ab work, core body work, stationary bikes, and sometimes running. That is followed by two more hours of swimming. In the summer the afternoon pool work is followed by another hour of "dry land" workouts.
It consumes a lot of the time which the average teenager might use quite differently. Adam says some of his friends at school tell him, "You don't have a life," but he also knows how it might one day pay off.
His coach is a perfectionist. However, that's not the best word Adam would use to describe him. "Intense is a good one. If you don't want to swim for him you won't last...at all. If you don't have the determination and aren't willing to do the incredible workouts then you don't belong there."
Watching Michael Phelps gives Adam even more drive to work harder. "It gives you added incentive to do the work, beyond your limits to reach that level of achievement."
Adam and his sister Claire are both already on a path to try to eventually compete in that global spotlight.
Adam says that to collect those medals after all the work "must be a sense of accomplishment beyond anything I have ever felt. I haven't exactly been there yet, but I have had a little taste of it and...(we are still talking swimming)...I want to be like Mike."