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74OLYMPIC REVIEWMY GAMESThe Olympic Games create a uniquesituation. Within the Village the athletesreally come together, demonstrating empathyand respect for one another. Even though we grew upin different parts of the world, speak different languages,eat different food and have different preferences infashion; political barriers are broken down and culturesare transcended. The atmosphere is open and joyous -there is lots of sharing, trading and smiling. Each of my Olympic experiences was verydifferent. At the Los Angeles Games in 1984, I was 17 years of age going on 14. I was very new to thescene but having dropped more than two secondsfrom my 100m freestyle time I qualified for the relayteam. It was a great opportunity for me to watch thetop swimmers and see how they handled the training,the pressure, the media and the fans. Even though I was an Olympian, I was relatively unknown to manyon my own team. That brought a lot of freedom tomove about in that intense scenario without reallyfeeling the pressure. This proved useful as thingswere to be very different in 1988. Having qualified to compete in seven events in Seoul, many comparisons were drawn with thelegendary Mark Spitz who had won seven goldmedals in Munich in 1972. It got to the point that I would be seen as a disappointment if I didn't winseven gold medals. My goal was never to win sevengolds - it was to win seven medals. Winning the 50m freestyle individual gold and setting a new worldrecord was a real breakthrough and it brought megreat joy. I was surprised to win and I will never forgetthe feeling - chicken skin, neck hair on end and atingling feeling all over. I did win seven medals inSeoul but the weight of expectation throughout theGames meant that the overriding feeling after Seoulwas one of relief. By 1992, I had improved at being a recognisedathlete and was also a far better team player. There was less pressure on me and I enjoyed theGames in Barcelona a lot. I took the time to eat with team-mates, to watch and maybe step in and help younger athletes if necessary. This brought a sense of closure to my Olympic career as I ended up in the same place in which I hadstarted. I had gone from being the newcomer to theteam seeking guidance from the more experiencedathletes, to acting as the role model for the youngerswimmers.?RightCelebrating one of his five gold medals at the 1988 Games in SeoulMYGAMESMATTHEWBIONDI THE AMERICAN SWIMMER RECALLS HOW HIS OLYMPIC CAREER TRAVELLED A FULL CIRCLE ON THE WAY TO WINNING EIGHT GOLD MEDALSINTERVIEW:TOM POUNTNEYLOS ANGELES 1984Gold: 4x100m freestyle relay SEOUL 1988Gold: 50m freestyle, 4x100m freestylerelay, 100m freestyle, 4x100m medleyrelay, 4x200m freestyle relay Silver: 100m butterfly Bronze: 200m freestyle BARCELONA 1992Gold: 4x100m freestyle relay, 4x100mmedley relay Silver: 50m freestyle