They handed him a 10-day training plan and sent him off to Sydney, knowing full well they might not talk again before he competed, certain they wouldn't get to watch him when he did. After all, Kamal Masud wasn't the sort of Olympian who ends up on television. He wasn't even the sort whose country sends his coaches to the Games. Masud, a Johns Hopkins senior, was the one and only member of the Pakistan swim team, a longshot for a medal but an Olympic athlete all the same.
"Enjoy the day," coach George Kennedy e-mailed Masud. "Sleep well. Snap your kick on the second 50."
The Hopkins coaches hoped Pakistan would to send one of them to Sydney to supervise the final phase of Masud's training in the 100-meter butterfly. When it didn't happen, they reassured themselves: If anyone could handle the Olympics without a coach, it was Masud, the All-American with the gold-medal work ethic, the swimmer who never missed a practice at Hopkins, who trained, mostly by himself, more than four hours a day all summer.
Wednesday night, instead of standing on the pool deck, telling Masud "you look great" or timing him during warmups, Kennedy was sitting in the tiny Hopkins pool office, alternately glancing at his watch and scrolling through an Olympic Web site, looking anxiously for results in Masud's preliminary heat.
Across town, Hopkins coach Jimmy Cutrone and Melanie McLenithan, Masud's girfriend, were each doing the same. All three hoped Masud would beat his personal best, 57.8 seconds.
In the pool office, Kennedy was getting antsy. The heat was scheduled for 8:22 p.m.; that time had come and gone. No results yet. He clicked again.
And there it was.
Kamal Salman Masud: 1:00.60.
Kennedy was silent for a moment. "Not his best time, OK," he said. "Well. He it put it on the line, and it doesn't look like he had a great swim."
The coach had many questions, but for now there was no one to ask. There was just a computer screen full of numbers and, outside the office window, the Hopkins pool, where Kennedy knew Masud would head as soon as he returned from Sydney this weekend.
Because that's what Olympians do, even the ones you don't see on television.