On the eve of the London 2012 Olympic Games, U.S. swimmers made a splash. Their video of Carly Rae Jepsen’s song “Call Me Maybe” was posted on YouTube on July 26. It promptly went viral, and by the end of the Olympics, had received over 7 million views, some from the U.S. swimmers themselves.
“Cammile [Adams] and I watched it before our final of the 200 fly,” said Kathleen Hersey, whose idea it was to make the video. “It was such a fun thing to [make] that when we watched it, it was sheer joy.”
Hersey, 22, finished fourth in the 200 meter butterfly at the 2012 Olympics; Adams took fifth.
Now, a month after the 2012 Games have ended, the video has received another million views. And not just because it’s a catchy song. It conveys a real sense of team cohesiveness and unbridled joy without any hints of self-consciousness — the kind of singing we all might do in the shower when no one is looking.
“How fun the video is to watch is how much fun the team was having the entire [Olympics],” said Russell Mark, USA Swimming’s high performance consultant who pulled together the video from clips shot by Hersey and teammates Caitlin Leverenz and Alyssa Anderson.
A public relations major with a business minor at the University of Texas at Austin, Hersey came up with the idea after the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials in June. Inspired by the “Call Me Maybe” parody video with Justin Bieber, Selena Gomez, and Ashley Tisdale, Hersey had been “recording random songs,” dancing to them, and sending the silly videos to her roommate, who would then respond with a silly dancing video of her own.
“When I made the Olympic team, the relevancy of the Olympics and having the Olympic team do it was a team activity I thought was really cool,” said Hersey.
With the media focused on Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte leading up to the 2012 Olympics, she hoped to latch onto their popularity and show fans more of the whole team.
At a training camp in Knoxville, Tennessee, in July, she mentioned the idea to Mark and some of her teammates and the idea took off.
Before big events, Mark always put together highlight videos to pump up the team. Hersey’s idea would fit the bill.
Hersey, Leverenz, and Anderson did most of the filming at the team’s second pre-Olympic training camp in Vichy, France, right before the London Games. Playing the song from their phones, they filmed as many U.S. swimmers as they could, including Lochte, who blows an air kiss at the camera.
The airplane scene, choreographed by Natalie Coughlin, was filmed on the flight from France to London. It leads off with a sunglass-wearing Phelps nodding to the music in his seat.
“The airplane part was the best because Natalie said, ‘Kathleen, I have a vision,’ and I knew it was over,” said Hersey with a laugh. “We had to complete the vision.”
No doubt calling on her Dancing With the Stars experience, Coughlin instructed the passengers — all USA Swimming athletes, coaches and other staff — to go about their business and pretend nothing was happening. Then Coughlin choreographed an aisle dance.
“It was totally mortifying,” said Hersey. “We were literally dancing down the aisle of an airplane a mile high in the air. I don’t think a lot of people can say they’ve had that experience.”
“Dancing around, entertaining ourselves on our flight to London with @FranklinMissy @KathleenHersey & @alyssaloo930,” tweeted Coughlin after landing in London on July 23. “Made the hour fly by!”
Missy Franklin’s unselfconscious performance in particular showed that she could go far if Dancing With The Stars ever calls her to duty.
While most of the girls were excited by the project, Hersey found the guys less than enthusiastic. Except for team captain Brendan Hansen, shown twice cutting up the pool floor with his own underwater dance moves.
“In the middle of practice, he said, ‘Go under quick, I’m going to do something,’” said Hersey. “We would go underwater [with the camera], and he would start doing his little boogie thing.”
Afterward, Hansen claimed that his underwater dancing was much better than on land — which teammates verified.
After Hansen won the bronze medal, he tweeted: “After my 100 brst last night I was going to sink to the bottom and #underwaterdance but there's no cameras in lane 8 #swimmerproblems.”
Surprisingly, no scenes were re-taped — though Mark confesses that they did two takes of the airplane aisle dancing.
After the U.S. swim team flew to London on July 23, Mark took all the video that Hersey, Leverenz, and Anderson had shot and created the lip-dubbed video — like putting a puzzle together, he said.
When it was finished, they tried to guess how many views they might get once it was posted on YouTube.
“I thought maybe five million,” said Mark, “but that still seemed like a lot.”
The first week of the Olympic Games, Business Insider listed it as the week’s most-watched YouTube video, with over 4.4 million views.
As of September 11, it’s been viewed 8,428,407 times — and that’s just USA Swimming’s posting. Mark says it’s been reposted by so many others that he estimates it’s more like 12 million views.
Even Carly Rae Jepsen has seen the video. In mid-August, she told Access Hollywood that seeing it made her day.
“It’s crazy that they know the song and took the time to make their own spin on it,” she said. “It just makes me really happy.”
It made the swimmers really happy too. The video captured not just the team’s megawatt stars, but the good team chemistry that helped propel so many U.S. swimmers to medal-winning performances in London. Though others have made similar “Call Me Maybe” videos — notably a few U.S. figure skaters during Ice Tour 2012 — none are as fun to watch as USA Swimming’s version.
“So many good memories,” said Rebecca Soni, who won three more Olympic medals in London, making her total tally six.
“It’s going to be great to have that to look back on years from now and all the good times we had.”
Peggy Shinn is a freelance contributor for TeamUSA.org. This story was not subject to the approval of the United States Olympic Committee or any National Governing Bodies.