Conor Dwyer: At Home In Baltimore
|Conor Dwyer prepares to compete in the men's 400-meter freestyle
finals at the 2013 USA Swimming Phillips 66 National Championships
and World Championship Trials on June 28, 2013 at the Indiana
University Natatorium in Indianapolis.
A good summer run is about to become a great one for Olympic medalist swimmer Conor Dwyer.
First, his beloved Chicago Blackhawks won another Stanley Cup. Dwyer, a native of suburban Chicago, lived and died with the Blackhawks during their turbulent playoff run.
Then Dwyer threw down personal bests at USA Swimming’s 2013 Phillips 66 National Championships and World Championships Trials last month in Indianapolis, punching his ticket for the 15th FINA World Championships in Barcelona, Spain in style. He swam his best in the 100- and 200-meter freestyle and will be competing at the world championships in Barcelona at the end of July in those events and some American relays.
This will be his second long-course world championships appearance, after he won a gold medal in the 4x200 freestyle relay in 2011 in Shanghai. (He won a relay gold medal and a bronze in the 200 free at the short-course world championships in 2012.)
Returning to worlds this summer and successfully navigating the post-London swirl of emotions, tells Dwyer that he’s on the right track. He took a month-long break after winning an Olympic gold medal in the 4x200 relay, taking part in fashion shows, movie premieres and relaxing.
Life threw him a curve at the start of 2013 when he came down with mononucleosis, waylaying his training for three months while he recovered.
“I had a blast after London, and that made it a little hard to get back into things, to get really focused again,” Dwyer, 24, said. “I got it together, and then, bam, I got sick. Just totally threw me off track again. So getting back to swimming again, being fast and getting to go to worlds is just awesome. I’m in a good place again.”
Dwyer, a graduate of the University of Florida, made some big life changes after London to embark on a career as a professional swimmer. He decided to leave Gainesville and move to Baltimore, joining other elites to train with noted coach Bob Bowman at the North Baltimore Aquatic Club. Chase Kalisz, who won the 400 individual medley at nationals, also trains at NBAC and is heading to Barcelona.
Michael Phelps, who retired as the most decorated Olympian after the London Games, also swims at the club from time to time at practice, jumping in for exercise and to throw down some challenges.
Dwyer is finding his post-college way, learning how to work his schedule, develop passions outside of swimming and enjoy free time with pals such as Phelps.
Dwyer’s workouts and swimming have changed too, as Bowman has tweaked his strokes for maximum efficiency and modified his practices to take down the mileage.
|The gold-medal winning 4x200-meter freestyle relay team of Ricky
Berens, Conor Dwyer, Ryan Lochte and Michael Phelps leave the
podium after the medal ceremony at on July 31, 2012 at the London
2012 Olympic Games.
“I love being in Baltimore; it’s something different from being at Florida and the college experience,” Dwyer said. “I needed different training, because I had been doing the same things for three years in Florida with the run in college and to the Olympics.
“I loved my time at Florida, but you get to the point where you are over the college and college town thing. I’m not in school anymore, not into the party scene. I had a great experience, and it’s time to move on. Change is good. Bob is the best in the world, so this is the best thing for me, too.”
Swimming under Bowman’s watchful eye, and having fellow Olympians around him, is providing a lot of motivation for Dwyer to keep pushing himself. The relationship is different than between a college coach and student-athlete, as Dwyer is now a professional working with his coach/mentor on building a career path.
“Every coach has their specialty, and Bob gets me,” Dwyer said. “I’m not doing a lot of yardage and dry land (training), like I was in college. That was more military style: they say it, you do it. I am doing shorter yardage, more quality, more thoughtful work here.
“Of course, I was a little worried how everything would go at the start, because it’s a big change. But right away, it’s working. I came out with my best times in Indy, and it’s paying off quickly. I think I can go even faster in Barcelona. I feel great.”
Dwyer’s big move also means hanging out more with Phelps, a good friend and now roommate. The pair was part of the winning 4x200 relay in London, with Dwyer swimming second and Phelps as the anchor. The win was historic, as it was Phelps’ 19th Olympic medal, setting a record as the most-decorated individual Olympic athlete. (Phelps finished his time in London with a total of 22 career Olympic medals.)
Phelps kindly extended an invitation for Dwyer to share his place when Dwyer decided to switch to Bowman’s camp. Dwyer looks to Phelps’ historic versatility as a swimmer as an example, as Dwyer wants to turn into a multi-event threat to medal for future world championships and the Rio de Janeiro 2016 Olympic Games.
Phelps has been introducing Dwyer to Baltimore, and also challenging him on the golf course. Dwyer is smart enough not to challenge Phelps, who has amassed a fortune from his decade of international success, to playing for money on the golf course.
Phelps has done a reality TV show about his quest to become a better golfer, but Dwyer said he still has Phelps’ number on the course.
“I grew up golfing, so I’m not too bad out there,” Dwyer said. “I’m sure Michael would have something to say about that, but we’re having fun playing golf and making fun of each other. All part of having fun. Things are good here.”