Nathan Adrian celebrates after winning the men's 100-meter freestyle final at the Olympic Games London 2012 on Aug. 1, 2012 in London.
It has been 10 years since Nathan Adrian stepped up to the starting block for the men’s 100-meter freestyle at the Olympic Games London 2012 and, less than 50 seconds later, came away with gold.
To the now 33-year-old husband and father, though, it feels like yesterday.
“It absolutely does — I mean, that’s really the only way to describe it,” Adrian said of those magical nine days. In that span, Team USA swimmers claimed 31 medals, including 16 golds, in the 34 events held at the Aquatics Centre and Hyde Park.
Michael Phelps left London as the most decorated Olympian of all time, claiming six medals to bring his total to 22 (he would add another six in Rio four years later). Missy Franklin at 17 broke onto the scene with five medals, four of them gold, while 15-year-old Katie Ledecky won a gold medal in her international debut. Franklin, Rebecca Soni and Dana Vollmer all set individual world records, while Team USA came home with six relay medals, four of them gold.
Among the other highlights from Adrian’s perspective was when Matt Grevers, who six years later would be a groomsman in Adrian’s wedding, set an Olympic record and won gold in the 100-meter backstroke.
“That was a high mark for the USA,” Adrian said. “The rest of the world has kind of caught up, not because of anything Team USA is doing (wrong), but because other countries are figuring out how to swim really fast, like the USA has done.”
There were good times in, and out, of the pool. The swimmers cruised the River Thames and sampled fish and chips.
“And I very vividly remember seeing the gymnasts around and watching their historic performance in London,” Adrian said of Team USA’s gold-medal-winning women’s gymnastics team. “We met the Queen. She visited the athlete’s village. It was just an interesting, awesomely well-run Games.”
London was Adrian’s second Olympics. The five-time NCAA individual champion at University of California Berkeley made the Olympic Games Beijing 2008 at age 19 as a member of the 4x100-meter freestyle relay, swimming in the preliminaries and contributing to Team USA’s gold medal.
“My first Olympics was a perfect preparation for the second one,” the native of Bremerton, Washington, said. “I was (in Beijing) as a relay-only swimmer; I was hoping to swim on finals, but I didn’t make it. I got a gold medal, but it came later, wrapped in a box.
“I guess (missing that final) gave me some extra motivation training for the next Olympics. We’re all pretty intrinsically motivated.”