Peter Vanderkaay looks at timesPeter Vanderkaay is a swimmer who won gold in the 4x100m freestyle relay at the Athens 2004 Olympic Games, gold medal in both the 4x200m freestyle relay and 200m freestyle at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games, and bronze medal in the 400m freestyle at the London 2012 Olympic Games.

All in a Day's Work

September 14, 2012

Vanderkaay and Davis Tarwater 

Teammate Davis Tarwater and I getting on the bus

The day started with an early wake-up call at 5:45am. I showered, put on my uniform, and headed downstairs to the hotel lobby.  Dozens of Olympians were already gathering to eat breakfast.  I joined them and then headed to the bus that would take us to the White House.

Once we arrived at the gate, I met up with some of my swimming teammates and waited to access the security checkpoint.  As it turns out, they don’t just let anyone into the White House.  It’s similar to going through airport security except with Secret Service eyeing your every move. 

After the checkpoint we walked up the path and found ourselves on the White House lawn.  The Marine Band was playing some jazzy music and as we took some pictures.  The White House isn’t a massive structure or castle by any means, but there is certainly something about it that exudes a sense of class and poise.  They did have some amazing pastries and cookies set up that I certainly took full advantage of as the band began to play the Olympic theme song.

 Vanderkaay at White House

On the White House South Lawn

As we gathered near the stage, someone from the staff announced the procedures for the morning’s events.  We moved onto the bleacher seating and awaited the President and First Lady.  Not too much time had passed before we were called to stand.  Then, President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama emerged as well as Vice President Joe Biden.  Michelle spoke first, followed by the president.  They spoke of the amazing feats our Olympic and Paralympic teams achieved in London, dominating the medal count and inspiring countless Americans to chase their dreams.  They also spoke about health and fitness and how the Olympic movement encourages youths to stay active and fit.  Both the First Lady and the President had some funny anecdotes in their speeches.  Most amusing was when the president mentioned how he would talk with Michelle in the mornings about the incredible accomplishments of Olympians, only to follow it up with a casual jog. 

Initially we were told that the President wouldn’t have time to meet everyone individually, but he vetoed that notion (no pun intended).  Each and every athlete was able to shake hands with the President, Vice President, and First Lady.  This was much appreciated by all of the athletes.

After meeting them, I ran through a quick tour of the East Wing.  The East Wing has quite a few rooms and many fantastic paintings of former presidents and figures of American history.  I tried to see everything before heading back to the bus to catch my flight.  Overall, it was a fantastic experience on a beautiful day.  Visiting the White House will always be something that I remember for the rest of my life.

Go USA!!!

Vanderkaay at White House Dining RoomVanderkaay and ObamaVanderkaay and McLean                          Me in the dining room                                                    Meeting the President                                                 Teammate Matt McLean and myself

Once in a Lifetime Opportunity

September 13, 2012

Ever since returning from London, I’ve had a whirlwind experience.  For me, I had to move home to Michigan from Florida but the biggest challenge was trying to return the voicemails of friends and family when I landed back in the USA.  The support I received during the Games was incredible and it has continued since I’ve been back.  The kind words and excitement were much appreciated.  Part of me wishes I could have been back home just to see how excited everyone was during the events.  Everything I’ve heard was incredibly positive and people were glued to the TVs.

I was fortunate enough for London to be my third Olympic Games, and I think I can say that London was my favorite.  Everything was designed to make it a great experience for the athletes and spectators alike.  It also helped to be able to read the signage and speak the language.  To walk away with a medal made it even more special for me.  I’m very proud of my performance and the performance of our whole team in general.  I think we exceeded everyone’s expectation, including our own.  It certainly bodes well for USA Swimming in the future!

 Peter Vanderkaay at Ceremonies in London

 Me and my Olympic teammate Connor Jaeger at the Closing
Ceremony in London

It’s been about a month since I’ve been home and I don’t know if I’ve spent more than two days in one place.  The opportunity to do fun and exciting things has not ceased yet and it certainly won’t stop tomorrow.  I’m currently in Greensboro, NC for the USA Aquatics Sports Convention but tonight I’m flying to Washington, D.C. for the Olympic and Paraympic White House visit with the rest of Team USA.

The White House visit is easily one of the most exciting events for the Olympic team following the Closing Ceremony.  As a student, I wasn’t able to attend in 2004, but I did make it in 2008. It’s fun because it will be the first time for me to see many of my teammates since the swimming competition ended, as well as all of the other athletes from other sports I met in London.  To some degree, it marks a celebration for us and our achievements from the Games.  It’s also the first time the team assembles after returning to the United States.  Not every day do I get the chance to go to the White House, let along see the president speak and possibly have the chance to meet him personally.  Those things just don’t happen all the time.  I’m hoping that most of my teammates can make the trip so we can share stories and experiences since being home.  It will be a once in a lifetime opportunity.

I’ll be sure to check in tomorrow after the event for an update.  Go USA!