US Swimmers share London experience
Fri, 17 Aug 2012 10:33a.m.
They are the best of the best, among the top swimmers in the world and back in the United States after proving their mettle at the 2012 Olympic games in London.
Olympic medallists Matthew Grevers, Cullen Jones and Lia Neal recently spoke with Reuters about their experience in London and how it has changed their lives.
"People are starting to recognize me on the street. Even just walking here, I got stopped a few times for a photograph... It's just cool that I'm recognizable. That's something that swimmers aren't used to and that's definitely changed," says two time gold and silver medal winner in the 2012 games Matt Grevers.
"I keep one in my pocket just because people are excited to see me, but they are really excited to see the medal and hold the medal and to be able to take a picture with it and post it on Facebook or Twitter to say that they've see it and it's awesome to be able to share a little piece of my special moment with someone else," he adds.
This is Grevers second Olympic games. In Beijing, he won two gold medals. One as a member of the 4x100 meter freestyle, the other as a member of the 4x100 meter relay. He also won a silver for 100 meter backstroke.
In London, Grevers earned two more golds and another silver. Grevers won silver for 4x100 meter freestyle and golds for 100 meter backstroke and 4x100 meter medley.
It was the 4x100 medley relay that helped earn teammate Michael Phelps his 22nd Olympic medal in what was his final Olympic race.
"I think that's what I'm going to remember most about this Olympics is that race. Being on the podium with those three other guys. So it was myself, then Brendan Hansen with breaststroke, Michael Phelps fly and Nathan Adrian was a freestyle anchor. And all those guys are just incredible humans, great swimmers obviously as well. But to stand on that podium and hold hands and go up together... and to be a part of Michael Phelps' final gold medal, I mean that's such an honor, something I'm going to tell my grandkids and really I'm excited about for the rest of my life," says Grevers.
This is also Cullen Jones' second Olympic games. In 2008, Jones also earned gold, alongside Phelps in the 4x100 freestyle. In London, Jones was part of the team that won gold for the 4x100 medley. He also took home two silver medals for the 4x100 freestyle relay and 50 meter freestyle.
Jones says thinking about the race he just finished is only one of the things going through his mind while he stands on the medal podium.
"The first thing honestly is, do everything correct because you do not want to disrespect anyone back at home. And then it really sets in when you are watching your flag go up, and you're thinking about your race, and what you just did, and just accomplished and it's just an overall sense of pride that you're able to wear USA on your back. And I've said it before, whenever any of us put that on our back, we have something special," says Jones.
Jones said he hopes his multiple Olympic wins inspires kids to learn to swim.
"I really want to be a role model to kids. Since 2008, I started working with the USA Swimming Foundation and Make A Splash and it's a drowning initiative - a drowning prevention initiative - to try to get kids watersafe. And growing up and swimming and I almost drowned when I was five. I believe in irony. And being an Olympian, this is something that I've grown up with. Swimming is something that has always been in my life and for kids that are unfortunately dying from something that is so preventable with swim lessons," he says.
17-year old Lia Neal won her first Olympic medal at her first Olympic games. Neal took home the bronze medal in the 4x100 freestyle relay.
The teen says she was surprised by all the encouragement she has received.
"There is definitely been a lot of support that's been coming out and I didn't even know just how much support that I've been getting until I saw the tweets."
Neal adds that she is ready to swim again in 2016.
"I was done the first day of swimming and I was just there rooting and cheering on the rest of our team and that just made me want to get in and swim again like so badly. So I couldn't help but think forward to 2016 and hopefully by then I would've improved and have made an individual event in addition to being on the relay," says Neal.
Neal will not be alone in her quest for the 2016 Olympic glory. Both Grevers and Jones also said they are not ready to stop swimming yet and plan to train for a spot in the 2016 Olympic games in Rio.
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