Nathan Adrian is the quintessential American Olympic athlete. A four-time Olympic medalist, Nathan swam in his first Olympics at the age of nineteen and walked away from the 2008 Beijing Games with a gold medal. This summer, the Cal Bear alum participated in the London 2012 Olympics and earned one silver medal and two gold medals for Team USA. Adrian, who typically swims in Olympic relay races, won his first individual gold this summer in the 100 free and also swam in Michael Phelps’ final Olympic race. Adrian graciously took time out of his busy schedule to sit for an exclusive phone interview with Hercampus.com to talk about his Olympic successes and his experience as a student athlete.
Though Adrian has encountered much success during his swimming career, he continues to stay humble and is incredibly grateful for his wins. As a swimmer and world-class competitor, he believes it is incredibly important to “stay calm and keep a clear head” before every race. He says that he “has been rehearsing and practicing his specific races for so long that any external thoughts could throw him off.” Thus, he tries to “keep a clear mind,” and remember that each race is “a matter of executing everything [he] had practiced.”
Adrian says his thought process would be the same, regardless of who is racing next to him.
Adrian has a very contemplative view towards racing and “doesn’t necessarily race to beat anybody or try to only get first.” He believes each race is about “self-improvement and trying to do the best I could do at the time.” For instance, he says that even if he had not medaled but had still managed to get a best time, he “would have felt a sense of satisfaction knowing that I had gone through this process for the last four years of trying to improve myself and [knowing that] it had finally paid off.”
For Adrian, the Olympics are not just about the competition. While he says that the most memorable part of the Olympics was “the process of winning gold,” he thinks “something that’s sidelined and not necessarily talked about enough is [the] team chemistry that we have as Team USA.”
According to Adrian, there are about fifty people on the Olympic team — half of whom are rookies. Even the more experienced swimmers, however, do not necessarily train together, and thus may not be incredibly close at first, though that later changes.
“You move through the process of going to a training camp and then to the actual Olympics, you become so incredibly close to [your teammates] that they become like your family members,” Adrian said.
Adrian finds this process very enjoyable and likes learning “the intricacies of another person — another competitor — and earning life-long friends.” As evidence of these friendships, Adrian pointed out that Matt Grevers, a fellow Team USA swimmer and Adrian’s Olympic Village roommate, had just called him and asked Adrian if he wanted to be an usher at his wedding, something he“was so honored by and thought was really cool.”
Of course, Adrian is much more than a world-class athlete — he’s a recent college grad!
While Adrian said it was tough balancing his athletic and academic responsibilities, he believes his success “came down to being able to compartmentalize [his] time.” Adrian truly believes in time management and organization and says that when he was a student, he would have to “organize his classes in such a structure that [he] could take naps, because if he didn’t have the ability to nap, he would sleep in every single class.”