But for those in and around USA Swimming, they couldn’t have been happier for Adrian, not only because it was another gold for an American team that had eight by evening’s end, but also for who won it. For those who have long believed that nice guys always finish last, Adrian ruins the party.
The 6-foot-6, 220-pound teddy bear has long been one of the good guys within USA Swimming, the type of person who is seemingly always smiling, always happy, always eager to make a new friend. When one USA Swimming official was asked Wednesday night whether Adrian was one of the nicest guys on the team, he interrupted the question and said, “Forget the team. In the world.”
After Adrian received his gold medal, Kathleen Hersey, who earlier in the night had finished 0.3 seconds off the medal stand in the 200 butterfly, sneaked her way into the interview area and wrapped her arms around Adrian to wish him congratulations.
One would have thought she might have been down on this night considering she entered the 200 fly final with the top time in prelims and semis, and will head home without a medal. But Hersey was beaming.
“You did so great,” she said as she hugged Adrian. “I’m so proud of you.”
So what is it about Adrian that everyone seems to love? He’s a man without ego. He’s intelligent. Friendly. Affable. When USA Swimming made its “Call Me Maybe” video, his teammates asked Adrian to write the words “Call Me” on one hand and “Maybe” on the other. It was goofy, ridiculous. But he went right along with it.
“He said he felt like he was being bribed by his sisters,” Hersey said. “But he did it. He’s just a great guy. Really, he’s quite the catch.”
But now the catch’s life is about to change. There surely will be marketing opportunities for someone with Adrian’s easy-on-the-eyes appearance and endearing personality, not to mention the pressure of living up to skyrocketing expectations as one of the world’s fastest men in the water. Adrian said Wednesday that he’s always preferred doing the chasing to being the one who is chased. But those days are over; for the next four years, a giant target will be smack on the Olympic champion’s back.
Is he ready for everything that comes with that?
“No,” Adrian said with a smile. “I’m not nearly ready.”
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