Winnetka’s Dwyer earns spot on U.S. Olympic swim team
(L-R) Connor Jaeger and Conor Dwyer compete in the championship final heat of the Men's 400 m Freestyle during the 2012 U.S. Olympic Swimming Team Trials at CenturyLink Center on June 25, 2012 in Omaha, Nebraska. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
Updated: July 29, 2012 4:28PM
Conor Dwyer can now call himself an Olympian.
The Loyola graduate qualified for the London Games on Monday by taking second place in the 400-meter freestyle at the U.S. Olympic Trials in Omaha.
Making it even more special was Dwyer did it in front of a large contingent of family and friends at the CenturyLink Center.
“It was really a thrill,” said John Dwyer, Conor’s uncle and the Loyola girls lacrosse coach. “He’s sacrificed a lot for this. It’s refreshing to see him succeed because he’s done so much to get where he is today.”
John Dwyer was biting his knuckles to the bone during the race as Conor lagged behind several other swimmers. But he rallied in the last stretch to touch out in a personal-best 3:47.83. The two top swimmers in each event qualify for Games.
“When he was in fourth place, it was hard because you have no control,” John Dwyer said. “He put it in another gear.”
Conor was cheered on by his grandparents, Jim and Sally Dowdle, parents, Pat and Jeanne Dwyer, and all of his siblings. Extended family and friends also were among the crowd in Omaha.
“This is what he wanted to do,” Pat Dwyer said. “This was what he worked for. This is why he moved to Florida.
“It was a dream that came true.”
Also in attendance was Patrick Stein, a former Loyola swimmer whose athletic career was cut short after suffering a brain aneurysm in October of 2010. It was Stein’s first trip outside of Chicago in a couple of years.
“Patrick told his dad he wanted to see Conor swim at the trials, and he got there,” Pat Dwyer said. “It was really an unbelievable experience for all of us to share that together.”
A former NCAA champion at Florida and Gold medalist at last year’s World Championships, Conor Dwyer was scheduled to swim in the 200 freestyle, his best event, Tuesday night. He will swim the 100 free and 200 IM this week. Dwyer also is looking to secure spots on the freestyle relays.