All smiles and very balanced, a huge fan of Game of Thrones, a street named after him in his hometown. Five-time Olympic and five-time world champion. Everyone likes him and gets on well with him. His only weakness is his sweet tooth, but since he is aware of it, he does not even attempt approaching dessert counters. It sounds too perfect to be true, doesn’t it?
How did his sport career start? As children in general, he was also taken to the swimming-pool by his parents to learn to swim just like his elder siblings, but at the age of two it was not expected from him to push his parents himself. At the age of five he became a member of the local swimming club, then in high school he became a national champion in 100m freestyle as a freshman, not much later he broke the national record in 200m freestyle as a senior. At the university he decided to have a gap year from school in order to concentrate on the Olympic trial. It proved to be a good decision, since he qualified to the American 4x100 m freestyle relay squad which won a gold medal in Beijing (however Adrian swam in the preliminary only, still he also got a gold medal). After returning to Berkeley he won five individual NCAA championships and the sprint crown of the year in 2009.
His family, especially his mother had a great influence on him. Cecilia, a retired nurse of Chinese origin but born and raised in Hong Kong, ensured the balanced background for him. Contrary to typical ‘sport parents’ she did not push him to move forward, instead, she was always there for him. ‘She never took it upon herself to motivate me. She knew that was my coaches' job and knew ultimately that motivation had to come from me internally. Her not putting too much pressure on me to perform or any of that has been nice’ said Nathan in an interview.
According to him this relaxed and calm attitude is the key to success: ‘Being in a good, happy and positive place without too many expectations weighing on my shoulders is where I find performance lies.’
Probably this attitude of his is one of the factors which led to writing history in London, 2012: he defeated his rival by only one hundredth of a second and became the first American to win the 100m freestyle in the Olympic Games since Matt Biondi’s victory in 1988 – the year Adrian was born. The defending world champion Australian James Magnussen was considered a potential champion, but in the final Adrian got his head down and touched in for a time of 47.52 and won his first and only individual Olympic title. In the same year a street in his hometown, Bremerton was renamed Nathan Adrian Drive.
In Rio he gained two more medals to his collection and became part of another historical moment, this time with Michael Phelps as the protagonist. ‘I love Michael’, said in the Huffington Post, ‘I think he’s done an amazing thing for the sport, and I’ve been able to experience history from a place that very few people get to. Having him on the relay has been an honour.’
What other advantages are there if someone is a popular and handsome Olympic champion in the US? He was invited, for example, to the Golden Globe Awards Ceremony. What about disadvantages? Dating can be a tricky balance. ‘Dating as an Olympic athlete is extremely hard’, Nathan said to People magazine, ‘there are a lot of things that people don't understand unless they were in the same kind of position you were in. The levels of empathy have to be high in a partner if you are able to have a relationship.’ What a surprise, during the low season after the Olympics love found him.
Whether he will blast in the world championships or not depends also on how he performs at the American trial in June.
Born: 7th December 1988, Bremerton, Washington
Olympics: 5 gold (4x100 m freestyle relay – Beijing, 100 m freestyle and 4x100 m medley relay – London, 4x100 m freestyle and medley relay – Rio); 1 silver (4x100 m freestyle relay – London); 2 bronze (50 and 100 m freestyle – Rio)
World championships (long course): 5 gold (4x100 m freestyle and medley relay – Rome, 4x100 m medley relay – Shanghai, 4x100 m mixed freestyle and medley relay – Kazan)