Winnetka’s Conor Dwyer takes part in golden moment
U.S. swimmer Conor Dwyer competes in the men’s 800-meter freestyle relay heats, during the swimming event at the London 2012 Olympic Games on Tuesday. | FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/GettyImages
Updated: September 3, 2012 12:32PM
LONDON — Conor Dwyer is golden.
The Loyola graduate and Winnetka native was part of the USA’s 800-meter freestyle relay Tuesday that finished first in 6:59.70 to earn the gold medal at the London Olympic Games.
It was Dwyer’s last chance to medal at his first Olympics after he missed out Saturday in the 400 free by finishing fifth.
Dwyer swam the second leg and was joined by Ryan Lochte, Ricky Berens and Michael Phelps, who established the all-time record for Olympic medals with his 19th.
“It’s a little bit of a shock, but it’s unbelievable,” Dwyer told pool reporters. “I put in a lot of hard work. To do it with these three guys and Michael breaking history yet again, I couldn’t ask for a better first gold medal.”
Dwyer earned his way into the finals by swimming fast during the preliminaries earlier Tuesday. He beat out four other alternates to make the foursome.
“I thought it felt good, but you never you what the time is,” Dwyer said. “I found out it was fast enough, and I was happy I could (swim in the finals).”
Lochte opened the race and gave the Americans the early advantage. Dwyer maintained the lead before turning it over to Berens. Phelps dove into the pool with enough of a cushion to hold off France’s Yannick Agnel, one of the best swimmers in the world.
“It’s tough to put into words,” Dwyer said. “Four years ago, I watched (Phelps) break history and now I’m part of it. It’s unbelievable.”
In the 400 freestyle Saturday, Dwyer finished with a time of 3:46.39 in the finals. The gold went to Sun Yang of China with a time of 3:40.14, silver went to Taehwan Park of Korea with a time of 3:42.06 and bronze was awarded to fellow American Peter Vanderkaay who finished in 3:44.69.
Fourth place was Yun Hao of China who finished in 3:46.02.
Dwyer had finished third in the preliminary heats early Saturday to advance to the finals. His time in the heats was 3:46.24, enough to make him one of eight qualifiers for the final out of 27 athletes who competed in the heats.
Dwyer is not finished. He is also competing Tuesday in the 800-meter freestyle relay. The heats will be held at 5:02 a.m. Chicago time with the finals later that day at 2:47 p.m.
The 23-year-old Loyola Academy graduate qualified for his first Olympic Games earlier this summer in Omaha, Neb., first by taking second place in the 400-meter freestyle and later as part of the 800-meter freestyle relay.
The Winnetka native first set his sights on the London Games four years ago at the trials. After graduating from the University of Florida in 2011, Dwyer turned all of his attention toward swimming.