UF alum Dwyer part of gold-medal effort

Florida alum Conor Dwyer swims in the men's 200-meter individual medley preliminaries at the U.S. Olympic swimming trials on Friday, June 29, 2012, in Omaha, Neb. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

Published: Tuesday, July 31, 2012 at 11:22 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, July 31, 2012 at 11:22 p.m.

LONDON — As Michael Phelps cruised home to win his record-breaking 19th Olympic medal, Conor Dwyer took in the feeling of winning his first.

Dwyer, a former Florida swimmer who still trains in Gainesville, teamed with training partner Ryan Lochte, Ricky Berens and Phelps to win the 4x200-meter freestyle relay by a whopping 3.07 seconds over France. China took bronze.

“It's a little bit of a shock, but it's unbelievable,” Dwyer said. “I've put in a lot of hard work. Just to do it with these three guys and Michael breaking history yet again, I couldn't ask for a better first gold medal.”

Dwyer, 23, was the last man to make the relay team. Lochte, Berens and Phelps sat out of the morning preliminary heat, their spots in the final already assured. Dwyer swam anchor for the U.S. in prelims, posting the fastest time of the 64 swimmers over two heats. Another Gainesville resident, Peter Vanderkaay, who did not swim in prelims, was another option to fill the last remaining spot in the final. Both prelim and final swimmers receive medals.

On Tuesday afternoon, Dwyer was delivered the news by Gregg Troy, his coach at Florida and the U.S. Olympic coach. The U.S. coaches picked Dwyer to swim the second leg in the relay final.

“Going through four years, he's brought me from a decent swimmer to one of the best swimmers in the world,” said Dwyer, who transferred to Florida from Iowa in 2009. “Just to be on this team with him has been remarkable. Having Coach Troy tell me, I was really ecstatic.”

Dwyer did his job in the final, clocking a 1:45.23 split (faster than his prelim) to boost the U.S. lead from .98 to 2.13 seconds. Berens and Phelps brought it home.

Dwyer's first Olympics are finished. He was fifth in the 400 freestyle, lowering his personal best in the heats. Berens and Phelps are set to retire. Vanderkaay is in the twilight of his career. That leaves a void next to Lochte in the middle-distance freestyles that Dwyer could presumably fill for the next Olympic cycle.

“Conor Dwyer's taken a big step in the last couple of years,” Troy said. “Two and a half years ago, nobody knew who he was.”

Now they do. He's an Olympic gold medalist.

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