Every four years the world celebrates the greatness of athletic achievement at the Olympic Games. For 16 days the world stops as even the most casual sports fans from around the world become enthralled watching the Olympic Dreams play out in the 30-some sports of the Games.
Watching this year was especially exciting for members of the Lake Forest Swim Club Ducks as one current member, Conor Dwyer, lined up for two events in London.
“It’s cool having people from the Swim Club in the Olympics, like ‘represent’,” says Yana Dessev, one of Conor’s teammates.
Through his high school years at Loyola Academy Conor was a good swimmer, qualifying for the IHSA State Meet, but showed few signs of future greatness. His 5’7” frame was never be mistaken for that of a linebacker but his competitive drive was unrivalled.
“I remember a day in the weight room when I challenged the team to take on an additional 500 sit-ups on their own, at home before bed. The next day Conor came in and said ‘Coach, I did 1200’ and I knew right then he could be special,” recalls his longtime coach, Maureen Sheehan. “He wanted to be good and his good meant the best.”
His drive to excel led him to the US Jr National Championships as a high school Junior and then to the 2008 US Olympic Trials the summer following his Senior year. He grew to his current 6’5” height and took on a training regimen few only the brave would dare. “Conor’s training ability is well known in swimming circles,” says Coach Sheehan. “He figured out that the athletes reaching the Olympics were taking on very extreme challenges in practice and he dedicated himself to matching their example.
“He got the chance to see up close how Olympic Champions Ryan Lochte and Peter Vanderkaay trained when he transferred to the University of Florida from Iowa after his sophomore year. He saw how high the bar is at that level of swimming.”
Clearing a bar set so high paid off this year for Conor as he qualified for the US team in the 400 freestyle and the 800 freestyle relay. He finished 5th in the 400 free then teamed with Michael Phelps, Ryan Lochte and Ricky Berens to capture the Gold Medal in the relay event.
“Conor’s achievements reinforce that time and a strong family support system are the most important ingredients to Olympic success. He learned at a young age that you have to both work and wait for the good stuff in life and that is certainly evident when you look at what he has achieved,” says Michael Lawrence, another of Conor’s long-time coaches. “You can’t make real predictions about the future of a young athlete. No one’s ever hung an Olympic medal around the neck of a 10 year old and you really can end a young person’s career if you try.”
Coach Lawrence’s advice to both coaches and parents: “Just watch and enjoy what is happening. There are thousands of young people taking a step down the same path and all you can do is watch the one in front of you. Celebrate each success and build on each moment. And remember what Conor told the world via Twitter . . . ‘Dreams DO come true’.”
That’s a message embraced daily by his Lake Forest Swim Club Ducks teammates.
Meet Conor’s coaches and find your place on the team at the Lake Forest Swim Club. New Swimmer Evaluations are scheduled for:
Lake Bluff Park District pool
- Aug 14th, 5:00pm
- Aug 20th and 21st, 5:30pm
Lake Forest College pool
- Sept 4 – 6, 4:30-5:00pm