By Karina Barosso, Loyola Academy Class of 2013
After training for years and giving his all, Loyola’s 2007 graduate Conor Dwyer can finally check “Win an Olympic Gold Medal” off his bucket list. Conor Dwyer swam for Team USA in the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, including a stint on the gold medal winning 4x200 meter freestyle relay. He also set a personal best in the 400-meter freestyle relay.
The Road to London
His achievement didn’t happen overnight. Dwyer began competitively swimming at the age of eight and worked at it while attending Loyola, where he joined the swim team and later became a captain. After college, he had won some NCAA championships training with Olympians, and from there he made the team for the Olympic trials. After achieving his dream, Conor returned to the high school that helped him build his foundation to share his story and wisdom.
London was a thrilling trip, Dwyer says, because he had never been to Europe before. But once the Olympics started, Dwyer became determined and focused. He felt the hardest part was representing his country with the pressure of not letting anyone down. Before every match, he would do a quick warm up and massage to shake out and relax. It hit him right as he was on the blocks to dive that he was about to swim the biggest race of his life with the three best swimmers in the world.
Dwyer’s secret to success after the timer went off was using his length to his advantage and pulling as much water as he could, making sure the whole time he only thought positively. Ending with the quick touch of the pool wall, Dwyer realized he was the first one, and a rush of joy and accomplishment flowed through him. He saw his family in the stands screaming his name and he felt very appreciative of such great support.
Reflecting on the Journey to Olympic Gold
After receiving his gold, he didn’t feel like a changed person, even with the media attention. “It gets a little hectic sometimes, but I love hanging out with my family, and they keep me down from my high,” he says.
Coming back to Loyola, Dwyer adds, it seems as if he had never left, and he remembers the times he was pushed the extra mile for his swim team. “I wouldn’t have been in the water if [Loyola swim coach] Stonequist didn’t almost force me back into it. If he wasn’t forceful with me about getting back in the water, I wouldn’t be where I am today. Loyola was where my swimming career started off, and I learned so much about the team aspect here that you can’t learn anywhere else.”
Dennis Stonequist’s reflections on his coaching days with Dwyer made him remember his determination: “Conor was a leader for sure, especially in practice. He liked to challenge his teammates, and he did so with a good sense of humor. We always talked about being able to laugh at yourself, and Conor made sure no one had a big head. We had a great atmosphere during his years and his senior year was the best. His practice ethic showed through his ability to fight through challenges, and nothing ever slowed him down at all.”
The Regimen of a Champion
To achieve such amazing feats, Dwyer almost never takes a day off. His schedule consists of a 6am start time in the pool, working-out for about an hour and a half, napping, heading into stadiums for boxing, and finally returning to swim for another two and half hours—all while ingesting a staggering 6,000 healthy calories.
Practices can be tedious considering he has to constantly stare at the black line at the bottom of the pool, but his goal-driven personality and his love for work keep him holding on.
There were some challenging days where he never would have imagined how much work and sacrifice it would take to get to where he is. But with the help of his coaches and his own motivation, Dwyer became mentally and physically ready.
He always held his mother Jeanne Dwyer, an All-American swimmer, and Olympian Janet Evans as his idols throughout his life.
Around the end of college, Dwyer ultimately realized he could make a career out of his swimming. He used to be told he wasn’t fast enough, or he couldn’t be recruited, but with time and patience, Dwyer finally made it.
The Road Ahead
Dwyer was always an athlete, not only in the sense that he had great physical qualities, but also because of his mental preparation. Dwyer would make goals for every race and practice, and it was rewarding for him to accomplish them.
Dwyer became good friends with his competitors, and they still keep in contact. His plans for the near future are to continue practicing and keeping his head in the game for the 2016 Olympics.
His advice for Ramblers wanting to conquer their dream is that even though it may take a lot of work that they don’t want to do, if they want it badly enough they can achieve any goal.