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Conor Dwyer Wins Gold in Olympic 800-Meter Relay

The Winnetka native and Loyola Academy alum will be bringing the top medal home to the North Shore.

Joan Sullivan dropped to her knees in prayer, her face practically enraptured, and at one point moved her arms in a swimmer’s motion.

That’s the effect Conor Dwyer had on people Tuesday as he brought the gold home to Winnetka, serving as the second of four relay men in the U.S. swimming team’s resounding victory in the 800-meter freestyle event in the London Summer Olympics.

Dwyer handed off at least a four-length lead to his next man after he swam the four pool lengths, more than holding his own with superstar teammates Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte, as the U.S. finished at 6:59.70. France was runner-up.

“This is God’s blessing,” Sullivan said as she clutched a white figurine given to her in 2003 by Dodie Dwyer, Conor’s paternal grandmother. “I’m so proud of Conor. We’re a millimeter away from the miracle we intended to be.”

‘USA…USA’ the cheer of victory

Stormy’s erupted in roars and chants of “USA … USA … USA” as the U.S. team, which was rounded out by Ricky Berens, jumped out to a big early lead and was never challenged as Dwyer kept up the pace as the number two swimmer.

He could have been pushed to warp speed through the water by the sheer enthusiasm of his backers in the steamy Stormy’s, where all TV’s were hooked up to the live streaming feed online. 

“What a great community,” said Dennis Stonequist, Dwyer’s former swimming coach at Loyola Academy.

The celebration did not end with the conclusion of the 800-meter relay.

“We’re gonna paint (the Dwyers’) house gold,” said Tina Filippini, whose daughter Mia has swam with Dwyer since they were six years old.

Dwyer’s effect on people reached far beyond the emotional Sullivan. On a 90-minutes’ notice Saturday, organizers Ginna Barr of Evanston, Nancy Ritter of Winnetka and Katie Green of Wilmette rounded up 100 to gather at Stormy’s to watch a live streaming on laptops and tablets – none were hooked up to TVs – of Dwyer’s other Olympic medal event. He finished fifth in the 400-meter freestyle, two spots away from a bronze medal.

Early risers cheer for Dwyer

Ritter awoke at 4:45 a.m. Tuesday to watch the streaming of Dwyer’s qualifying heat.

“It was awesome,” she said. “Conor’s family is most incredible. They’re the most humble family. A legacy kind of family.”

Wilmette resident Green met Jeannie Dwyer, Conor’s mother, when their children attended Faith Hope and Charity School.

“I’ve watched Conor work so hard,” she said. “He never gave up. His (siblings) root for each other. No sibling rivalries.”

Another celebrant who had an early view of Dwyer’s competitiveness was Wally Marzec of Libertyville, principal of Faith Hope and Charity when the swimmer attended there.

“I remember he was 5-foot-8 in eighth grade – and then shot up (to 6-foot-5),” Marzec said. “Those kids were well-disciplined, and respectful.”

Next step is staging a hero’s welcome to Dwyer on his return from London – and maybe persuade him to let all greeters wear his gold medal for a minute.

“I’d just like to say hello,” Stonequist said.

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SuburbanMary August 01, 2012 at 01:07 AM
Seriously? Why bother having the orange breaking news banner: SPOILER ALERT -- if you're just going to run the article RIGHT BELOW IT, giving away what happened?? Could the editor not have placed the article further down on the page, or had a link to the article for those who aren't waiting until the evening to watch it on t.v.? Grrr. btw: congratulations to conor! can't wait to watch it (although it will not be nearly as exciting had i not known what the outcome is).
Jeannie August 01, 2012 at 01:37 AM
I still want to watch it. Great article!
Chi-an Chang August 01, 2012 at 04:59 AM
Hi SuburbanMary, The orange news banner was part of the breaking news alert we sent out to people via email and I didn't want to spoil it for them if they did not want to know the result. I figured people visiting Patch was looking for the result and that's why we posted it as soon as we learned of the great news. Congrats to Conor! Very exciting for the North Shore, indeed! Chi-an
Peter Nigh August 01, 2012 at 07:20 PM
Conor Dwyer is the definition of world class. Arguably been his biggest non family fan over the last 5 years, saw him swim at Iowa before the bandwagon had even started. Graduating with him at Loyola and watching him mature over the last five years has been an honor. It was when he put all things aside his senior year and started doing two a days in lake forest just to get better. He has been hungry for this opportunity since I've known the kid, and what a great way to represent our country than with helping Phelps become the most decorated Olympian of all time. Lochte and Conor aren't done yet, from what I can sense this is only the beginning of a campaign to swimming domination, also known as Gator Narion. Woke up this morning and went straight to the bank to start My Rio 2016 savings fund, never too early to start thinking of all of his future successes. Thank you Dwyer Family for sharing such a motivating experience with us and God Bless America. -Peter Nigh pnigh11@gmail.com
bob rubnitz August 02, 2012 at 04:19 AM
Wonderful. The medal will look great in such a great location. I hope that Winnetka and Lindenwood will all celebrate a fantastic pull for the gold. Bob Rubnitz

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