Olympic Journey - 2008
Family Blazed a Trail in the Water for Kitsap Olympian
Sitting in their living room, the Adrian family looks over old photos of its youngest member, Nathan, as a toddler trying to keep up with older sister Donella, and older brother Justin.
He's pictured cuddling the family kittens and sleeping on the family's trampoline with a friend in the backyard. As a teenager, Nathan is mugging for the camera on a family trip.
The youngest member of the Adrian clan is now 19 and a strapping 6-foot-5, 215-pound Olympic swimmer.Nathan qualified for the 400-meter freestyle relay after finishing fourth in the 100 freestyle at the U.S. Olympic swim trials last month in Omaha, Neb.Many saw Nathan's potential right away — even in the little boy, who followed in his siblings' footsteps, only to surpass them by leaps and bounds years later.
Now, Nathan's starting to maximize his potential.
"I'm doing great," Nathan wrote in an e-mail from Team USA's training camp in Singapore. "I am swimming faster times than ever in practice. I am excited, but not nervous which is a great feeling."
Right now, Nathan is concentrating on his event, which takes place Sunday and Monday, but he hopes to see some of Beijing once it's over.
"After I am done swimming I would love to go to the market and do some shopping and experience some culture," he wrote. "Honestly, I am just going to try to soak up the Olympic experience in Beijing as much as possible."
Being in China lets him soak up a culture that is special to him.
He and his siblings are half Chinese — mother Cecilia was born and raised in Hong Kong and didn't immigrate to the United States until she was 19.
Cecilia, who has never visited China but reads and writes Chinese and speaks Cantonese, said in a sense, her youngest son is bringing her back to her home.
"I have to go watch Nathan I am really excited about it," she said, adding that she's always wanted to bring her family to China, but never had the opportunity. She and Donella will be in Beijing to watch the relay team's attempt to recapture the gold it once held with an iron fist.
Cecilia left Hong Kong after high school because she wanted to come to the United States and because competition entry into the universities there was extremely tough. Her sister, Rose, was living near Seattle at the time.
Cecilia attended an all-girls school in Wisconsin for two years before transferring to the University of Portland, where she met Jim Adrian.The two became friends after taking classes together, and before long a romance blossomed.
Jim, who grew up in Indiana, enjoyed learning about Cecilia's culture. They married in 1972 and their three children followed: Donella is now 28, Justin is 25, and Nathan is 19.
Jim began working at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard as a nuclear engineer and moved his family to Bremerton. Cecilia earned her degree from Portland and eventually a master's degree in social work from the University of British Columbia. Cecilia isa nurse in the Bremerton School District, while Jim is retired and owns real estate holdings.
The Adrians wanted to make sure their children were safe near the water and brought them to the Kitsap Family YMCA forswim lessons. The Adrian children were soon immersed in club swimming in Bremerton with the Olympic Aquatic Club, and eventually Maki Aquatics with Gabe Mazurkiewicz.
Donella and Justin earned swimming scholarships — Donella to Arizona State (she transferred to Seattle Pacific University after one year) and Justin to the University of Washington. Both were named team captains, and Justin went on to swim at the 2004 U.S. Olympic swim trials in Long Beach, Calif.
Donella is a physician's assistant in Tacoma, and Justin works with his dad and coaches the Bremerton High School boys and girls swim teams.
Jim said swimming's presence has been large in the family.
"(For years it was) 'Where's the meet? Where are we going? What college has the best swim program? Who's making the best offer?'" he said. "It's just amazing how it controlled a large part of our life for 10 or 15 years. We figured one time we had 49 kid-years of swimming behind us (and) at least 200,000 miles on the car."
Jim and Cecilia credit their children's coaches for their success: Bonnie Burmaster at OAC; Maki's Mazurkiewicz; Jay Benner, who coached at the Tacoma Swim Club; and all the college coaches.
LUCKY NUMBER EIGHT
In China, the number eight is the symbol of prosperity, success and wealth.Citizens have paid to have house numbers and telephone numbers with plenty of eights in them. Weddings are planned around the number.So it was no coincidence that the Beijing Olympic Committee chose Aug. 8 as its opening ceremony date. The games officially start at 8:08 p.m.
The number eight also played a part in Nathan qualifying for the Olympics.
At the Olympic swim trials in Omaha last month, Nathan tied for the eighth spot in the 100-meter freestyle semifinals — one spot out of making the finals. But Ryan Lochte, who had already qualified for Beijing, withdrew from the finals of that event to concentrate on another event. That decision opened a lane for one more. Nathan, who had tied with Alex Righi in the semis, went head-to-head for the lone spot in a swim-off, and Nathan edged Righi at the wall.
The swim-off meant Nathan would be in the last lane for the finals.
Nathan swam the best race of his life and finished a solid fourth. He was going to the Olympics, and the Adrian family, sitting in the stands at the Qwest Center, could hardly believe their good fortune.
Maybe some Chinese luck had rubbed off on the family early.
HARD WORK PAYS OFF
The Adrians know how hard Nathan has worked to make his Olympic dream a reality.
Like his older siblings, Nathan earned a full-ride swimming scholarship, his to the University of California-Berkeley. But he decided to leave after his freshman season to follow world-class sprint coach Mike Bottom to The Race Club in the Florida Keys to train full time for the Olympics.
Nathan, who was enrolled as a pre-med major, didn't take his decision to leave Cal for a year lightly, knowing he might not get his scholarship back upon his return. He has since applied for an Olympic exemption and has registered for fall classes. He already has a roommate.
"When he told me he was going to withdraw from Cal, and I understood the full ramifications of that, it scared the daylights out of me," Jim said.
But it was a coup for Nathan to be invited to train at The Race Club, which was founded by Olympic and world champion Gary Hall Jr. and Hall's father.
"It's the best of the best of the best," Jim said of TRC. "They (the Halls) sing praises about him (Nathan), which is pretty cool."
Jim Adrian said his youngest son has always been disciplined and focused.
"Even when he got his driver's license, he did not want to drive to Tacoma (for practice) because he wanted to sleep down there and back," he said.
All those trips paid off.
Nathan Adrian's now rubbing shoulders with Michael Phelps and the rest of Team USA.
"The team is amazing," Nathan wrote. "The reality of being on the team has sunk in after receiving all of the uniforms from the USOC that we got. I mean, we had an entire shopping cart of stuff we got and it was completely full of clothes and shoes and stuff — and that doesn't even count the stuff we got from Speedo."
JUST THE BEGINNING
While some might think Nathan's quick ascent to becoming an Olympic swimmer will crest in Beijing, his coaches and others believe this is just the beginning.
Before the swim trials in Omaha, Nathan put himself on the map with a gold-medal performance at the World Short Course Championships in Manchester, England, in the 100 freestyle, and was part of relays that set world and American records.
Nathan was also part of two relays that set world and American records.
The performance made waves in the swimming community, but he didn't start receiving nationwide attention until early June.
In a pre-trials tuneup meet in Omaha, Nathan defeated all three 2004 Olympic medalists in the 50 freestyle at the Mutual of Omaha Swimvitational.
Nathan's training partner, Gary Hall Jr., sang his praises after that meet.
"He's the kid. He's the one to watch," Hall said. "He's just going to continue to improve. He's the whole package. Some people have the mental aspect. He's got the strength, the feel, the technique and a good head on his shoulders."
Nathan's coach, Mike Bottom, has said previously that Nathan is in the best spot to be in for this year's Olympics. Getting his feet wet in a relay event at 19 is a perfect way to understand what it means to be an Olympian.
For those who know elite swimming, they are sure that Nathan Adrian's future could very well be made in another four years in London.
"There's a lot of people that saw him when he was younger and just knew that he was going to do great things," Justin said. "And he's doing it."
Annette Griffus, Kitsap Sun, August 6, 2008.
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