Sept. 7, 2012
The University of Michigan was represented well at the 2012 London Olympics. Three current student-athletes competed at the Games, and MGoBlue.com caught up with each of them to recap their experience. The first entry in the three-part series focuses on junior men's swimmer Connor Jaeger, who finished sixth in the 1,500-meter freestyle.
Opening statement ... "It was a first-class treatment the whole time. It is unbelievable for swimming to get such high treatment. We were really feeling the love. The training trips along the way in Tennessee and Avici, France, and then London were just unbelievable. It was awesome to be at the Games with great athletes from all around the world. Everyone there took it very seriously. It was such a high level of competition and it was great to be a part of that."
Q: Who was the most famous Olympian that you met?
"We met the men's basketball team one night, and I shook hands with Kobe (Bryant). Those guys were definitely the most famous people we met. They were cool, and they were very gracious. They are super famous, and they are wealthy. Everyone wants to meet them and introduce themselves as if you didn't know who they were. It was cool meeting those guys."
Q: What was it like meeting athletes from different countries?
"There was a lot of mutual respect. If you're swimming, even though they are your competition, everyone is still very friendly. Even though there is a language barrier, you still feel like everyone has a mutual respect for you."
Q: What was your favorite random event that you attended?
"I went to the track and field. I was there the night of the men's 4x100-meter relay, the women's 4x200-meter relay, and the men's 5,000-meter run. A guy from Great Britain won and the fans just erupted. To feel that energy of someone from the home country winning, they were freaking out and it was great to feel that excitement."
Q: What was your favorite place in London that you got to experience?
"You get outside of North America and you go to Europe and those cities have so much history to them. They are so old, the architecture and everything. In London, I got to go see the consulates. I saw Big Ben, Parliament, Westminster Abbey. Just taking random tours in London was a lot of fun."
Q: What was the Olympic Village like?
"From what I heard, it was the best Village that anyone had been to. Apparently in Athens, the apartments were not even complete yet, but the Brits were on their game. Everything was so nice. It was well done and well organized. They had service coming in and taking out the garbage daily. They way they set it up, the village was much smaller than villages in the past, but because the buildings were higher up, they were more efficient. We had to get on a bus to get to the pool. We couldn't just walk. The bus stop was only a minute walk and the dining hall was a minute away. They set it up so great. It was just really organized and they did a great job."
Q: What were you thinking when you made the final heat of the 1,500-meter freestyle?
"The whole team is there and everyone has their job. The top two are going and the goal is to get medals. I knew that was my job. It was exciting when I made the final, but it was devastating when I thought I wasn't going to make it. I had to watch the final heat, but then to realize you made it was great and took away so much stress. It is weird to hear someone say that you're the sixth-best swimmer in the world in an event. To be in a race where someone sets the world record. I have never seen anyone swim that way before. To be there with that level of competition was unbelievable."
Q: Which athletes did you become friends with?
"I roomed with Nick Thoman and Matt McLean throughout the trip and then once we were in the Village, I roomed with Peter Vanderkaay, Ricky Berens and Brendan Hansen. We really try to become a team even though we didn't have a lot of time to do it. Everyone is everyone's friend. After the Games, I spent a lot of time with Peter and Davis [Tarwater], a couple Michigan grads, and we really just had a great time. I had never spent much time with them before, but I really got to know them and I like them as people. They're great guys and I had a great time with those two."
Q: What is it like having little kids in your hometown run up to you and know who you are?
"It is really bizarre. It is weird to think that I can have that sort of effect on somebody. I guess for them, it is this idea that someone from a small town can make it to the Olympics and everyone felt like they had a part in it. To go back to that and to see how the town had responded was really just crazy. I never would have thought that could happen."
Q: Have things changed since being back from the Olympic Games?
"It's funny. Though my friends are still the same, I'm still the same person doing the same stuff and nothing different. There's been a lot more autographs for little kids. I think my signature is gross, but it is feeling more natural."