It would be easy to believe after nearly 15 years of competing at the U.S. Swimming National Championships, the meet would have a bit of a ho-hum feel to it for Bremerton’s Nathan Adrian.
That’s far from the truth, as the three-time Olympian finds some of his best competition among his country’s peers.
No other country has the amount of talent that will be on display this week in Indianapolis, a field so deep that it is no simple task to win. While Adrian has done so — he has won three 100-meter freestyle and four 50-free national titles — it’s never easy.
“It’s Team USA. We’re really deep,” Adrian said via phone from the Bay Area where he lives and trains at Cal-Berkeley. “We’ve got to be ready to go.”
He said swimmers in other countries “don’t understand the kind of pressure we’re under each and every year just to qualify.”
The national meet this year serves as the selection criteria for the upcoming FINA World Swimming Championships in Budapest, Hungary, July 23-30.
Adrian said the national meets have a different feel now, partly because he’s a veteran and not a wide-eyed rookie. Adrian and his coaching team at Cal — Dave Durden and Yuri Suguiyama — are ready for nationals.
“We’re in the right spot to be good enough,” he said.
Adrian took more time off in this post-Olympic year than he did in 2013. While he trained roughly the same number of hours, he cited a need to not be as emotionally vested 24/7 because it’s not sustainable in the long run. Adrian won four medals at the Rio Olympics in 2016.
“Having that as a balance is really nice too,” he said. “That gets me out of that mindset where you are just all in all the time.”
Despite the commitment it takes to be an Olympian, Adrian said he still has immense joy in racing and hopes to make his fourth Olympics in Tokyo in 2020. Adrian said the intense competition within the national ranks makes for faster swimming each year and that keeps the U.S. on top of the world stage year in and year out.
Adrian said the depth is so good; Team USA could field two 4x100 free relay teams.
“That’s really awesome, that’s really special,” he said. “Only Team USA could do something like this. We’re going to have to compete really hard to just make it."
As his career has developed, Adrian has been able to utilize technology that wasn’t available even a decade ago.
“That’s so awesome; it’s been amazing. The cool thing is (they’re) still developing proprietary technology,” Adrian said of his sponsorship with BMW Performance Team. “We gather a lot of data and use it different ways.”
The high-speed motion capture video software technology tracks his every move through LEDs on his body and shows it in 2D images. It allows Adrian and his coaches to detect even the slightest inconsistencies that can slow him down by hundredths of a second.
Like all swimmers, Adrian is looking for ways to drop time, which can make the difference in gold or silver.
“I understand what it takes to go 48 (seconds) high, and 47 high,” he said. “It takes a lot more than what people expect.”
What Adrian is expecting this week is a fast field with Caeleb Dressell, Blake Pieroni and Ryan Held among the contenders.
“Certainly more than one guy is capable of doing it, but can they do it that day,” he said. “I’ve been able to win this event a whole lot the last couple years.”
Adrian is eyeing two more national titles and the chance to represent Team USA at worlds.
“It’s not a problem being in the mix,” he said. “I’ve always believed that it’s never going to be an easy step.”
And one he plans on continuing through another Olympic cycle.
“I’ve loved what I’ve been able to do,” he said, adding he has “no greater pleasure to go out there (and) race.”
U.S. Swimming National Championships
Who: Bremerton's Nathan Adrian, nine-time national champion
When: Tuesday-Saturday. Prelims 6 a.m. local. Finals 3 p.m. local
Where: Indianapolis, Indiana
Online/TV: Livestream prelims via usaswimming.org; Tuesday-Wednesday finals live at usaswimming.org, tape delay one hour on NBCSN; Thursday-Saturday finals live NBC Sports App. Two-hour taped segments on NBC Saturday-Sunday 10 a.m.-1 p.m.
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