London Olympics Hometown Heroes: Alex Meyer
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Open water swimming was added to the Olympic docket in 2008, and Haley Anderson is the first American to medal in the event. The second American will hopefully be our hometown hero, Alex Meyer.
The Harvard graduate is taking his talents from Walden Pond to Hyde Park, England.
His swimming event is nowhere near as high profile as Ryan Lochte's or Michael Phelps’. But open water swimmer Alex Meyer says that's just fine with him!
Alex is just one of 25 men in the world who made the cut to compete in the Olympic open water swimming event- a race that made it's Olympic debut just four years ago in Beijing.
“It’s not in a pool, so it’s open water. There’s tons of different courses in the A to B. It could be one giant lap, it could be -- in London for example it’s going to be six laps for a 10K. 10K is about six miles,” said Meyer.
To get ready for it, the 24-year-old takes to the waters of Walden Pond in Concord, a place he discovered as an undergrad at Harvard University.
But Alex has always been around water -- his parents are both former competitive swimmers. And although it's in his genes, Alex says he had to work for it!
“When I was a little kid, I wasn’t anything special and that’s one of the things I really pride myself on is that I’ve gradually improved over time. I wasn’t one of these child prodigies at 10, 11, 12 years old swimming super fast. It wasn’t like that at all. I love swimming and I love my friends and the sport. I worked hard and now I’m in this position,” Meyer said.
By the time he finished Harvard, Alex earned all-American status by swimming the second-fastest time in school history in the 1,650 freestyle!
“I still train at Harvard, with my coach Tim Murphy. We’ve been working together for about 6 years now,” Meyer said.
Now, Alex turns his talents to open water, where competitions are held in lakes, rivers and oceans, and in all sorts of conditions!
“You gotta be able to roll with the punches, be okay with any conditions, course, and temperature as long as it’s safe,” said Meyer said.
Alex was hoping to compete in London alongside his friend and fellow U.S. open water swimmer Fran Crippen.
Tragically, in 2010 Fran was killed while competing in an open water race in the United Arab Emirates.
“In a nutshell it was way too hot, and there was no emergency response and no lifeguards either,” Meyer said.
Fran's death sparked calls for safety reform in the sport, something Alex is still fighting for today.
“I've tried to advocate as much as I can for safety measures with his memory in mind, and thinking of all other athletes,” Meyer said.
Although he'll go to London as the only U.S. man competing in open water, Alex says he'll take Fran along for the swim.
“While you may be in the midst of this race, you have people on either side and behind and in front of you, it can feel like a very lonely place -- a really lonely, dark place,” Meyer said. “Certainly Fran will be there with all of us.”
While Alex is in London for the games, he's hoping to meet gymnast Nastia Liukin.