Annie Chandler, Anya Grevers and Edwin Grevers celebrate after Matt Grevers wins gold in the 100 backstroke.
Let me remind all readers that I am not accustomed to spectating. And I have learned that spectating is a rough sport. It’s not my gift. I like to compete, to be in control, to swim in wide-open water. Before the preliminaries of my fiance Matt Grevers’ 100 backstroke, I was shaking in my nosebleed seat, crammed in between Missy Franklin’s Uncle Doug and Matt’s cousin Miranda. There was no chance to swim my nerves away. All I could do was pray for Matt to be calm and remain confident. I told Matt on Skype that sitting on my bum watching swimming was making me stir crazy. The streets of London have been controlled chaos, so I have not been able to go on runs as planned. That leaves one place for me to expend my pent-up energy. The stands of the Olympic Aquatics Centre.
I can finally empathize with the years of anxiety my parents experienced in the stands. The first swim is crucial. It is usually the indicator of how the rest of the meet will go. There are times when you feel horrible in your first race and pull yourself together as the meet goes on. The Olympic Games leaves no room for a flawed first swim. Matt had a terrific start, looked long and strong the entire way, but it only took about 25 meters of his race for a calm to rush over me. He had that easy speed. The stuff swimmers dream of having at least once every year. Matt seems to have had it twice in the past month. US Trials and now.
After cruising into semifinals, Matt swam an exceptionally swift leg of the 4×100 freestyle relay. His split was a 47.5. If that doesn’t mean anything to you, trust me…it’s fast. Fast-forward to last night’s Olympic final of the 100 back. Matt was seeded first by a significant margin. I knew he had that easy speed and what was meant to happen was going to happen. But I was sweating with anticipation. An NBC employee held up a “Family of Matt Grevers” sign as we entered the venue and revealed that we could get a significant seat upgrade for Matt’s race. The Grevers family and I headed to our scattered, lofty seats and waited for the signal to head down to prime viewing area. They waved us down, we quickly descended hundreds of steps and I took my seat next to Matt’s folks, Edwin and Anja Grevers. Seventeen-year-old Missy Franklins won gold for the US in the 100 back minutes after swimming her 200 freestyle semifinal. Ahhhh, to be 17! Missy is one impressive athlete in addition to being a beautiful soul.
Men’s backstroke finalists were introduced, and my heart rate spiked. The field was tight after the first 50 and so was I from holding my breath. Matt turned first and accelerated toward the finishing wall. Ten meters to go and I was celebrating with Matt’s parents. My vertical jump reached an all-time high. My humble, disciplined, nervous fiance had won gold for the USA in an Olympic-record setting time, and USA teammate Nick Thoman had won silver. Tears welled up in my eyes as he found us in the crowd. I blew him a kiss, and he returned it. I did not intend to be campy, but it was the first time we had made eye contact in a month, and the rest of the world did not seem to matter.
The Grevers family and I walked on a cloud for the next few hours. I felt so fortunate to have been there and am still counting my blessings as the days roll on. Matt and I got a few more staring contests in during the medal ceremony, but the seats are too far from the pool deck to give a hug or even a hand hold. David Arluck, Matt’s agent, found us after the session and led us off to watch the Grevers/Thoman press conference. After many security checkpoints we entered an enormous, sterile building that housed all media outlets not at the swimming venue. The press conference had already begun, so the Thomans, Grevers and I filtered quietly into the last row. SO close to a hug. Matt’s and Nick’s faces lit up as they saw the people they love most, but they continued answering questions eloquently. After the conference the medalists were mobbed with celebratory hugs, and I finally got to hug and kiss the one man that makes me feel like a petite lady. It was a joyous reunion of families that no one wanted to end. The families hung out in “the green room” as Matt and Nick continued getting interviewed. The room was snug for our crowd of 14, but there was food galore and no complaints could be made last night. Watching a person you adore see their life-long dream come to fruition is delightful and we savored every second it. We exited with the guys, and I said goodbye to Matt for another few days.
I believe I will get to visit the athlete village on August 2, so if that pans out, you can read all about it! If there’s some part of the London Games you would like to hear more about, tweet @annie_channie with your requests. Thanks for reading. You’re doing a “brilliant” job of supporting the USA! (Brilliant: Common British word of the day. Use as an enthusiastic exclamation of approval.)
Heads up on London Starbucks jargon: If you want skim milk, it’s “skinny” milk, and whole milk is “fat” milk. This has kept me away from ordering any coffee beverage containing whole milk.