The most gifted men and women in the world unleashed their talents on sports’ biggest stage at the London Olympics last summer.
From a new era for women’s gymnastics to the crowning of the world’s fastest man to the retirement of one of the greatest Olympians of all time, the London Games didn’t disappoint.
But for one Michigan Olympian, London was all about introducing himself to the world. Junior swimmer Connor Jaeger traveled to London and represented the United States in the 1,500-meter freestyle.
“Honestly, throughout the whole city you could just tell that there was an energy about it that was making it such a special place,” Jaeger said.
Last year, in addition to his Olympic experience, Jaeger was named to the Men’s Swimming and Diving NCAA All-American squad in three separate events, won the Big Ten Championships and was named Big Ten Swimmer of the Week three times.
In London, Jaeger wasn’t scheduled to swim, though, until the second week of the competition. So in his down time, he was part of the American camp that cheered on the other headliners of the summer.
“Well, I’ll admit it was hard waiting the whole time, but honestly, my teammates made it so easy for me,” Jaeger said. “I was just there watching them race really and seeing them do such a great job.”
Jaeger finally took the pool on Aug. 3, but the wait was not over. Swimming in the third of four heats, Jaeger placed third with a time of 14:57: 56. There were only eight spots available in the final and four Olympians had already posted faster times than him. With a Olympic final hanging in the balance, Jaeger glued himself to the television screen eagerly awaiting the final results of the last semi-final.
“I didn’t think I was going to get another opportunity to swim,” Jaeger said. “It was a very stressful 15 minutes, but it was an exciting moment when I realized I made the final.”
Jaeger was the lone American who qualified for the final race. And having made it that far, having made it to center stage, Jaeger said he was determined to make his moment count.
“I wanted to perform well, obviously, that was my number one concern,” Jaeger said. “But I wasn’t going to let this experience go by me without recognizing how awesome it was.”
The final, though, was anything but close. China’s Sun Yang distanced himself from the pack from the very beginning and continued to build a lead throughout. Yang clocked in it at 14:31:02, obliterating the previous world record. Jaeger placed sixth.
“He just kept blowing away the whole time, not even close,” Jaeger said with a laugh. “But its cool. I think it’s cool that I was in that race, it’s something that I’ll always remember.”
With London behind him now, Jaeger hopes to lead the Wolverines to their third consecutive Big Ten Championship as they open their season against Wisconsin Saturday at the Canham Natatorium.
“Last year we placed fifth at NCAAs,” Jaeger said. “Going into this season, we just want to do better. We think we can be better. We’re working hard to make (this season) better. That’s our goal – move forward and do better.”