grad Blake Pieroni swam his way smack dab into the world’s biggest event.
University sophomore swam the third leg of the men’s 4x100 relay Sunday
afternoon as the USA finished with the second-fastest time in the prelims
“Pieroni is the
key. He did his job,” NBC’s Rowdy Gaines said during the telecast.
Pieroni teamed with
Jimmy Feigen, Ryan Held and Anthony Ervin to put the team into Sunday
“You can almost
hear the big sigh of relief from USA Swimming that those four guys swam
great,” Gaines continued.
From there, the
quartet of Caeleb Dressel, Michael Phelps, Held and Nathan Adrian took care
of business to bring the USA, and Pieroni, a gold medal in 3:09.92.
Pieroni’s life has
taken on plenty of first’s since qualifying for Team USA in Omaha earlier
this summer. Training trips have included stops in Atlanta and San Antonio
before loading up and heading to Rio.
“I’m a little
nervous, but people who are not nervous swimming in their first Olympic
Games are crazy,” Pieroni said by text message from Brazil. “It’s good to be
a little nervous. (Team USA) Coach (Bob) Bowman refers to it as
‘controllable fear’ and that it is a good thing. It is energy that we can
use toward our races, as long as we can control it. It gives you equal
respect for the competitors and gives a heightened sense of awareness.”
Once there, Pieroni
and his teammates put on their opening ceremony outfits, but elected to be
among the 30 million viewers watching on TV as athletes paraded into
Pieroni, along with
teammates Feigan, Held and Ervin, stayed back in the rooms in the Olympic
Village to rest just 48 hours before the biggest swim of their lives.
“The process is
awesome,” Pieroni said. “The coolest part has been realizing that now
instead of grinding and trying to beat each other as individuals, now we are
unified teammates that grind and race together for our country. Being around
all the other Olympians for the past weeks has made me feel more like an
Olympian. Just doing everything together and being able to spend time
together outside of the pool has made me feel like an Olympian.”
After watching his
teammates grab a gold medal Sunday night, Pieroni will spend the rest of the
Olympics as a spectator and enjoying time with his family.
“I can’t compare
the games to anything,” Pieroni said. “I have never seen or heard of a place
where so many athletes can compete above politics and global situations and
represent their countries in sport. It’s pretty unique and pure.”