Olympian Swimmer's Family, 40 Strong, to Join Him in London - NBC Chicago
London 2012

London 2012

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Olympian Swimmer's Family, 40 Strong, to Join Him in London

Conor Dwyer was first coached at age 7 by his mother, Jeannie



    Olympian Swimmer's Family, 40 Strong, to Join Him in London

    With the support of 40 members of his family who will be making the long trip to London to cheer him on, Winnetka native Conor Dwyer is hoping to win a gold medal swimming in the men's 400 meters.

    "It's definitely been a long road for him, but it's paid off," his sister, Patti Dwyer, said with a chuckle.

    His road to London is one that has been more than a decade in the making, starting in his grandparents' pool with his first coach -- his mother, Jeannie Dwyer.

    "He started at seven years old. He was a state champ at 10," she said. "Did we think Olympics? No."

    His coaches at Loyola Academy may not have seen Olympics at first glance either, but they did see ambition, not only in Dwyer as a swimmer, but as a water polo player as well.

    "We have a long and storied tradition of good swimming back here, but we've never had an Olympian before," his high school water polo coach Daniel Hangelmann said. "It's something special."

    After graduating from Loyola Academy, Conor went on to study at the University of Iowa before transferring to the University of Florida, growing not just to Olympic caliber in swimming, but in height as well. Standing 5'10" when he graduated high school, Dwyer has since grown to 6'5".

    The tall order of making it to the Olympics in the last leg of qualification was a nail-biter for his family.

    "He always comes back from behind, and you never know if he's ever actually gonna fully pull it off, and he came back in the last lap and did it," said his brother, Brendan Dwyer.

    It was a come from behind victory that was almost too much for his mom to wait for.

    "We were so blessed that he qualified the first day because I don't know that we all could have taken it," she said as she exchanged a glance with her own mother.

    "He's worked so hard," said his grandmother Sally Dowdle. "Well--as all those athletes do, you know, so God is good."

    In a poolside interview after he had qualified, Dwyer called the achievement "tough to put into words" and "a dream come true."

    "I've never seen the commitment that these men and women have for swimming," said his grandfather, Jim Dowdle.

    As Dwyer's family cheers him on in London admiring that commitment, they acknowledge their enthusiasm, 40 strong, makes a mark on swimming as well.

    "I'd say we've changed the swimming world with our enthusiasm for Conor," said his brother PJ Dwyer.