Nathan Adrian larger than life role model for Kitsap

Nathan Adrian, it seems, will always be a favored son of Bremerton. That’s no less true today as it was the moment he won his first individual Olympic gold medal at the London Olympics in 2012.

Adrian was back in B-town Monday to help the Bremerton Family YMCA and Bremerton School District kickoff its water safety program for all district third graders. That program will begin Jan. 14.

The excitement on the faces of the kids was only outdone by the admiration in the eyes of their parents on Monday.

About 40 children, mostly third graders, their families and staff of the six BSD elementaries were invited to the event at the YMCA.

Not only does Adrian stand 6-foot-6, which will draw your eye anyway, but every single adult knew the accomplishments he’s made in and out of the pool. The round of applause he received when YMCA aquatics director Rich Tate told the gathered crowd of his 4.0 GPA while in school at the University of California in 2012 was tremendous.

A hard work ethic breeds respect and Adrian has plenty of the latter from the Bremerton community.

“He is a huge role model for kids across the world,” said View Ridge teacher Katie Sprague. “These kids know that he went to our school, they know that he’s an Olympic medalist, but to get to see him in person and to get to see that they matter enough that he would come and show up and spend time signing autographs and answering questions, it’s a great bonus for these kids.”

Adrian believes it’s important to give back to the community that supports him so well.

“I have been blessed in my career with the ability to continue to swim and to excel at swimming, but at the same time that comes with a responsibility of giving back. Everybody has their different ways of giving back. This is just one great and perfectly timed (event), and it’s so fitting to come together with a swim program for a swimmer.”

Adrian didn’t have a world-class athlete visit his age-group or club teams when he was younger. He was always surrounded by them.

Adrian said having fellow Bremertonians Tara and Dana Kirk pave the way by swimming at the Olympics and in college (they both graduated from Stanford University) had a huge impact on him.

“I just saw them pave this amazing road,” he said. “That (swimming in college) became a reality, an option, as I got older. … I was really blessed that I got to experience what I experienced watching them.”

At Monday’s event Adrian was stopped at nearly every turn, as fans of all ages asked for pictures and autographs while he was given a tour of the facility since its remodel.

Quite frankly, it’s fun for me to see as well because I know how appreciative he is of the support he has whenever he comes home.

It’s a short stay for the holidays as Adrian will head back to Berkeley, Calif., later this week. He, and his teammates from Cal, including the post-grad group of Anthony Ervin and Natalie Coughlin, will go to the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo., for some intensive high-altitude training in January.

“It’s fantastic training,” he said.

It’s also pretty hardcore.

Adrian’s next competition will be the Austin Grand Prix, Jan. 17-19, at the University of Texas. He’s also been invited for a meet in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, host of the 2016 Olympics. It’s a chance for American swimmers to get an idea of what it will be like in Rio in two years. If it happens, it would be February or March, and is something along the lines of the Duel in the Pool.

Adrian was also thrilled to learn that his Art of the Cap campaign by Speedo and artist Gianmarco Magnani, was a complete success. The caps, which were limited editions and included other artists that teamed with fellow Speedo athletes Dana Vollmer, Natalie Coughlin, Cullen Jones and Ryan Lochte. Proceeds from the sales of Adrian’s cap went to his charity, Kids Beating Cancer. All five caps sold out.

“That was really, really cool,” Adrian said. “To partner up with an artist and charity as well, I think they picked a perfect artist for me. I’m not super into abstract art … so I think the ship design, and having the anchor there, every time I see the cap in reminds me of driving into Bremerton (past the shipyard). It’s so iconic.”