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Nathan Adrian, now in his pool for different reasons, ponders one more Olympic Trials

Nathan Adrian still spends his days at the pool. He even entered a swim meet in April.

“I would love to see you out at [Olympic] trials or something, but it’s probably not going to be because I just qualified for the Olympics,” Adrian said in an interview earlier this summer while promoting a partnership with Dermasport, a facial skincare product for swimmers. “It’s probably going to be because there’s some old guy that qualified for Olympic Trials, and he’s he’s out there swimming, having a good time.”

Adrian, a 34-year-old, eight-time Olympic medalist, last competed at the highest level at the Tokyo Olympic Trials, placing third in the 50m freestyle, missing what would have been his fourth Olympic team by one spot.

He resurfaced in late April at a masters meet. Masters is for swimmers 18 and older, separated by age groups, typically including club-level athletes with otherwise retired national teamers sprinkled in.

Adrian won a 50-yard butterfly. He wasn’t diving into a serious comeback. Rather, he was there anyway for a partnership with FINIS, a swim product company. He still loves to race and enjoys being part of that community.

Adrian is now a father of two and a small business owner with the AC Swim Club in San Rafael, California. He and former Cal teammate Will Copeland bought a four-lane pool in the Bay Area in 2019 at least in part to save it from being shut down and potentially demolished. They now teach lessons there.

Adrian still has the time to swim enough to stay in shape.

“But all day, every day investing into it with mind, body and soul, I don’t have the bandwidth for that in my life anymore,” he said.

He can still lie in bed, stare at the ceiling and reminisce, or think about what it would take to achieve an Olympic Trials qualifying time so he can take part in one more championship meet.

The 50m free time standard for trials is 22.79 seconds, and Adrian went 21.73 in his last race at the Tokyo trials. Anthony Ervin, the 2016 Olympic 50m free champ at age 35, set a goal to qualify for a Tokyo trials farewell, and did so at age 40. Adrian is not ruling out a similar bid.

He’s also grateful for his career, knowing that few can last more than a decade at the highest level of the sport. Adrian’s first taste of major international swimming came by qualifying for the 2008 Olympics in a relay and getting his own room at the five-star Shangri-La hotel in Singapore for a training camp. (He later received his first Olympic gold medal in a vacuum-sealed packet at a team meeting, since preliminary-heat swimmers aren’t part of podium medal ceremonies.)

In 2012, he won the Olympic 100m freestyle by one hundredth of a second over reigning world champion James Magnussen of Australia.

Adrian remembered then-Cal assistant coach Greg Meehan telling him on the Water Cube deck, “You’re life’s going to be a lot different now.”

After four more Olympic medals in 2016, Adrian came back less than a year after a testicular cancer diagnosis to win two more relay golds at the 2019 World Championships.

Adrian may be best remembered for succeeding Jason Lezak as the U.S. anchor man for 4x100m free and medley relays, more or less holding that position for two Olympic cycles.

“That probably just elevated how seriously I took my position in the sport in a way, because if I have the chance to be the fastest, and I have an opportunity to perform at a level that I should be selected for this, I should take advantage of it, right?” Adrian said. “I took it really seriously.”