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Olympic Swimmer Adrian Receives Triumphal Welcome Home In Bremerton

Olympic gold medal-winning swimmer Nathan Adrian received a rapturous welcome home from his hometown of Bremerton, Washington, Monday.

The three-time Olympian got the full rock star treatment from his hometown. A police cruiser escorted Adrian from his boyhood home to his high school where screaming fans lined up by the hundreds for an autograph and a picture. Bremerton’s mayor gave him a key to the city.

Former coaches told stories about him. Ex-Bremerton High basketball coach Casey Lindberg recalled repeatedly trying to recruit the six-foot-six swimmer.

“He would look at me and say, ‘No thanks, coach,’ Lindberg said. “I think you would all agree with me when I say, thank you Nathan for saying no thank you to basketball.”

Adrian complimented his first swim coach -- who was in the audience -- for building the foundation of his success starting at age five.

“I would certainly attribute my longevity in the sport to having a great coach like Bonnie (Burmaster) when I was young who fostered a love for the water,” Adrian said. “There was nothing that would have kept me in the water if I would have hated it.”

In Brazil, Adrian earned two gold medals in swimming relays and two bronze medals in individual sprints. That’s more medals than any other Northwest athlete got at the Rio Olympics.

The four medals Adrian won in Brazil increased his career total to eight Olympic medals earned across the last three Summer Games.

Adrian was born and raised in Bremerton. After graduating from Bremerton High School in 2006, Adrian swam collegiately for the University of California-Berkeley, where he majored in public health. The 27-year-old continues to live in the Bay Area.

His parents, siblings, those former coaches, teachers and more than 500 local fans and youth swimmers filled the high school auditorium to celebrate the native son made good.

Afterwards, Adrian said the adulation he received from the next generation of young athletes from his high school was “fun” and a little weird.

“It’s weird for me as it probably is for them,” Adrian said about being on stage in the same auditorium where he sat as a student a decade earlier.

The veteran swimmer also said he is game to keep competing through the next Olympics, which will take place in Tokyo. “We’re looking to 2020,” he said.

At the community celebration Monday, neither Adrian nor his hosts mentioned the ongoing scandal involving U.S. Olympic swimming teammate Ryan Lochte. Last week, Brazilian authorities charged Lochte with filing a false robbery report during the Rio Games. Lochte and three teammates -- not including Adrian -- were caught on video vandalizing a Rio gas station.

"He would not engage in that. He just wouldn't. It's not his style," Adrian's father Jim said about his son on Monday. "He knows how to behave himself and keep his nose clean."

Jim Adrian, who was in Rio with wife Cecilia during the Summer Games, is a retired nuclear engineer from the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, which remains Bremerton’s best-known employer.

Other Northwest Olympians honored by their towns:

  • On Sunday, the city of Boise renamed a riverfront park in honor of three-time gold medalist Kristin Armstrong. The Boise cyclist was on hand as a throng of well-wishers and fans gathered around her for pictures and autographs. Armstrong, 43, won her third consecutive gold medal in the road time trial at the Rio Games.
  • The city of Bend, Oregon and community members have started planning how to honor native son and two-time decathlon gold medalist Ashton Eaton. In 2012, Bend held a parade and celebration after Eaton won gold at the London Games. This year's festivities probably won't happen until autumn because Eaton and his bronze medal-winning wife Brianne are enjoying a long vacation.
  • 1,500-meter gold medalist Matthew Centrowitz of Portland threw out the first pitch at the Baltimore Orioles baseball game Monday. Centrowitz grew up in Maryland before moving west to attend the University of Oregon.

Other Olympic medalists from Oregon are unavailable to celebrate with their hometowns in the near term. Many are busy earning money on the summer track and field circuit in Europe or competing on the U.S. East Coast.

Now semi-retired, Tom Banse covered national news, business, science, public policy, Olympic sports and human interest stories from across the Northwest. He reported from well known and out–of–the–way places in the region where important, amusing, touching, or outrageous events unfolded. Tom's stories can be found online and were heard on-air during "Morning Edition" and "All Things Considered" on NPR stations in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho.