LONDON — The swimming portion of the London Olympics will run for eight days.
If the swimmers from North Carolina perform well, at least one of them will compete for the U.S. on seven of those eight days.
The largest Olympic swimming contingent in North Carolinas history includes two swimmers who will compete in three events apiece (Ricky Berens and Cullen Jones). It has five men, three women and also one Olympic assistant coach (David Marsh, from Charlottes SwimMAC Carolina).
Why has this happened? There is no one answer. Certainly, Marsh moving to Charlotte to start an elite-level training program was a massive step five of the eight swimmers train in Charlotte at SwimMAC. That quintet Jones, Kara Lynn Joyce, Nick Thoman, Davis Tarwater and Micah Lawrence are a large part of the swimming Dream Team Marsh envisioned assembling when he first took the job in 2007.
But that doesnt account for Berens, who grew up in Charlotte and has turned into one of the best freestylers in the world. It doesnt account for Charlie Houchin, another freestyler from Raleigh. It doesnt account for Lauren Perdue of Greenville, N.C., a standout swimmer at the University of Virginia who made the U.S. team only four months after back surgery.
None of the eight are the highest-profile swimmers on the U.S. team. There are three swimmers in London who will garner most of the headlines. Michael Phelps, Ryan Lochte and Missy Franklin are all eligible to swim seven events in these Olympics. Franklin is a bubbly 17-year-old the cameras will love, and Phelps and Lochte have a fine rivalry that will renew itself Saturday in the 400 individual medley the first really big race of these Olympics.
But all eight are a testament to what happens when you merge hard work and talent. They are all grinders in swimming, you pretty much have to be.
Even someone like Jones, who admits to being unmotivated following his 2008 Olympic gold medal and had to get a pep talk from his mother, has worked like a demon in the pool. Swimmers get as little time off as any athlete in any sport. Phelps coach, Bob Bowman, noted Thursday that Phelps once worked out every day for six straight years.
The group includes three Olympic veterans Jones and Berens are entering their second Olympics, while freestyle specialist Joyce has made her third Games. And there are five Olympic rookies Lawrence, Thoman, Tarwater, Perdue and Houchin all made it for the first time.
Like any group, these eight swimmers have disparate personalities. Thoman has a booming, deep voice and a quick wit. Tarwater has a degree from Oxford and is full of complicated ambition, as Marsh puts it. Lawrence is a shy Texan her teammates gently embarrassed her at training camp by loudly singing Happy Birthday the day she turned 22.
They are thoroughly enjoying the Olympic experience. Perdue has a star turn in the Olympic teams Call Me Maybe video spoof, which is going viral on a computer near you.
And all of them enjoyed the impromptu meeting with the U.S. mens basketball team Thursday night. Berens had his picture made with Kevin Durant a fellow Texas Longhorn. Perdue tweeted that LeBron James just invited me to dinner and sent out a posed picture of the two of them, with James wearing his big fake glasses and looking happy.
Except for Jones, whose gregarious personality and status as the sports pre-eminent African-American has made him very attractive to sponsors, none have made much money in the sport. They do it for simpler reasons. They are very good at it 97.4 percent of the swimmers at Olympic Trials didnt make the Olympic team, but these eight did. And they love it.
Teri McKeever, the head coach of the womens portion of the U.S. Olympic team, likes to say: If you get in a fight with the water, the water is going to win.
These swimmers all made their peace with the water long ago, working with it as a full partner for little pay. But now comes their payoff a shot at gold.
Scott Fowler: email@example.com; @Scott_Fowler