NC State’s Ryan Held talks about winning the gold in the Olympics
N.C. State’s Ryan Held realized life was returning to normal when he attended his first class of the fall semester.
“Wildlife management,” Held said Friday, smiling.
The past month has been a blur for the Wolfpack swimmer. He won a gold medal at the Rio Olympics. He cried on the medal podium. He returned to his hometown of Springfield, Ill., for “Ryan Held Day” and received a key to the city.
“The easiest way to sum it up is going from just a college student, kind of no one knows your name, and then it’s like a month later being this rock-star celebrity,” Held said Friday. “Everyone knows your name, everyone recognizes you, takes photos with you, wants your autograph.”
Rio provided that kind of instant fame for Held. Swimming the third leg of the 4 x 100 freestyle relay, he followed up a strong leg by Michael Phelps with one of his own to maintain the lead, allowing Nathan Adrian to finish it up and give the U.S. the victory and the gold.
Held’s emotion and tears on the medal podium during the raising of the flag and playing of the national anthem touched many in America. Before leaving the Olympics, he had dinner with U.S. golfers Rickie Fowler and Bubba Watson and rubbed shoulders with Kevin Durant and DeAndre Jordan of Team USA hoops.
Three or four weeks ago I was on Copacabana Beach, taking in the sun in tropical Rio, then two weeks ago I was on N.C. State campus in a wildlife management class, taking notes.
“Three or four weeks ago I was on Copacabana Beach, taking in the sun in tropical Rio, then two weeks ago I was on N.C. State campus in a wildlife management class, taking notes,” Held said. “Just the transition from there to here has been really fast, and just polar opposites.”
Held noted every young swimmer sets a goal of one day being in an Olympics, winning a gold. What now for him, at 21?
Another ACC championship for the Pack is one goal, he said. A top-3 finish for the Pack in the NCAAs. ACC swimmer of the year. Seven top-3 performances at the NCAAs — three individual and four relay victories. It’s a long list.
And, he hopes, more trips to the Olympics with Team USA. The 2020 Games are in Tokyo, and Los Angeles is in play for the 2024 Olympics.
But he’ll always have Rio. As he put it, “Swimming on the biggest stage, in probably the biggest swim of my life – so far.”