Matt McLean can now lay claim to being the third UVA Cavalier to bring home an Olympic swimming medal -- the first in 12 years -- after being part of the U.S. gold medal-winning 4x200m freestyle relay team at the London Games.
Three may not seem like much for an ACC swimming powerhouse, but it’s the same number as both Lithuania and Slovenia.
At Olympic qualifications the Sterling, Va., native failed to qualify for the finals in his signature event, the 400m freestyle. Going into the final heat he was in sixth place, and all he needed was for his time to not be beaten three times -- it was, and he was knocked out of the final 8.
McLean did, however, sneak onto the 4x200m freestyle relay team after a fifth-place finish in the 200-meter freestyle.
Five people for a four-person relay team may seem odd, but that’s how it happened, and it’s not like McLean was waiting for a freak injury for his chance to get wet.
He swam in the preliminary heat in London, and set up the finals for Ryan Lochte, Conor Dwyer, Ricky Berens and Michael Phelps who (easily) brought home the gold as they crushed the field, beating everyone by at least three seconds.
Was McLean upset about being left out of the finals? Hardly.
“It was awesome," he said. "I knew that my teammates would take care of it…It would have been nice to be on it, but to be part of it was a huge honor.”
Keep in mind that there are only four guys who can say they were part of Michael Phelps’ record-breaking 19th Olympic medal, and McLean is one of them.
With talks of grand medal display cases and trophy rooms coming from athletes at the Games, all McLean had to say was, “Eh, I’ll probably just leave it at my parents' place.”