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Sterling native strikes gold in Olympic swimming

photoMatt McLean poses with his Olympic gold medal.—Photo Courtesy/Jim Bauman, University of Virginia

Matt McLean stated after qualifying for the 2012 Summer Olympics that “there’s no bigger honor in swimming than to represent your country, especially the United States, at the most elite level.”

The Sterling native may have spoke too soon. McLean has not only represented the United States in the Olympics, but now has done so as a gold-medal winner. McLean struck gold in the men’s 800-meter freestyle relay July 31 in London, along with his teammates Charlie Houchin, Davis Tarwater, Conor Dwyer, Ricky Berens, Ryan Lochte and Michael Phelps.

McLean, a Potomac Falls High School graduate who also crafted his skills locally for SNOW Swimming, helped the United States post the fastest time by more than two seconds during the 16-team preliminary heats Tuesday morning.

The University of Virginia graduate swam the second leg of the relay, posting a time of 1:46.68. Overall, McLean, Houchin, Tarwater and Dwyer completed the race in 7:06.75 to easily qualify for the final.

“I had an awesome time on the relay this morning with Charlie, Conor and Davis,” McLean said. “It was the greatest feeling walking out in the red, white and blue to a cheering crowd. Thanks to everyone for all their support and encouragement, it means the world to me.”

Dwyer, who posted the fastest time in the prelims, was joined by Berens, Lochte and Phelps in the final. The foursome led the race from start to finish, defeating runner-up France by more than three seconds in 6:59.70.

While McLean collected his first Olympic medal, Phelps became the winningest Olympic athlete of all-time following the relay event. Phelps extended his career medal total to 19, including 15 gold.

McLean, 24, began swimming at age 10. The Olympic gold medal adds to his long list of swimming accomplishments that include being a 15-time All-American and two-time Atlantic Coast Conference Swimmer of the Year at UVA, and a gold medalist in the 400 freestyle at the 2011 Conoco Phillips National Championships.

McLean moved to California after graduating from Virginia in 2011 and currently swims for the Fullerton Aquatics Sports Team.

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