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London Calling: McLean aims to make Olympic splash

photoMatt McLean, a 2006 Potomac Falls High School graduate, peers up at his time after a race during the 2012 Olympic Trials. McLean will represent Team USA as a member of the 800-meter freestyle relay team in the 2012 Summer Olympics.—Photo Courtesy/Mike Comer, USA Swimming

Matt McLean

-Age: 24
-Hometown: Sterling
-Olympic event: 800-meter freestyle relay
-College: Virginia
-High School: Potomac Falls
-Current club:  Fullerton Aquatics Sports Team
-Former club: SNOW Swimming

Sterling native Matt McLean’s dream of qualifying for the Olympics became a reality earlier this month. McLean will soon have his chance to make his mark at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London as a member of USA Swimming’s 800-meter freestyle relay team.

“There’s no bigger honor in swimming than to represent your country, especially the United States, at the most elite level,” McLean said after earning his spot on the national team with a fifth-place finish in the 200 freestyle at the Olympic trials.

Swimming events at the 2012 Summer Olympics begin July 28 with the men’s 800 freestyle relay set for July 31. The preliminary round is scheduled for 6:02 a.m. and the final will take place later that day at 3:47 p.m. EST.

“I feel very confident that they’ll have an opportunity to swim in the preliminary heats. And then based upon performance in the preliminary heats, that will determine whether they will advance to the final four at night,” University of Virginia swimming coach Mark Bernandino said of McLean and current UVA swimmer Lauren Perdue. “I hope knowing that will inspire them to have the best swims of their lives in the preliminary heats.”

McLean, one of five former, current or incoming Virginia swimmers headed to the Olympic games, earned Atlantic Coast Conference Swimmer of the Year honors twice and was a 15-time All-American during his illustrious career for the Cavaliers.

“Matt’s growth as a man has mirrored his size as an athlete,” Bernandino said of the 6-foot-6 McLean. “Matt found ways to make everyone around him better because of his work ethic. I’ve always believed that when your best athletes are your hardest workers, your team can’t help but to be successful.”

Prior to college, McLean was a standout swimmer locally. McLean, 24, began swimming with the Cascades Rapids in a summer league at age 10. He would later go on to excel with SNOW Swimming and at Potomac Falls High School. The Potomac Falls alum won three state championships during his final two varsity seasons, all in freestyle events.

After graduating from Virginia in 2011, McLean relocated to California and began training with the Fullerton Aquatics Sports Team. He struck gold in the 400 freestyle and claimed silver in the 200 freestyle at the 2011 Conoco Phillips National Championships.

McLean stated after the Olympic trials that his main priority at the 2012 Summer Games is to “help my teammates as much as possible so USA can be the best we can be.”

Bernandino anticipates a stellar showing by McLean. “Because of his devotion to his sport, Matt has earned every accolade and every honor and certainly the right to be called an Olympian. I think he’s going to do some special things once he gets over to London.”


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