Olympic swimming stars stop in PCB
September 15, 2012 05:13:00 PM
PAT McCANN / Executive Sports Editor
PANAMA CITY BEACH — Of all the gifts young Mac Crutchfield bequeathed after his untimely death at age 12, perhaps none has had more impact than this: he expanded his family.
Maggie and Charlie Crutchfield began a foundation to honor their son, who died in 2008 after falling into an overflowing dam resulting from Tropical Storm Fay near his home in Cairo, Ga. Among those lending their time and inspiration Saturday during a fundraiser at Spinnaker Beach Club were Olympic gold medal swimmers Ryan Lochte and Conor Dwyer.
Lochte became involved in 2008 when Maggie Crutchfield approached his coach, Gregg Troy, one day in Gainesville.
“I wanted to start working with charity events and she asked if I would be a spokesperson at their banquet,” Lochte said. “So I drove up there (Tallahassee) and as I walked in, right there I fell in love with them.
“I was just like, this is like family. I wanted to keep being a spokesman. I have a second family.”
That is why Lochte, an 11-time Olympic swimming medalist and world record holder, and Dwyer, who earned his first gold in the London Olympics, were volunteering their time on Saturday.
The two basically have become rock stars since their experience in London, and Lochte at Beijing in 2008, and instead could have been any number of places over the weekend commanding healthy appearance fees.
“It’s been a whirlwind,” said Dwyer, who like Lochte attended the University of Florida and trains with Troy’s Gator Swim Club. “I’m kind of making the most of the moment and enjoying the wild ride.
“But these people could not be more like family. This is my first time. I’m just here offering my support.”
The Olympians were made available for an extended autograph and photo session with patrons paying $25 to share their experience. An auction was expected to follow with Lochte and Dwyer signing merchandise, some brought back from London.
The foundation assists the Special Olympics and also provides scholarships for swimmers. Mac Crutchfield competed for the Area Tallahassee Aquatic Club, his family making the drive from Georgia enabling him to participate. It was in Tallahassee where current Panama City Swim Club head coach Jonathan Kaplan trained young Crutchfield, and also became an extended family member.
Previous foundation fundraisers mostly had been held in Tallahassee. It was Kaplan who suggested Spinnaker for Saturday’s event. The response from the public was overwhelming; a long line of anxious spectators stretching deep into the parking lot.
“Family and friends get you through,” Maggie Crutchfield said of the time that has passed since her son’s premature death. “He (Kaplan) was very good to my son.”
Lochte, 28, has had more experience with the celebrity that accompanies Olympic success than Dwyer, 23. Both said they are committed to attempting to qualify for the USA swimming team that will compete in Rio de Janeiro in 2016. Lochte said it has been a month and a half since he has trained or competed.
“It has been crazy, more people have noticed me, I get stopped all the time,” he said. “A lot of people were tuned into the Olympics. I’m still traveling, all the appearances.”
Lochte, from Daytona Beach, said that he loves the water and never wants to sever his umbilical cord with the sport. He does have some longer-range goals outside of the pool, however.
“I want to make swimming a sport like the NBA or the NFL,” Lochte said. “That’s why I’ve stepped out of my comfort zone with the reality TV series.
“My passion is developing a clothing line. My success has helped that a lot. Within the next year hopefully I can have that up and going.”
Dwyer noted that he was the youngest swimmer on the 4x200-meter freestyle relay that won gold and also included Lochte, Ricky Berens and Michael Phelps.
“I feel like I’m a late bloomer,” he said. “Everything I’ve done the last three years is paying off.
“I remember four years ago being in a little bar in Massachusetts cheering on Michael and I watched it all growing up. There have been no negatives.”
The throng waiting its turn to engage Lochte and Dwyer on Saturday eagerly was ready to agree.
A couple pics from the event:
Source 1 2