LONDON – Conor Dwyer knew he had to swim fast in the Tuesday morning heats of the 800 freestyle relay to have a shot at making the U.S. team for the final 10 hours later.
He swam faster than any of the 48 men who had a flying relay start.
And that was just the start of a day the Loyola Academy grad from Winnetka will remember forever.
"It's a little bit of a shock," Dwyer said. "I couldn't ask for a better first gold medal."
That is because Dwyer helped Michael Phelps become the most decorated Olympian ever.
"Four years ago I was watching him break history and now I got to be a part of it," Dwyer said. "It's unbelievable."
The relay beat runner-up France by more than three seconds to give Phelps overall medal 19, one more than Soviet gymnast Larisa Latynina.
"He was ecstatic for breaking that record," Dwyer said. "He thanked us for doing it."
Swimming the second leg, after Ryan Lochte and ahead of Ricky Berens. Dwyer clocked 1 minute, 45.23 seconds, .29 faster than he had gone in the heats.
"Michael asked for a big lead because Yannick (French anchor Angel) has been on fire," Dwyer said. "Obviously we knew if we got him a lead, he (Phelps) would bring it home."
Phelps took off 3.88 seconds ahead of Angel, the 200 freestyle winner Monday night. The Frenchman had the fastest split of the day (1:43.24), but Phelps (1:44.05) hit the wall 3.07 seconds ahead in 6:59.70.
Dwyer had finished fifth in the 400 freestyle with a personal best time Saturday night. The relay was his final 2012 Olympic competition.