At age 32, five-time Olympic gold medalist Nathan Adrian is aiming for his fourth Olympic Games in Tokyo. 2019 was a turbulent year for the dominant freestyle swimmer. While enjoying his first year of marriage to longtime girlfriend Hallie Ivester, Adrian was diagnosed with testicular cancer. Treatment called for two surgeries and months of recovery, but he was able to get back in the pool in time to compete at the 2019 World Championships, keeping him on course for an Olympic appearance.
As part of our preparation for the Olympic Games in Tokyo, NBC Olympics sent questionnaires to a wide range of athletes to learn more about their lives on and off the field of play.
Here’s some of what Adrian told us about his new married life and methods he used to return to full strength after cancer surgery:
Tell us about your family.
Parents, Jim and Cecilia, live in Bremerton, Wash. Dad is a retired nuclear engineer and mom is a retired school nurse. Dad is now a real estate investor and mom still helps at the school. They are also full-time grandparents to seven grandbabies. Brother lives with his wife in Bremerton and works with my dad. He has two young daughters (ages five and three) and two newborn twin boys. Sister is a physician’s assistant and lives in nearby Tacoma, Wash. She has three boys aged seven, five and three.
Where does your family come from?
My mom grew up in Hong Kong and my dad grew up in Indianapolis, Ind. They met in college at University of Portland.
Who do you live with?
I live with my wife in Oakland, Calif. We live in a house in a suburb. We used to live in San Francisco but didn't love the city life so moved over to Oakland and love it!
What is your job outside of competing?
I co-own a swim school with an old teammate of mine. It was actually built and owned by a former 1948 London Olympian named Ann Curtis. It is called the Ann Curtis Swim School, however, Will Copeland and I are going to rename it AC Swim Club going forward. It was a crazy connection as Ann won two golds and a silver in her London Olympics and I did the very same in the 2012 London Olympics. Will, Ann, her husband, and I were also all Cal Bears which is a fun connection we all share.
Tell us about your pet cat.
Her name is Ash. She is one of the best things we have ever done. She greets me every morning as I wake up and then again after I come home from morning practice. I can’t say life is meaningless without her, however, it certainly would mean a little less.
What’s your favorite workout?
I enjoy workouts where you get to test yourself. Days where we get to get up on the blocks and race are the most fun for me.
Do you do anything out of the ordinary within your training?
Yes, I have been working with Blood Flow Restriction training and EMS to help improve recovery. I also did a lot of Blood Flow Restriction while I was dealing with cancer treatments to try and stay in shape.
Do you have a nutrition plan?
I have a fairly typical diet, however, compared to last Olympic Cycle I eat way more plant-based foods. I usually have three or four vegan dinners per week and eat less animal-based protein than I used to in the past. It has been great and overall I feel great doing it. My blood pressure also dropped 20-plus points.
What is your earliest memory watching an Olympics?
I remember watching the ‘96 games but not really knowing what was going on. I remember watching the 2000 games and watching Anthony [Ervin] and Gary [Hall Jr.] tying for Gold in the 50 [meter freestyle] and thinking, "Hey if I keep dropping time maybe I could go to the Olympics when I am 19."
Who do you socialize with most within your sport?
[Four-time Olympic gold medalist] Matt Grevers is one of my best friends. We have been roommates on trips since 2009 and he was in my wedding.
What is your biggest fear when competing?
I think after doing this so long I don't really have any fears anymore. It used to be fear of failure. But I have failed a bunch of times and it honestly wasn't that bad so I got over it.