Buoyant in Beijing - The Explorer: Sports

Buoyant in Beijing

Nymeyer family credits Old Pueblo for daughter's Olympic run

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Posted: Tuesday, August 5, 2008 11:00 pm | Updated: 8:04 am, Thu Mar 24, 2011.

There’s only room enough for one swimmer in a family.

Chlorine towels pile up in the laundry room and off-seasons are a mirage. All-day swim meets drag by for a familiar contestant’s one-minute appearance.

And there’s the uncharted territory that unfolds when one’s daughter hoists the title “Olympian.”

As Lacey Nymeyer preps for a shot at Beijing gold in the women’s 100-meter freestyle events, her family’s mixture of awe and support, of routines shaped by the two-time national champion’s aquatic zeal, stand to pay off.

And finally, her brothers’ sleepless weekends make sense.

“All the time, she’s revved and ready to go,” said brother Sterling Nymeyer. “You can’t do that all the time. It’s like, ‘Lacey, it’s Saturday. Cool out.’”

No chance.

Lacey never swam to cool off. The faster she got, the faster she needed to go.

Stacey and Aaron Nymeyer recognized early on the family would paddle to stay afloat in their daughter’s ocean of daily practice and constant competition. Ultimately, the clan’s efforts led to the parents hopping a plane for China on Wednesday.

The brothers assured there’ll be no Olympic-sized parties.

“Our life is ruled by swimming,” Stacey said. “And if you have a swimmer, 8-year-olds use the word, ‘Olympics.’”

On July 4, that lofty goal fused into reality.

Lacey delivered a personal best time of 100 meters in 54.02 seconds at the Olympic trials in Omaha, earning third place and punched her ticket.

Dizzy in the stands, Sterling and the younger Brentyn exhaled and unclenched.

“It was like a balloon released,” Sterling said. “We were just drained.”

Apparently, the Olympic trials, and their hundredths-of-a-second cutoffs, didn’t register to Lacey.

The afternoon marked something else that needed winning — just like the four-year state championship run she earned at Mountain View and droves of collegiate accomplishments, most notably National Championships in the 100- and 200-meter freestyles, the 2007 and 2008 Pac-10 Swimmer of the Year, and her 800 freestyle world record.

“It’s always just another meet. She never talks about it,” Aaron said. “She just takes it as it comes.”

Call it a drama-free run. Lacey’s awards stay in the closet all but one month per year, like Christmas decorations. When the Nymeyers display them, Lacey poses for pictures with her eyes rolled.

Plaques and expensive Speedo LZR suits bang around in the trunk of her car, almost forgotten.

“We don’t ever put her in perspective,” Stacey said. “She puts us in perspective.”

To that theme, Lacey won’t be participating in the Beijing games’ opening ceremonies, as she swims the next day. No closing ceremonies either — she’s got to be back in Tucson to begin her final year at the University of Arizona.

It’s all go and no show, all float and no throat. Around the house, the family discusses the boys’ forte, football, “100 times more,” according to Brentyn.

Aaron, a lanky general contractor, played for Canyon Del Oro during their state title heyday in the late 1970s, passed on the DNA for thick shoulders, and now coaches Mountain View’s receivers.

Sterling played outside linebacker for the Mountain Lions, where he graduated last year.

The 19-year-old declined a couple of small scholarships to begin a two-year Latter Day Saints mission in Australia later this year. Sterling plans to beef up during that stretch and shoot for a Division-I tryout upon return.

Sterling’s well aware that path rings similar to the one traveled by former Arizona linebacker Spencer Larsen, now working his way into the Denver Broncos’ roster.

At Mountain View, Sterling even wore Larsen’s college number — 51.

Size mounts no issue to the younger Brentyn.

“The biggest Nymeyer ever” should play a 210-pound freshman guard for the Mountain Lions this year, with the eventual target of becoming a chiropractor.

But for Lacey, team sports sank like a lead medal.

Her lean toward perpetual practice and tendency to torch underachievers shot down the concept of passes and assists by age 6, as soon as she discovered her grandfather’s pool.

“When the other kids wouldn’t work as hard as her, she’d get mad,” Sterling said. “She came out of the womb like that. Just the most dedicated person to anything as I’ve ever met in my life.”

Such propulsion worries Stacey, in maternal fashion.

While fellow Olympian and Wildcat Jennie Finch recently embraced motherhood, Stacey believes Lacey’s drive toward competitive swimming doesn’t buoy time for much else.

“If you ask me, I really want it to be her last Olympics, because I want her to have a life,” Stacey said.

For a 22-year-old with her credentials, one could argue Lacey’s already lived quite the experience.

And absent as sibling rivalry appears, as loud as the Nymeyers cheer, they’re equally excited that as Tucsonans, Lacey’s entire run germinated and bloomed locally, under the Old Pueblo sun.

“It’s really humbling that we’re sharing our daughter with the city,” Aaron said. “She’s our daughter, but really she’s Tucson’s daughter.”

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