Nathan Adrian may not be as talented as Michael Phelps, but he will be just as popular.
Adrian caught the attention of the nation with his win in the 100-meter freestyle on Wednesday, when he touched the wall one-hundredth of a second faster than James "The Missile" Magnussen of Australia.
It was a thrilling race, and the gold medal brought Adrian to the forefront of the American spotlight. And for one night at least, he was on equal footing with Phelps.
However, moving forward Adrian has the chance to be even more popular than the most decorated Olympian of all time.
Adrian already competes in swimming's most electric event, the 100m free, where it's just 50 seconds of arms and legs churning in a race to touch first. The event often ends in a photo finish, and it's the equivalent to the 100-meter dash in track in terms of popularity.
But Adrian's more well-rounded than that. He actually has multiple Olympic medals to his credit.
He'll have a chance to add to that total on Saturday too, when he swims the freestyle leg of the 400-meter medley relay. There, he will likely earn gold along with the favored American squad, adding to his already impressive total.
In that event he will team up with Phelps in what is likely the final swim of his career.
This is a sad thing to hear for many American swimming fans, but Adrian has the potential to fill the void.
At 23 years old, Adrian could swim in a few more Olympics, but it's his personality that's really the key.
Adrian is quick to smile, humble and engaging in his interviews, traits Phelps has lacked for much of his career. Plus, it doesn't hurt that ladies love him, something that always seems to move the ratings needle.
Adrian will certainly never equal what Phelps has accomplished in the pool—likely no one ever will—but he has a chance to become a fan favorite moving forward and at least match his popularity.
So get ready America, Nathan Adrian will be coming soon to your local Subway commercial.
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