Nathan Adrian pledged to aid coronavirus relief. Olympians around the world joined him.

Nathan Adrian
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For the last decade, Nathan Adrian proved a leader for U.S. swimming as its last man, the anchor on freestyle and medley gold-medal relays. Recently, outside of the pool, Adrian again became a magnetic force for the sport, domestically and on the other side of the world.

Adrian’s marketing agency, Octagon, helped start the website athletesrelief.org last month. Michael Phelps, Simone Biles and Chloe Kim are among more than 100 athletes and sports personalities who pledged items that will be raffled among donors who gave $25 or more.

All of the money goes to coronavirus relief, specifically earmarked for the Center for Disaster Philanthropy’s (CDP) COVID-19 Response Fund.

Adrian, who owns 15 Olympic or world championships gold medals, pitched in a signed Speedo racing suit.

“If any of my fellow athletes would like to join in, leave a comment below with a signed item you’d like to donate and we’ll add it,” Adrian posted on Instagram. The replies splashed in, including from Olympic champions Natalie Coughlin and Ryan Murphy, both Cal products like Adrian.

But also athletes with a degree or two of separation, water polo champion Maggie Steffens. And Summer Sanders, the 1992 Olympic swimming gold medalist who donated a signed “Figure it Out” board game, from the 1990s Nickelodeon show that she hosted. Both Steffens and Sanders went to Stanford, Cal’s archrival.

“Hopefully whoever wins the eventual prize will appreciate it because ‘Figure it Out’ was part of my childhood,” Adrian said. “Summer Sanders, before I even knew she was a swimmer, I knew she was the host of ‘Figure it Out.'”

In total, more than 20 people from the swimming community joined after Adrian’s post — including photographers, USA Swimming CEO Tim Hinchey III and longtime coach Mark Schubert, who donated a Porsche experience at a California test track.

Perhaps the most head-turning contributor: Kyle Chalmers, the Australian who succeeded Adrian as Olympic 100m freestyle champion in 2016. Chalmers also added a signed racing suit to the fundraiser.

“It’s cool that a guy, for instance, Kyle Chalmers reaches out from across the Pacific Ocean,” said Adrian, whose career dates to the tail end of the heyday of the U.S.-Australia swimming rivalry in the 2000s. “That’s something special. I mean, I’m friendly with Kyle. When we see each other, we’ll joke around, have a good time. But it’s not like I text him every day. So to have him reach out of the blue is pretty cool.”

Total donations combining items from all athletes were up to $196,000 as of this afternoon. The campaign was recently extended from May 1 to June 1.

“The cool part about was how the rest of the swim community started rallying around the cause,” Adrian said. “It’s really cool to be part of a community that wants to help, that wants to do something during this time. I’m not necessarily calling anybody else out by any means, but it’s nice to be a part of a community that felt the urge to want to help during this time.”

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