COLUMBIA — Moments after Matt Grevers won his race, it became clear that he had a little extra motivation pushing him on.
After accepting the gold medal for the 100-meter backstroke at Saturday's Missouri Grand Prix, Grevers asked Annie Chandler to stand next to him on the podium. In front of the crowd at the Mizzou Aquatic Center, he dropped to one knee, pulled out a ring and proposed to his girlfriend of four years.
Chandler managed to say yes between sobs as she fell to her knees and embraced her new fiance as cheers echoed around the pool.
Grevers, a 2007 Northwestern graduate, met Chandler when he moved to Tucson, Ariz., to train for the 2008 Olympics with the Tucson Ford Dealers Aquatics swim club. Chandler was on the swim team at the University of Arizona at the time.
Grevers went on to win the silver medal in the 100-meter backstroke in Beijing. After Chandler graduated, she joined his swim club. Both are members of the national team and are currently training together for the Olympic trials.
Grevers said he asked Chandler's father for permission to propose at the end of November but had been waiting for a unique way to pop the question.
He said the Missouri Grand Prix was the perfect opportunity because his entire family was coming. Grevers' brother Andy Grevers is an assistant coach for the Missouri swim team, and his parents drove from Chicago to watch the meet.
Grevers originally hoped to propose Friday night after Chandler's race. When she didn't medal, he took it upon himself to earn his own moment on the podium.
"If you're not up there, then it won't work," he said. "If I didn't get first, it really wouldn't have worked out so well."
Grevers said the proposal was on his mind throughout the race.
"I think I took it out a little fast because my heart was racing that whole time," he said.
Chandler said she had no idea the proposal was coming. Grevers had arranged for her to present the awards for his race, but the coordinators told her it was because they wanted national team members to present the awards.
She said she didn't notice anything out of the ordinary until Grevers asked her to get on the top podium.
"I was like, 'Well this is a little showy, don't you think, Matt?' I mean, to take a picture? If you want us to be a real public couple, I guess that's fine, but we can just take a picture here on deck," Chandler said.
Immediately after the proposal, she had to get ready for her own race.
"You know, that was one of the most thoughtless 200 breaststrokes I've ever swam," she said, laughing. "It felt kind of like a cool down from what I just went through."
While the couple won't make wedding plans until after the Olympics, both said the engagement came as a relief.
"He's supportive of me in every aspect of my life," Chandler said. "I think to know that he's going to be there for the long run is a huge burden off my back, too."
With the grand romantic gesture out of the way, Grevers says he has no plans to top it on Valentine's Day.
"I think I get a freebie on that one," he said.