After winning Olympic gold in 2016 and finishing up his collegiate swim career at NC State in March 2018, Ryan Held has finally signed a suit deal.
He’ll wear Arena going forward – but the story of how he came to sign is slightly unusual.
The brand originally approached him at the conclusion of his NCAA eligibility, Held told SwimSwam. But he was nervous about how he would perform at the 2018 Phillips 66 National Championships last July and was “a little scared” to sign a deal and “have [his] name in the lights.”
It turned out that things did not go exactly according to plan in July, as Held got “majorly” sick before the meet. At Nationals, he placed eighth in the 100 freestyle, just outside of qualifying for any major international long course meets for the summers of 2018 or 2019. Yet, Arena approached him again.
“They told me they don’t care about how you swim, they want you to excel in life and [are] more interested in great people to promote their brand,” Held said. He did, however, end up on the roster for the 2018 Short Course Worlds team – and that’s really where Arena came back into the picture.
In an interview last month, Held said that there was a “miscommunication” about what he would be swimming at Worlds, and the 800 free relay came as a surprise. He had only asked for sprint suits, but when he learned a 200 free was in his lineup, he went searching for something else. Team USA did not have extra suits – of any brand – and no other USA-affiliate brands were there. So Held asked Arena athlete Haley Anderson if she could hook him up, and within an hour, he had the same Arena suit he wore in college.
Held had himself a return party at Worlds, where he led off the men’s 4×100 free relay in the prelims, breaking an American record. His swim earned him a spot in six relay finals, including the 4×100 free (gold), mixed 4×50 free (gold), 4×50 free (gold), 4×200 free (4th), 4×50 medley (silver), and 4×100 medley (gold).
Listen to Held’s full interview about last summer below:
Arena is a SwimSwam partner.