They met in 1983 as teammates for the Dynamo Swim Club in the
Atlanta suburb of Chamblee. Carlton Bruner was the 11-year-old
smart aleck and Eric Wunderlich the 13-year-old thug who warmed
up for meets by depositing Bruner headfirst into the biggest
trash can around. Thirteen years later they are best friends and
teammates again, on the U.S. Olympic squad, enjoying the
homecoming party that is the Atlanta Games.
Both just missed making the 1992 Olympic team, but they trained
together leading up to the '96 Olympic trials last March. When
Wunderlich qualified in the 200-meter breaststroke, he didn't
even have time to climb out of the pool before Bruner was
high-fiving him. Before Bruner swam for his spot in the
1,500-meter freestyle two days later, Wunderlich told him, "You
own this race," and Bruner did, winning by five seconds.
With time to spare before their races--Wunderlich swims tomorrow
and Bruner competes on Friday--the two romped around the Olympic
Village yesterday and proved that, while they may be older and
the 5'9" Bruner a little tougher to squeeze into a trash can,
they haven't changed all that much. "He was a smart-mouthed
little kid back then," the 6'3" Wunderlich says of first meeting
Bruner. "Now he's a smart-mouthed young man."
COLOR PHOTO: PHOTOGRAPHS BY LYNN JOHNSON Swimmers Eric Wunderlich (left) and Carlton Brunner couldn't wait until their races to get their feet wet. [Eric Wunderlich and Carlton Brunner playing in fountain]
FOUR COLOR PHOTOS: PHOTOGRAPHS BY LYNN JOHNSON Carlton preps Eric for tomorrow's race; The guys leave their marks on the stomach of ACOG volunteer Denise Nickerson; and Carlton shows off a lasting impression from the games. [Carton Brunner shaving Eric Wunderlich's back; Brunner and Wunderlich autographing Denise Nickerson's stomach; close-up of Denise Nickerson's stomach, Olympic flame tattoo on Carton Bruner's back]
TWO COLOR PHOTOS: PHOTOGRAPHS BY LYNN JOHNSON Eric and Carlton bid for airtime with NBC'S Katie Couric, then recycle a tradition that dates to their swim-club days. [Carlton Bruner and Eric Wunderlich watching Katie Couric; Eric Wunderlich holding Carlton Bruner above trash can]