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Deb Gruen (L’13) Commentates for NBC at Paralympic Games

September 4, 2012 — Deb Gruen (L’13) was in New York recently, working as a summer associate at a law firm, when she got an intriguing phone call: Would she be interested in calling some of the swimming events for the 2012 Paralympic Games, for NBC and NBC Sports Network?

Deb Gruen (L’13) Deb Gruen (L’13)

As the caller — a former coach for the U.S. Paralympic team — explained, NBC was looking for a retired Paralympian who could speak to an audience. And Gruen — a two-time bronze medalist in swimming who’s done plenty of talking as a member of Georgetown Law’s moot court team — fit the bill perfectly.

“He gave them my name, and one day NBC called me and said, ‘Would you like to do this?’” said Gruen, who medaled in the 100-meter breaststroke at both the Beijing and Athens Paralympic Games. “I said, ‘Absolutely.’”

The Paralympics, which follow the Olympics in the same venue, run from August 29 to September 9. But unlike Georgetown Law alum and “Today” co-anchor Savannah Guthrie (L’02) who covered the Olympics earlier this summer, Gruen won’t be sent to London. She will call events from a studio near her home in Connecticut, with her commentary airing on NBC Sports Universal between 7 to 8 p.m. the evenings of September 4, 5, 6, and 11 and also on NBC between 2 to 3:30 p.m. on Sunday, September 16. 

Which means she’ll miss the first week of class. “I e-mailed my professors and they said, ‘This seems like a pretty legitimate excuse,’” Gruen said, laughing. “They said, ‘We’re upset that you’re not actually going to be in London, but go have fun.’”

Gruen, who was born with spina bifida, was a junior at Yale when she won bronze in the 100-meter breaststroke in Beijing in 2008; she won bronze in the same event in Athens four years earlier. So she’s trained with many of the current athletes.

“I’m most excited to see my event…you have American swimmer Mallory Weggemann, who holds the world record in the event now, and that’s certainly going to be not only a good race for first but also a real battle for second and third, between the Brits and the Aussies,” she says. “It’s still fun for me because I know [the swimmers] and I know how they race and what they are expecting of themselves."

Though a part of her does long to be there herself — “I love to compete,” she says — she says she was happy to hang up her suit and come to Georgetown Law. She won a regional championship in the National Moot Court Competition in January as a member of the Barrister’s Council moot court team (she’s the BC executive director this year); served as an editor on The Tax Lawyer, and did an externship at the Department of Justice, among other things. 

After the Beijing Games in 2008, Gruen stayed in the city on an undergraduate study-abroad program and learned Chinese, an experience that has served her well in law school. She returned to Beijing for her 1L summer to work at a Chinese law firm and just accepted a permanent offer from Simpson Thacher & Bartlett. The firm has offices in Asia, though she plans to work in New York at first. 

And though she’s not training, she’ll keep on swimming. One of the world records that she set in her career remains unbroken, and she now has her eye on the Chesapeake Bay — a definite step up from the Sport and Fitness Center pool in terms of a challenge. “I’d like to get into open water if I can,” she says. “There’s a big swim [next] summer.”

-- Ann W. Parks

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