US Olympic Swim Team Press Conference from the Singapore Island Country Club ? August 2, 2008
Jamie Fabos Olsen: I would like to thank everyone for joining us today at the U.S. Olympic Team press conference. It is my pleasure to introduce to you Mr. John Kirkham, president of the Singapore Island Country Club, who will begin our announcements, followed by Mr. Oon Jin Teik of the Singapore Sports Council.
JO: Thank you gentlemen. I will now introduce each member of our panel as well as offer them the chance to make their opening statements.
Mark Schubert has served as the head coach and general manager of USA Swimming since 2006, where he is charged with leading the U.S. team to successes at multiple international meets, including the Olympic Games. Mark, how have you found the training conditions to be here in Singapore?
Mark Schubert: First of all, I want to thank the Sports Council and the membership of the Singapore Island Country Club. The Sports Council was very encouraging that we came here to do this. They have made every effort to make our stay here ideal. We would also like to recognize the members of the club because we know that they have had to make sacrifices for us to be here. We appreciate all the accommodations that they have made. You?re right, it wasn?t just gold medals, but I think we have had a great cultural experience here and made a lot of friends, and we will remember this part of our Olympic journey for a long time to come.
This is the fun camp for the athletes. We had a lot of very hard training in Palo Alto. I remember hearing Michael say at one of our last practices in Palo Alto, ?two more days and then the fun starts? and I think that being here in a wonderful hotel, the Shangri-la and being at the country club has been spectacular and very relaxing and just what we were looking for, so again thank you so much.
JO: DARA TORRES BECAME THE OLDEST SWIMMER TO QUALIFY FOR A U.S. OLYMPIC TEAM AND THE ONLY SWIMMER TO MAKE FIVE OLYMPIC TEAMS, WINNING THE 50 AND 100 METER FREESTYLE EVENTS AT OLYMPIC TRIALS.
DARA, WHAT ARE YOU MOST LOOKING FORWARD TO ABOUT THESE GAMES?
Dara Torres: Well let?s see. This is my fifth Games and I think I?m just looking forward to see how it compares to other Games. The competition is much more competitive than it?s ever been and I?m just looking forward to the whole -- just to take everything in about the Olympic Games and to enjoy the whole experience ? sorry, I had a hard workout today ? and the experience, I am just really looking forward to it.
JO: MICHAEL PHELPS BECAME THE FIRST ATHLETE TO WIN EIGHT MEDALS AT A NON-BOYCOTTED GAMES IN 2004 WHEN HE WON SIX GOLD AND TWO BRONZE MEDALS.
MICHAEL, HOW HAS TRAINING BEEN GOING?
Michael Phelps: Well this is probably some of the best training I?ve done in quite some time and, you know, I guess like Mark said, coming here was the fun part and we?re all getting so much more excited, and the closer we get, we can hardly wait for the Olympics to actually come. You know, we?ve waited four years but it seems like it was last week but yeah, I trained well today, I?ve been feeling good in the water.
What I?ve been looking forward to for the last four years is finally here. I?d like to also thank the Singapore Country Club for allowing us to be here. We?ve had a great training camp here and we couldn?t ask for anything more, and for me it?s been fun. It?s been fun to see the monkeys out there. I actually went out to the golf course yesterday to see the monkeys and take some pictures.
JO: BRENDAN HANSEN IS THE WORLD RECORD HOLDER IN THE 100M BREASTSTROKE, AN EVENT HE WON AT OLYMPIC TRIALS TO QUALIFY FOR HIS SECOND OLYMPIC TEAM. IN 2004, HE WON THREE MEDALS ? A GOLD, SILVER AND BRONZE.
BRENDAN, HOW IS IT DIFFERENT GOING TO YOUR SECOND OLYMPIC GAMES?
Brendan Hansen I think the second time around, you kind of wake up every day and you kind of know what that day is going to bring, whereas when you go to your first Games, every day is new and you don?t know what?s going to happen. So when you go to your second Games, you?re a little more focused and you know what to expect, so when you know what to expect, you?re obviously going to be more prepared, and when you?re more prepared, you?re more successful. I?m just looking at these Games and hoping that I?ll be more successful than I was last time.
I?m excited about it. Most of the team has been chomping at the bit this last week, waiting for the week to go by. We are definitely anxious to get to Beijing and for the Games to get started.
JO: KATIE HOFF QUALIFIED FOR FOUR INDIVIDUAL EVENTS AT TRIALS AND IS MAKING HER SECOND OLYMPIC APPEARANCE. AT TRIALS SHE LOWERED the WORLD RECORD IN THE 400 IM AND SET AN AMERICAN RECORD IN THE 200 IM-
KATIE WHAT EVENT ARE YOU MOST LOOKING FORWARD TO AND WHY?
Katie Hoff: I think I?m looking forward to both of the freestyle events, because, for me, I?ve gotten better at them over the last couple of years and the IMs were the first thing that I was really good at and I think I put a lot of pressure on them. When I?m swimming freestyle, we have fun with it and work on my stroke and it got a lot better and I feel a lot less nervous. So I?m looking forward to those races and I?m ready to compete.
JO: ERIC SHANTEAU EARNED HIS FIRST OLYMPIC TEAM BERTH BY WINNING THE 200-METER BREASTSTROKE AT TRIALS.
ERIC, WHAT ARE YOUR FEELINGS GOING INTO YOUR FIRST OLYMPIC GAMES?
Eric Shanteau: Well, a lot of the guys talk about experience and having that first Olympic Games under your belt and I?m excited that this is my first one and I can kind of play it to my advantage ... A lot of people might say that that can add to the pressure, but I don?t think that?s the case. I?ve got nothing to lose at the Games. We already have the hard part, that?s making the U.S. Olympic Team. It?s one of the hardest things in the world to do as far as sports events go. So I think that, just being my first team, it?s going to be a fun experience and I don?t think I?m too worried about the pressure or anything like that. I think being a rookie, especially on this team is a good place to be because I?ve got a lot of guys with a lot of experience that I?m looking up to, so I definitely think it?s a good place to be.
JO: LAST BUT NOT LEAST, NATALIE COUGHLIN WON FIVE MEDALS IN 2004, TWO OF THEM GOLD. AT TRIALS, SHE QUALIFIED IN 3 EVENTS AND SET A WORLD RECORD IN THE 100M BACKSTROKE.
NATALIE, WHAT ARE YOUR EXPECTATIONS FOR BEIJING?
Natalie Coughlin: I?m not really sure what to expect. To reiterate what a few other people have said, it?s nice to go to the Olympic Games kind of having a picture based on my previous experience in Athens. I have an idea of what to expect, but it?s going to be a lot different. I?ve added one more event to my plate ?it will be fun; I?m definitely looking forward to the 100 back, 200 IM, 200 freestyle. They are three very different events and I have been working on all three. My training is going very, very well, and like everyone said before me, we?re really looking forward to getting this meet started. The training camp has been awesome, and we?ve been treated very, very well, but we?re getting very stir crazy and ready to get the Games started.
Question: Michael, how do you deal with the pressure?
MP: Well, the pressure?s all coming from you guys, that?s not me. I just focus on what my goals are. If I can come in and swim faster than I did at Trials, then I?m successful. If that means winning no gold medals, that?s fine. I will have done what I wanted to do. As far as the Mark Spitz thing, I?ve said this before, and I?ll say it again, I want to be the first Michael Phelps, not the second Mark Spitz. I?m by no means downplaying his accomplishments, what he did is - was and still is - the greatest Olympic performance of all time and he will be always be remembered as the greatest or one of the greatest Olympians of all time and I?m just looking to hopefully do something different in the sport than what he did.
Question: Mark, Can you tell us how Dara is reacting to her coach?s illness?
MS: I think Dara has done a good job of compartmentalizing her coach?s illness. Her coach is also a dear friend of mine, one of my best friends, and we talk about it and then when it?s time to get in the pool, she does an outstanding job. Sometimes at the beginning of practice, there?s a little bit of a negotiation getting going, but once it gets going, it gets going very well. I?ve felt very fortunate to be working with her. We?ve had Michael Lohberg in our thoughts all the time and Dara?s been in communication with the family, but she also knows that Michael wants her to do a very good job here, so I think that gives her motivation to get the job done here and not have it be more of a distraction. But we can?t help it being in our thoughts and I think that?s the proper place for it to be and I think it?s serving as motivation for her.
Question: Less of a serious question about the mustache [Michael Phelps?]. Is that homage to Mark Spitz? What is that?
MP: I purposely shaved it last night just for a joke. I?ve done it before a lot of my meets over the last few years. So I have a little ?stache for the next week then get rid of it. Nothing big, just messing around with it.
Question: Mark, with all of the new swimsuits, do you think that this will be the toughest competition ever?
MS: I think obviously over the last few years swimsuit technology has improved greatly and I think that technology will help every swimmer. But what it comes down to is every swimmer is going to put on a technologically-advanced suit and the best racer is still going to win. It?s still all about racing. Yes, I think the times are going to be faster and if you want to say it?s the toughest because you have to set your fastest time to accomplish your goal, maybe it?s going to be the toughest, but to me it?s still all about racing. People who know how to race well and who are prepared for it, will do well.
Question: Michael how has your training gone?
MP: I?ve been training probably the best I?ve trained in quite some time both here and also back in the States before we left, so I?m excited to get over to Beijing and start finally preparing myself for the games. I?m pretty confident right now with how the training?s been going and I?m just ready to have some fun.
Question: This question if for Michael. What runs through your head while you?re swimming?
MP: Nothing. Absolutely nothing. One of the guys actually asked me today, when I push off, am I exhaling or am I holding my breath underwater? And my answer was, ?I have no idea.? I don?t think about anything when I swim. I just get in the water and race.
Question: Dara, do your teammates take the mickey out of you for being in the Olympics in 1984?
DT: Take the what out of me? The mickey? [laughter] oh, teasing, um ?Yeah, we actually had some skits the other night and out of the five skits I was teased three times and they were all sort of the same way that they teased me, um, with my headband, rolly bag and being older, but you know, I still have Michael calling me ?mom? and other people on the team call me mom, and I get teased a little bit, but I think at first, a lot of the kids didn?t know me, so they were kind of quiet around me. But now it?s ?hey come over, we want to gossip, we want to do our nails,? so now I think I feel like I fit in a little bit with the team. But I am reminded that, I think like half the team wasn?t even born when I swam my first Olympics, so I?m reminded of that every now and then.
Q: But that?s fun, right?
DT: Oh yeah, I don?t mind that.
Q: How is the team adjusting to the finals being in the morning?
Brendan Hansen: I think our approach as a team is, just being from the United States, our team, we?re forced in the United States to swim fast every morning. How this team was brought up and was born from fast racing, at anytime, anyplace, anywhere. We?re at an advantage because we challenge each other every time we get up on the blocks to race, whether it?s in the morning or in the afternoon at every meet in the United States. And like Eric was saying earlier, our Trials is probably the hardest meet you?ve ever been to, just to make this team, it?s hard. I was forced to swim three fast races in the morning and in the afternoon ?. We?re going to go into these Games with the same approach we did at Trials and we were very successful at Trials and hopefully we will be at the Olympics.
Q: How has training gone and how has Singapore met your expectations?
Natalie Coughlin: Fortunately I competed in the World Cup here in the fall, so I got a taste of what Singapore was like, and I loved it ? Colin showed me around, and brought me around to all the great restaurants and showed me around the Country Club and I knew it was going to be a great place to train. Like Mark said, the Shangri La is a beautiful hotel and this is the nicest country club I?ve ever been to, so that being said, that?s made working hard and training well pretty easy. We?re trying to get used to the humidity and the heat in preparation for Beijing and I think it?s gone very, very well.
Q: Dara, to all those young kids out there, what is something you know now that you wish you?d known back when you started training?
DT: I think the biggest thing is to realize when you?re up competing, it?s the same thing as workout. My first Olympic Games, I sort of freaked out, because there were 17,000 people watching and I?d never experienced that. It still was the same sized pool, I still had the same suit on, I still was the same person, but I didn?t realize after my first race at that point in time, that it?s just like racing any other time I?ve raced, and that?s the thing, don?t let it get fear in you?
I have had times when I haven?t had fun, and I think those are behind me. I?m happy right now because I?m having the time of my life.
Q: Michael, do you feel you are racing and training the fastest ever?
MP: I felt the best I have in the water training-wise and I?ve definitely done my best times in the water while I?ve been training here. Who knows, time will tell but I?m definitely- this year?s been an up and down year. It hasn?t been an easy year, hasn?t been a hard year ... I?ve had some life-changing experiences and I?ve been able to get through some things this year ? I?m happy with where I am right now, I?m excited I?m looking forward to going to Beijing and hopefully having a good meet, we?ll see. I have no idea, time will tell, but as of right now, I feel the best I ever have.
Q: Michael, What drives you?
MP: It?s my goals. That?s the only thing. I have goals that I want to achieve and I?m not going to, not really going to give up my goals until they?re all accomplished and I have some pretty high goals. Hopefully, if I get those goals accomplished, I can move on to the next ones.
Q: Michael, will you keep the moustache for the Olympics?
MP: No. The moustache will be gone in about a week.
Q: Mark, talk about the U.S.-Australian rivalry and what are your thoughts generally on world swimming?
MS: We talked to our team quite a bit that the challenges are going to come from many countries. We certainly are aware in every event what the obstacles are, and we?re also aware that surprises will come in many forms. We anticipate some of our swimmers will produce some of those surprises. We just enjoy competing against the Australians because they just seem to be our natural rivals. We have a great deal of respect for them and what they?re able to accomplish, particularly being a small country. When we have a chance to race them, we always just seem to relish in it. I think part of that has to do with how swimming is viewed in Australia. Which for us, we?re a little bit jealous of swimming getting that much attention as it does in Australia. So, that?s why we love to compete against them.