By Bob Schaller//Correspondent
Just when ripped swimsuits were starting to fade from public discussion, Nathan Adrian jumped in with a rip – and still tore off a fast 100 free time at Indianapolis Grand Prix. His alma mater, Cal, just picked up another men’s – and women’s – NCAA title, and he is among the new generation of U.S. sprinters ready to make their mark, and as he explains in this week’s 20 Question Tuesday, it’s all coming up fast.
1. So how do you feel and how are things going?
Nathan: How do I feel? I feel good. I am just coming off the Indianapolis Grand Prix, and for some reason racing gets me ready to train for the next session. I like riding that kind of wave.
2. For some reason, we always talk kids’ movies, and so I feel compelled to ask now – what’s the latest and how do you rate it?
Nathan: Oh man, I have fallen so far out of the loop with that stuff. I just watched the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo on the plane flight. It made me want to read the book. Very few movies make me want to read the book. It was so intricate. Everything just came together, so I am more interested in the details now.
3. What’s up next?
Nathan: I think seeing the Hunger Games in IMAX would be awesome.
4. How about those Cal Golden Bears, exciting?
Nathan: Yes! What’s even more exciting, and I hope motivating for all of my teammates, is how exciting it is for next year’s team; you look at the prospects we have coming in, and there are a lot of teams who will be hard-pressed to beat us.
5. But it’s about more than that, isn’t it, and I bet your coach Dave Durden knows that as well as anyone?
Nathan: Absolutely, there’s a lot more than just fast times that goes into winning an NCAA Championship. A lot of it comes out of team building. Dave Durden really appreciates and respects the team environment, and he really harnesses that power. It came together really well.
6. How well does Dave fit you as a coach?
Nathan: Dave is (laughs) great. He has an unwavering amount of patience and I am a sprinter, so I have my days that I am pretty difficult (laughs) to work with. On top of that, his approach to swimming fits mine so well. He’s incredibly intelligent, and so well organized. You can tell he was trained as an electrical engineer and see how that training has manifested itself in his swim coaching.
7. It’s hard to believe how much coaches do, isn’t it?
Nathan: It really does take a special talent, and special person. It takes a unique person to be responsible for so many different individuals. No two simmers fit the same kind of mold. Dave and (assistant coach) Greg (Meehan) take them as they are and try to develop them into the best they can be.
8. Torn suit, you still fly in the 100 – how?
Nathan: I am definitely happy with that time. But again, that total sprinter mentality…I want to go faster, and I can go faster.
9. Did you know the suit was torn?
Nathan: Yes, I did. If you look at the video as we step up on the block, we lean over before they say, “Take your mark.” I was leaning over and I felt it and I started coming up a little bit. But you can see my thought process, “I came here to race.” So I took my mark, and hopped in.
10. Still, to go that fast – net gain, right?
Nathan: Absolutely. One of the positives that I took away from this is that it really was not one of my best executed races, but I’m happy I was able to go on autopilot and swim through it in a race like this. There are still a lot of details to learn from for me in that race.
11. Pro athlete, at Cal, life as a pro swimmer is not bad, correct?
Nathan: It has been an absolute blessing. This is what I had dreamed of as a kid growing up. I saw Gary Hall and people who were in a great sprinting position doing what they were great at – and I am not trying to say I am Gary Hall because he has had so much more success than me. But what he did is something I can strive for. I can never say enough about how fortunate I have been, and how great the sprinters who paved the way for us were.
12. You mentioned “I can go faster,” is that like a constant mentality?
Nathan: It’s always about going faster, and looking forward. You look at the top times, and you want to be that top time. And if you are the top time, you want to go faster.
13. A long road to Trials and the Games – does it seem to go on endlessly at times?
Nathan: You know, it’s hard not to be aware of it. But I think it’s like nothing you can control. It’s nothing that should bother you. That’s something to be excited about. We were excited in 2011, and to wait until summer of 2012 to be shaved and tapered is a long time for anybody. But it’s just exciting to see people racing, and racing fast.
14. Such a unique group now that there is a sort of changing of the guard in the sprinters – you, Cullen, Garrett, and a few others left now. Do you feel collectively you have something to prove?
Nathan: Absolutely, the expectations will be high. I think especially for the four of us that came up a little unsuccessful last summer (at 2011 Worlds), we really felt obligated after that to do everything we can do to go fast this summer. So, hopefully some good will come out of that bad.
15. Does your coach help you through a tough time, like at Worlds?
Nathan: Oh yeah, a lot of that focus comes from Dave. Even if you have a good race, the first thing he will say is, “Your breakout was a little sloppy,” so he has that mentality that we can get better, and find ways to be faster.
16. All of these experiences at NCAAs, Nationals and international team trips – what does that experience do for you?
Nathan: It makes me a lot more comfortable. Those experiences let you understand what to expect. Domestic meets and international meets have different protocols, so understanding each and being comfortable is really important.
17. Hey, I have to ask – ever rip your shorts before?
Nathan: As far I know, this is a first for me (pause). Okay, I will say (laughs) when I tried out for a basketball team in school, I had worn my brothers jeans. This was just a tryout after school, nothing too serious, but I went in there in pants that were way too huge and would not stay up. Big mistake. I never got into the tryout because the jeans were falling all over the place!
18. You are going to ride this wave as a sprinter for a while, aren’t you?
Nathan: Yes, it’s so cool and such a blessing. The best way to put it is that I am allowing myself to see how far my body can go; a lot of people are forced to quit, and that is saddening to see – I wish they could have this opportunity I have to continue what I am doing. As you see, so many people get out of the sport a little early and say hey, if I just had one more season I could do this or that and be a little better. So I want to push myself and be the best I can be, and see what happens.
19. A lot of people think coming right off NCAAs into Trials is best, but that brings a taper challenge, and some people think being two or three years out is hard for a different reason – but your clock, being one year out of school, that seems pretty decent, doesn’t it?
Nathan: Yeah, you’re exactly right. My program fit the quadrennial really well. I’m also lucky in those terms. We especially this year, have a lot of post-grad swimmers; the way that it works here at Cal is that we as post-grads feel really incorporated into that team environment. We are close enough to harness that excitement and feel a part of it.
20. What’s the big lesson from this quad for you?
Nathan: You know, I think it’s just taking advantage of every opportunity that you have, even when it comes down to eating a meal – making sure that is the right nutrition you need right now. Or going to weights, getting all you can out of it, and moving that into the water. You just keep moving forward, in the most positive direction you can, and see where it takes you.