Catching Up with Mary DeScenza Mohler
By Mike Watkins//Correspondent
Even though she and her family have been back in the United States since early May, in many ways, Mary DeScenza Mohler’s heart is still in Japan.
Having lived there for the past three-plus years on a military base (husband Charlie is a Marine), Mohler quickly became accustomed to the people and culture. She taught an English class at a Japanese community center and learned how to celebrate native holidays and customs.
Still, when Charlie was accepted into the Naval postgraduate program in Monterey, Calif., to study for his MBA, Mohler and her family – including 16-month-old Maggie – were excited to return to the states to be closer to family and friends.
“We just got back May 4th and flew in on the 'patriot express' (the military flight for families moving back from Japan),” Mohler said. “We lived in Japan for three and a half years and enjoyed living there very much. We missed being near family and the conveniences of living in the U.S., but living in a different culture was a great experience.”
Charlie and Mary welcomed Maggie in January 2012, while still in Japan. The former world-record-holder in the 200 butterfly swam at a nearby pool until just a few days before she gave birth, citing the exercise as good for her back and good as a calming source for Maggie.
As a full-time mom and wife, Mary said she hasn’t been able to get in the pool as much as she’d like these days but has been going to lap swim during their recent vacation before settling in Monterey.
She added that she intends to enroll Maggie in swim lessons soon, as she is already showing an affinity for the water – just like mom.
And although she’s never done the paperwork, Mohler said she has essentially moved on from competitive swimming – although she’s keeping the door open just in case.
“I've never formally ‘retired’ from swimming because I'll always swim, even if it's not as fast as I once was,” said Mohler, a four-time NCAA Champion in the 200 fly at Georgia. “I like keeping my options open because who knows what the future will bring. Maggie will hopefully be starting swim lessons once we are settled in Monterey. She loves playing in the water and doesn't seem to mind the frigid ocean water here.”
While living in Japan, Mohler said she wasn’t able to watch last year’s Olympic Swim Trials due to the time difference and programming schedules, but did see as much of the Olympic swimming events in London as time and Maggie would allow.
With time being one of the greatest healers, she cheered on her former U.S. teammates – some familiar, some new – and reflected fondly on her own last Trials experiences when she barely missed making the Olympic teams in 2004 and 2008.
“Trials in 2008 were one of the toughest competitions for me to come back from,” said Mohler, who identifies her world record in the 200 fly at the 2009 World Championships as her career highlight and her subpar performance at the 2007 World Championships as her low point.
“Missing making the Olympic team not only once, but a second time, was especially hard. I am at peace with all of my swimming accomplishments and am proud of all of my races, the good and the bad. I believe that going through these not-so-fun times have helped me get through some of the curveballs life has thrown at me.
Now back in the states for at least the duration of Charlie’s MBA studies, Mohler is unsure what she’ll do outside of her responsibilities as mother and wife.
Taking care of Maggie and Charlie are her top priorities, but she admits she would like to remain active in the swimming community in some capacity – volunteering or just watching events to abate her swimming addiction.
But for Mohler, who always wanted to be a mom, her role as mother is her lifelong passion and greatest accomplishment.
“I had the best, most supportive mother growing up so it's not outrageous that I want to be just like her,” said Mohler, who met Charlie through her older sister, Katie. “Every day I spend with Maggie, I realize how lucky I am to be raising such a wonderful child. It's truly amazing seeing your baby grow and turn into a sweet girl.”
And what about a full-fledged comeback – in time for 2016 Trials and one more try at the Olympic team?
While she isn’t ruling out anything, Mohler said her first priority is her family, and she plans to stay active in the water as much as possible but doubts she will be able to make the physical and time commitment required to once again be a world-class swimmer.
But never say never.
“I love competing and will always find a way to keep racing as part of my life. We do family 5k runs, open water swims, and triathlons and we hope to continue this into the future. I'd love to get more into master's swimming now that I'm living back in the states, and start really racing again.”