By Bob Schaller//Correspondent
As 2013 begins its quick draw to a close, only everything is different for two-time Olympian Chloe Sutton. After a lifetime of great memories and great results on the West Coast, she realized the next chapter of her life would require some change. She has moved to the East Coast, found a great roommate (an open water champion from Raleigh, where they now reside), and is focusing on her turns and flexibility. More speed, and more great swimming memories should be on the horizon for Chloe Sutton, as she explains in this week’s 20 Question Tuesday.
1. How has the big move gone?
Chloe: It is even better than I could have ever hoped it could be. It is amazing. I can’t believe I like it here as much as I do. The whole transition has been so easy.
2. You have a pretty good support group with the new professional team Charlie Houchin organized in Raleigh, don’t you?
Chloe: There are so many people who are looking out for me. To make the whole transition with Ashley Twichell – my best friend for the past year or so – has made it go so well, and she is someone I (laughs) took from California with me! But getting to be closer with Charlie and our coach, John Payne – I spent Thanksgiving with my coach’s family – was just great. We’ve also made a lot of friends in the community. Everyone has been so selfless.
3. What is your coach like now?
Chloe: J.P. has a different perspective, he was a triathlete. He has coached soccer, swimming, track and cross country, along with swimming. So he has a different perspective. I needed a new set of eyes to switch things up and start fresh. He puts together such thoughtful and purposeful sets. He walks up the side of the pool with me, looking at my stroke and turn. There’s so much thought into what we do. That’s what I needed to do, step out of my “distance” box. So far, it has been an amazing experience for me.
4. Are you seeing improvement already?
Chloe: Definitely. I can tell you right now that I have improved my turns. We work on them constantly. We’re always finding new things to work on. He noticed me doing a bunch of things (that needed work) and I was like, “I had no idea I was doing these things.” The practices are not focused on volume. I take my time and focus on my turns. I don’t look at the clock as much as I used to. I focus on what I am doing with my strokes and my turns, making every single one as good as possible. I have noticed that when I do things better, the times end up being way better than I expected. I have changed the way I think about everything. It’s really neat seeing how my swimming is changing.
5. You have gone from living at home and having that familiarity with your surroundings to a whole new world and lifestyle, big changes?
Chloe: I have grown so much since the move. I have changed so much. Everything about me is changing in such a positive way. It’s good for me to be aware of it, to sort of sit on my own shoulder and appreciate all of these blessings that have been sprinkled upon me.
6. You have added some out-of-the-pool work I heard too, right?
Chloe: Absolutely, I have been doing a lot of yoga – like I said, changing my focus and the way I think about things. Just changing the way I approach everything.
7. You had a great situation with a great coach in Bill Rose, but as you turn 21 and enter the adult world, was a move like this something that made sense at this point in your life?
Chloe: After the Olympics, everyone goes through downtime – like Allison Schmitt told you so articulately a couple of weeks ago in 20 Question (Tuesday) – and people think about what they are doing. I did a ton of praying last year through the Olympics and Worlds – I prayed so much. At the camp before Barcelona, Charlie sat me down and said, “What are you doing next year?” Everything was just laid out before me. All the praying I had done…all of those prayers have been answered.
8. Though it has and hasn’t worked out for people who bypassed college, you are in college now, and you are a two-time Olympian – that’s not a bad result in anyone’s book, is it?
Chloe: I definitely know that I made the right decisions for me, to focus on what I wanted to focus on, do things the way I want to do them. One of the things we have talked about a lot, is thinking, “I wish so and so would come here and train in Raleigh.” But you have to be ready to do something like this. It can’t be, “Yeah, let’s go do that.” I had to do things the way my gut told me to do them. I think that worked out perfectly for me. I don’t think I’d be where I am today as a person if things were different.
9. How is college going for you?
Chloe: I am in college now and I enjoy it. I am getting pretty close to graduating. I like school. I like writing. Whenever I get a writing assignment, I am like, “Yay!” because I like to write. I feel older than a lot of the other college students; I have a job, and I do swim, but I want to earn my degree. I love learning, and I love reading, so school works for me, and it is important to me.
10. Raleigh is one of the best up-and-coming cities and offers so much for anyone and everyone - what is your impression of it?
Chloe: It’s really cool. There are so many interesting people here. We get a chance to go out and go to hockey games or go to restaurants, and that’s really helped us develop a good group of friends. One of our friends is in the hotel business, one owns the pool where we train, and then Charlie has all these other interests. Everybody is so motivated here. It’s a young, exciting city. Everyone is excited about their life.
11. A pretty big change there compared to SoCal when people find out you’re an Olympian, right?
Chloe: In southern California, it was like, “I went to the Olympics.” And they’d be like, “Yeah, so did my neighbor.” I’m always with Charlie, who is also an Olympian, and Ashley who is a World Champion, so I definitely (laughs) don’t lead with the Olympian thing – I definitely want to get to know people as a person. But yes, people have been very respectful and excited about the Olympics here, though I think the same is definitely true in southern California.
12. Speaking of really cool things, what is it like having Ashley Twichell there?
Chloe: And she went to Duke, which is right here! Ashley and I mesh together so well. We live together so easily. We are on the same wavelength with so many things. We can work hard together, and challenge each other. She’s just the perfect partner in crime (laughs) for me! We have a great time. We just have a really good relationship and I feel so lucky that she moved here with me, and to have her in my life in general.
13. Your mom and I have talked about “empty nest” syndrome, but it’s not like you weren’t ready for this at all, was it?
Chloe: You know, I am going to give my mom a big compliment here because she prepared me for this so well. She definitely didn’t baby me. She prepared me for this so well that the transition has been so easy. I have to pay rent and grocery shop, but I have always been so independent that this has been easier than I expected.
14. She’s a heck of a cook though isn’t she?
Chloe: She cooked for me at home but she always asked for my help in the kitchen. She would have me come watch her and talk her way through it. I eat 99 percent raw vegetables now. Or I get a roasted chicken and eat that. My diet doesn’t require a lot of cooking. I eat really healthy. But she taught me very well so I’d be ready to live my life on my own.
15. A lot to do in Raleigh?
Chloe: It really is a fun city. I have had a lot of fun exploring the parts I have been able to explore so far, being busy. It feels really healthy. I so enjoyed the fall leaves; I thought those were just so beautiful. I am enjoying having seasons. I miss the beach a lot – I miss a lot of things about southern California. But I’ve been able to find a lot of things that remind me about southern California. I’ll still go back home a lot, but this is an amazing place.
16. You know, someone told me, “If I could meet your five or six closest friends I could describe you almost to the letter without having met you” – is that part of what you feel good about in terms of your environment?
Chloe: Yes. And I am with people who are driven. The people who you surround yourself with…you want people who are going to lift you up, not drag you down. I have found a pretty big group of human beings who are driven, motivated and positive. Everyone comes from, for the most part, a different background. Some are in the business world, some are athletes, some are both. We’re able to relate to each other. We also know how to balance our lives, and relax and have fun. We can go be silly and come back and be focused. I completely agree that if you take all your good friends and get them in a room together, someone can draw a picture of who you are. I like that. That’s the best kind of friends to have – where there are similarities, but differences also.
17. You mentioned Yoga earlier, something Natalie Coughlin got me hooked on years ago, doesn’t it make such a big difference?
Chloe: You know, both physically and mentally I feel like yoga has been so good for Ashley and I. We do a lot of hot yoga, and we are so flexible now. It’s helped our posture. We do a lot of running. We also do dryland with our coach. We do circuits mixed with swimming that I love.
18. You mentioned the work on your turns, hasn’t the flexibility helped with that – I mean, wouldn’t core strength and flexibility for someone like yourself be a real added advantage?
Chloe: Becoming more flexible has been a big change. I had hip problems; when I would run my hips would pop. My hips were out of alignment all the time. I would see a physical therapist. Doing yoga has helped that – my hips are 100 percent better. I do about 45 minutes of running a day. I am able to run so much longer which is improving my aerobic capacity. I can get into a deep squat because I am more flexible, and my flip turns are better. Yoga has just made me so much healthier. Not just physically, but also mentally, learning to relax and focus.
19. You and David Arluck with Fitter and Faster – you are quite the master clinician, how do you always enjoy that so much?
Chloe: Because it’s one of the reasons why I swim. One of the things Olympians come to terms with is that our accomplishments will largely fade rather quickly. A life’s work can seem to fade significantly within a few years. But swim clinics, and to be able to inspire kids and help them get better, make my accomplishments mean so much more – because I can pass along my love of the sport to a child. I can give them a tip or a stroke critique that will fit with them. It makes my own accomplishment more enduring, and more meaningful. It makes me feel good that in 10 years I might read about an Olympian being asked, “Who is the first Olympian you met,” and it was Chloe Sutton. You also remember who you are and why you got into swimming – I see how much they love it in their eyes. And to see them excited to meet me is just such an honor.
20. What a time in your life. Not going to lie, I was worried at first, but hearing your perspective, your understanding and grasp of this all, it’s pretty awesome to hear of your journey at this point – pretty exciting for you still?
Chloe: It is exciting, very exciting. One of the things I have worked on is staying in the moment. Doing the best right now to be the best I can be right now. Being in practice, and not looking at times as much as working on every stroke and every turn. So while I have goals, and I am excited about the future, I don’t want it to distract me from what I am doing at the moment. I want to stay in the now. It would be easy to get too excited about the future. But I want to get the most out of every training session, and every moment. By focusing on the moment, I will be happy with the results no matter what, because I will know I did all I could.