Nationals Preview: Q&A with Caitlin Leverenz and Nick Thoman


The days and hours keep closing in on the start of the Phillips 66 National Championships in Irvine, Calif., where the U.S. teams will be chosen for five international meets: the 2014 Pan Pacific Championships, the 2014 Junior Pan Pacific Championships, the 2015 FINA World Championships, the 2015 World University Games and the 2015 Pan American Games.


Olympic medalists Caitlin Leverenz and Nick Thoman will both be swimming in Irvine, looking to secure spots on the Pan Pac and World Championships Team. They took some time to answer some questions about themselves, and the big meet coming up Aug. 6-10.


Caitlin Leverenz waving after a race. (Medium)Caitlin Leverenz 

Which event/s other than yours are you most looking forward to watching?
I am looking forward to watching my teammates race, especially our backstrokers. The U.S. has gotten so fast in backstroke that it makes for a great race every time. 


Do you have any rituals/superstitions before you race?
I do not. I am not really a superstitious kind of person! I just rely on a lot of hard work. 


What song is on your iPod right before a race? Why?
I don't usually listen to music right before I swim, but my favorite times to listen to music are always the van rides on the way to the pool with my teammates. Someone usually makes a CD, and we all sing the song obnoxiously loud on our ride over.  


What is your favorite pre-race meal?
My favorite meal of the day is breakfast, and I love to eat a good breakfast before I race. Usually it consists of cereal (raisin bran at meets), banana or other fruit, and maybe some eggs. Then the one thing I must have a big cup of coffee! 


If you could have any celebrity come watch you race at Nationals, who would it be, and why?
I would want Prince William and Kate to come. That way I could say I raced for royalty! 


If you meet all your goals at this meet, how will you celebrate?
I would love to celebrate with a dinner with my fiancé and family. I can't possibly achieve all of my goals without their help and support, so I would want to celebrate with them! 


Pretend your life at this meet and the weeks leading up to it were being made into a movie. What would this movie be called, and who would play you? 
The movie of my life right now would be called Learning to Fail Successfully. The more I learn and grow in this sport, the more I believe failure is inevitable. If I fail a lot and learn from it, then I will become better from it. I would be played by Emma Watson. 


If you were to design your own suit or cap for this meet, what would it look like?
It would be purple and only be a practice suit, because I wish racing would go back to the basics! I love purple, so I would have a lot of purple in it though. 


If you could be a water animal, what would you be and why?
As cliché as it is, I would be dolphin. When we do ocean training, we see dolphins a lot, and I think the way they move through and play in the ocean is just beautiful. I wish I could move like that in the water! 

Nick Thoman on the medal stand at the 2012 Olympics. (Medium)Nick Thoman

What are you swimming at Nationals?
I am swimming the 50 and 100 meter backstroke.


What are your goals for Nationals?
I have been injured this year, so my goals are to prove to myself that I can compete at the highest level since I have been training differently.


What events, other than your own, are you most looking forward to watching?
I am looking forward to the 100 fly. It has kind of opened up this year. Michael is coming back, and a lot of people are swimming that haven’t before. It should be a lot of fun to watch.


Do you have any rituals or superstitions before you race?
I try not to. Everything is going to be different at every meet. If you have a routine that you really like to get into, you can get thrown off. I have a few stretches that I really need to do, but they usually take up too much time and space. When I get to the pool before a meet, I usually sit down for a little while and check it all out and take it all in. I remind myself that it is just a 50 meter pool, and the flags are five meters from the wall, and that’s all there is to it.


What is on your iPod before a race?
It depends on my mood. If I do listen to music, it is either classic rock or techno, so I am all over the board. 


What is your favorite pre-race meal?
I don’t really have one, but I usually eat some kind of turkey and avocado sandwich on whole wheat. It seems to fuel me the right way, and it tastes really good. 


If you could have any celebrity come watch you race, who would it be and why?
Scarlett Johansson, because she is so hot. I would swim better with a pretty girl watching me. 


If you meet your goals at Nationals, how will you celebrate?
My mom is coming up from Tucson to watch me race, so I will probably go out with her. 


If your life leading up to Nationals was made into a movie, what would the movie be called, who would play you, and what would the plot consist of?
It would be called, The Dual Life of Nick Thoman. The plot would be a high-power athlete versus uber nerd and which side wins out. I am going to go hugely egotistic and say a young Brad Pitt would play me. 


If you could design your own suit and cap for Nationals, what would it look like?
The suit would be a jammer obviously. It would have green on the legs and the brief area would be black. It would have a yellow belt. The cap would be golden scales, and my goggles would be bright green. I want to look just like Aquaman. 


If you could be any water animal, what would you be and why?
I would probably be a dolphin. I feel just like a dolphin when I am swimming. They are wonderfully fast, and look like they have a lot of fun doing it. 

Catch all the action from the 2014 Phillips 66 National Championships, including the live webcast, photos, daily wrap-ups and results, at usaswimming.org/nationals.