By Bob Schaller//Correspondent
Christine Marshall overcame a lot – including, herself, she admits – to make the 2008 Olympic team and win a bronze medal. Now a graduate of Texas A&M, she has headed east. While she is forging a business career, she’s also staying fit and just recently got back in the water, as she explains in this week’s 20 Question Tuesday.
1. So what’s up in your life?
Christine: I am working in Charlotte. I work at Macy's and with Sunglass Hut. It’s a lot of fun, and I am learning a lot.
2. Someone said you were swimming again?
Christine: I was swimming a little bit, then I stopped, and then I started again last week, not as a comeback or anything, just because it’s so good for me and I love it. I swam with the masters team here.
3. Are you making it part of your life again?
Christine: Well, I did get up this morning at 5:15 a.m., and got to Mecklenburg, but they were closed for Martin Luther King Day. So I’ll get on it again tomorrow or the next day.
4. Is there a goal in mind?
Christine: To have fun. I just want to do it for fun. As long as I am enjoying it like I am now, of course I will keep doing it.
5. We have not talked in a long time: You stepped away before the final run-up to 2012, what did you think of the women on the Olympic team?
Christine: I think we had an awesome team. They showed up. The girls were amazing. They were so inspiring. On the men's side they did well. It was hard to watch not being part of it because you could tell they truly were a team, bonded and cared for each other, but what a great experience for every single one of them, and I am so proud of that team for not only what they did, but how they went about it and carried themselves.
6. It didn’t work out for you at Auburn, but man, you were throwing down some amazing training sessions in the gym, what was up with that?
Christine: That was probably part of the reason it didn’t (laugh) work for me, because I did get a lot bigger and stronger, but that didn’t translate well for me at least to the water. But the strength coaches down there really did a lot for me – they are amazing. I went from swimming all that yardage at A&M to a lot of heavy lifting and gaining a lot of muscle.
7. All in all though, how great was Auburn?
Christine: There is so much school spirit at Auburn; people just love it there. It’s a lot like A&M but on a smaller scale. Every place has its own little charm here and there I found a place, Mike and Ed’s Barbecue, so when I had to drive back to Alabama for a wedding, I stopped there.
8. How do you look back on A&M and I am sure you realize more than ever what a great university that is, correct?
Christine: Oh, man, I appreciate everything so much more now. At A&M when we’d say we need this or that, we would get it. They took such good care of that. I do think I was appreciative at the time, but definitely now more than ever I appreciate the support the staff and coaches did for us as undergraduate swimmers. Going there was a life-changing experience, and I never look back and think, “What if I had gone somewhere else?
9. You blazed a path for your family too if I recall, right?
Christine: I was the first one in my family to go to college and then to graduate from college. That was a huge milestone for my family. I am so proud. It seems so amazing that it means so much to my mom and family; I am the young one, yet in some ways they look up to me. I paved the way.
10. Some hard times and some great times in college, how do you recall it?
Christine: Bittersweet. I will always love that place though. I am friends with some of the girls on Facebook, and I still love going to see them at meets. I just want to tell them to love it, because they have it so good!
11. And you gave A&M its first female swimmer U.S. Olympian, is that correct?
Christine: Oh my gosh, yes, and that means so much to me. Now, of course, Camille (Adams) and Breeja (Larson) have done all that and more and really built on it, but hopefully it will only continue to grow and perhaps in 2016 A&M will have three women on the U.S. Olympic team.
12. How awesome is your Olympic medal and do you keep it with you or is it back home in Virginia?
Christine: I think it's pretty awesome! And it is with me. I have thought about putting it in a safe deposit box, but when I take it to clinics, it means so much to the kids, especially those who have not seen an Olympic medal before. People are always telling me, “You need to lock that thing up,” but the real value comes in sharing it and seeing the positive effect it has on kids.
13. How did you feel about A&M moving to the SEC?
Christine: I think it was a good move, because for (women’s swimming) it’s definitely more competitive. The Big 12 in swimming isn't like it is in the SEC. I would have loved to have swum in the SEC. I would have loved to have been an SEC champion, because when you are an SEC champion, the odds are you are also going to be an NCAA Champion.
14. What do you remember from that 2008 Olympic experience in Beijing?
Christine: How Michael Phelps was so incredibly awesome – that’s what I think of! I am so happy I was part of that. Also, Rebecca Soni’s race was awesome, and what Natalie (Coughlin) did (winning six medals). There was so much awesomeness at that meet, I seriously don’t know if we can (laughs) run it all down in this talk!
15. Do people you work with know you were an Olympian?
Christine: I seriously feel very humble about being an Olympian. It is truly one of those cases because you do not brag about it or even bring it up because what it stands for and what it means is more than enough to speak for itself. Many people I work with do not even know about it. My Maui (Sunglasses) representative came in my store – she is moving on to a job in Canada – and she noticed the ring on my hand, the Olympic ring. She was like, “Oh my gosh, what is this? Where did you buy it?” I told her it’s something you get when you compete in the Olympics. She said, “Oh my gosh, I have known you for two years and this isn’t something you would tell me?” It was pretty neat to see her reaction, but it’s the feeling I get when I think about representing our country with so many outstanding teammates that means the most.
16. Did you see the Call Me Maybe video from the 2012 team?
Christine: Yes, and that really showed the spark and the chemistry of that team – you could see that from just a few seconds of that video. All the girls on the 2012 team were so humble, and there was such camaraderie there. That’s definitely a key in performing your best all the way across the roster, and that team clearly had it, and always supported each other. The video really showed you the energy they created together, and they were in the right place mentally as much as physically. But mostly, that video made me smile more than anything else. What a great group. And on a side note, I am so glad Missy is in college, she is going to learn so much from that, and really enjoy it.
17. How hard was it to retire before the final lead-up to Trials?
Christine: I was just burned out and unhappy. I was training with some amazing guys, but as it turned out I really did like my time training with girls. So it was a hard transition. But it was a learning experience, and I certainly took a lot of positive lessons from it.
18. And you end up in Charlotte – when did people FINALLY realize how much North Carolina has going for it?
Christine: It’s a pretty great place. So many people have come here that I knew in college. There’s a lot to do, the city is a fun place to be, and the people could not be friendlier. I feel like I am in a good place now – personally, as well as for work. The last time we talked, I remember I was not in that good of a place. But you grow and mature and as you learn about the world, you learn more about yourself.
19. You mentioned you enjoy masters swimming, do they know you’re an Olympian?
Christine: Funny story, yes. They didn’t know but I have the rings on my neck so when I put on my cap, word got out (laughs). I was able to talk a little about technique, which I think might have helped a bit. The thing is, if your technique is good, you use less energy. I still love to race the clock, even now as I am just getting back into it.
20. Now that there are a few years between you and your retirement, and five years since the bronze on the relay in Beijing, can you understand and explain what place swimming has had in your life?
Christine: It has meant everything. I would not be this person today – who I am – without swimming. It gave me opportunities to travel and compete at the highest level, and it got me a college education. I made mistakes along the way, and I wish I could do some of that over, but I also learned from all of those situations, so I can’t regret that time because it made me a better person. I am a free spirit, and who you are at heart never changes, and maybe never should change. But swimming gives you a place for your energy and focus and goals, you are around amazing people all the time ... a big thing that I learned is that you really have to remember to enjoy the experience. I brought a lot of baggage with me to college, and I wish I would have learned sooner to relax and meditate. I used to be an atheist, which is probably why I was so mad all the time. But the thing I have worked hardest on is my relationship with God, and I know He does not expect me to be perfect all the time, but He does expect me to try harder, be patient, and work on areas that I need to improve. And I am so thankful for all the people who have been in my life. And if you need help in life, do not be afraid to ask for it – I have learned it’s okay to be vulnerable, and it’s okay to get help from other people. Swimming is especially great at that because the people in it are so motivated and such high achievers, and they know how to make a commitment and keep it.