By Bob Schaller//Contributor | Tuesday, November 8, 2016
Haley Anderson won silver in 2012 at the London Games and in Rio at the 2016 Olympics once again was at the front of the pack with a fifth-place finish. She turns 25 later this month, yet her career haul includes two World Championship gold medals (‘13 and ‘15), and Pan Pacs gold in 2014. She was also a standout in the pool at USC, and internationally, with gold in the 1500 and silver in the 800 at WUGs in 2011. And that doesn’t even count her amazing journey to qualify for the Olympics each time, but particularly in 2012. She talks about what it’s like to already look back, and what she’s looking to moving forward, in this week’s 20 Question Tuesday.
1. What a career so far -- has it sunk in, all that you’ve accomplished?Haley: Yes, I mean, I was able to take some time off after Rio. Everything happened so fast in London, so I made sure I took time in Rio to enjoy the process. This year has definitely been totally different. Yes, the older I have gotten the more I have reflected on my journey.
2. Being a leader in open water, how much does that mean to you?
Haley: I am so proud of open water. It’s such a great family. It’s fun to be amongst those kind of people. I don’t think of making a huge impact, but if I did in any way, that’s amazing. And I get to do what I love to do. If I helped people and inspired them, that means a lot -- but I was just living my life and having so much fun doing it.
3. So to keep swimming or retire -- to decide to continue, is that a tough call?
Haley: It was a really hard decision for me. I was happy with what I accomplished so far. So I have thought about all the experiences. But no one talks about that in between stage of your life, where you are unsure if you want to keep going. No one talks about that uncertainty. I didn’t know anyone who wasn’t in or out -- a “hard in” or “hard out” if you will. It was really hard for me. But I still love it, and I am doing well. I still want to be a part of the sport. I like the travel too, that’s a big thing for me, all that traveling I get to do -- and do the sport for the love of it, not only be results oriented. I have had some fun with it and traveled some places more to enjoy it rather than a specific result.
4. How was the water in Rio after all the concern beforehand?
Haley: I was totally okay with the water. There was so much negativity about it going into it -- not just the water. It was a year of battling all the negative vibes being pushed toward Rio. The water quality. Could Rio host the Olympics. The drugs controversy. There’s a point where you step back and have to focus on yourself and what you have to do to perform.
5. Have you totaled the miles you have swum the past seven years -- not just open water, but in the pool at USC and training?
Haley: No, I don’t want to (laughs) think about that. That’s the crazy thing. I know I’m not swimming the most compared to a lot of people, but I am swimming a lot.
6. Do people still have a hard time processing when you tell them how far you swim in an open water competition?
Haley: I say the 10k and it blows their mind. And then I tell them about what it was like in the 25k and that (laughs) just kills them.
7. So what do you do to unwind now -- you and Eva Fabian must be excited with Harry Potter being brought back to life?
Haley: I’ve definitely started getting into different things. My heart always is with Harry Potter. But I have started to enjoy other books and series, things like that. But it’s cool Harry Potter is coming around for the next generation with a new play and books.
8. USC assistant coach and USA head open water coach Catherine Vogt -- what has she, and her daughter Carson, meant to do you, because as great as Catherine is as a coach, isn’t she even better than that as a person?
Haley: I was just going to say that, a great coach but an even better person. Being around for Carson and the birthday she just had...I really enjoy that. I told her I will always be around that whether they want me or not! It’s fun to see Carson growing up, and see Catherine keep growing. I have a great family at home that I am close to, but Catherine and Carson, together they are another family for me.
9. Are you back in the water then already?
Haley: Right now I am still in the early stages of getting back into shape. I took a good chunk of time off this time and did some fun stuff. So it’s more like managing your life and everything. But I will get back into shape in the next month, which will (laughs) be really hard.
10. So the focus shifts gears post quad, right?
Haley: This past year with the Olympics was hard with swimming and swimming, then swimming. But I enjoy Kendyl Stewart joining our post-grad group, we have a lot of fun. It’s nice to have that new addition. She’s awesome. Every day we’re (laughs) complaining about the coach’s play list -- the music they play, so we created our own, which is fun.
11. Swimming is still fun then?
Haley: I’ve always enjoyed swimming. Yes, I complain (laughs) here and there, but I see the big picture and enjoy it, and there’s no place I’d rather be than in the pool.
12. Is the open water group really as close-knit as we hear it is?
Haley: It really is that close. And it’s been the same group pretty much since I’ve gotten into it -- a few new people here and there, but mostly the same little group. You really get to know each other. We have gotten so close. They are incredible and bring something neat to our little group. I got to experience all the newness of open water together, and this time I was a veteran which was different. So we had Sean (Ryan) and Jordan (Wilimovsky) for Rio (on the U.S. men’s team), and that was so great. We helped each other a lot. A different group was great, and I was different too, this time around.
13. Rio and London; different experiences for you?
Haley: I was the ultimate underdog getting into it just two years before London. And open water is all about having that experience. The only international race I had swum before at Worlds was the 25k, so they had no idea how I swam, what I was about. No one was thinking about me and that is when I thrive, when I have to prove myself.
14. A lot of medals -- must feel pretty neat to have those as reminders of what you’ve done?
Haley: I definitely accomplished more than I set out to. But winning that silver in London was amazing. Four years later it is still hard to explain what went into that with qualifying and all that went into it in a short span.
15. Any places stand out?
Haley: One of my favorite spots was our training camp before Kazan (Worlds 2015) -- that is on the top of my list, this little tiny town and lake where we trained, it was picturesque. In open water you get to experience more places because you’re not in a pool, you’re outside and you see these towns and cities. That’s what I really like about open water.
16. You gotta get back there don’t you?
Haley: I have realized I should experience more of those places as I have gotten older. You never know how long you are going to keep going. So one of my goals is to enjoy the places and experience the people even more.
17. I’ve heard stories about bus rides, changing courses -- a lot of variables out of your control, how did you deal with that over the years?
Haley: It’s funny because I am such a structured person and I don’t like those unknown variables in my own life. But now I know I can do things in my life because of those experiences. Last weekend I flew into a city for this wedding, and I had to shuttle three hours to a ferry, and I just kind of went with the flow -- so I guess I am better at that. Open water made me realize I can roll with the punches -- it doesn’t matter what is thrown at me.
18. Both of your sisters, Jordan swimming for the University of Utah, and your gold medal Olympian older sister Alyssa who went to Arizona -- and how your parents raised you three, how much does that mean now after everything you’ve done?
Haley: I really thank my parents for everything they have done for us. They really molded us into who we are. They never made us swim. They set things up, all they asked is that we saw things through. That built our character. We didn’t accomplish things because our parents told us to, we did it because we set and went after our goals. I’m sure it wasn’t easy for them sometimes -- I went through phases where I didn’t want to swim. Somehow by the end of each season I would finish it out and want to do it again. And my sisters are both so amazing. They are incredible people, but they are also both so much fun. I called my younger sister Jordan and she sounded so much like Alyssa, I was like, “Alyssa?” They are just a joy. They make everyone feel welcome. They are both a really fun time.
19. Being one of the models for the Olympic uniform, and now Golden Goggles coming up, how much do you enjoy that kind of thing and all the wonderful praise on Facebook and Twitter for how you did modeling?
Haley: I am bringing my Mom this time to Golden Goggles. We’re going to make a whole weekend out of it. We’ll shop for dresses; we’re going to a play. It’s my birthday weekend, it’ll be fun. As far as the modeling, you don’t really think about those things as you are doing it. You hope things will work out. It just reminds me how fortunate I was to get into open water because who knows if I would’ve gotten all of these amazing opportunities?
20. These past seven years -- going to USC, the run-up to London and winning silver, all the medals before and since, and Rio -- how has it shaped you?Haley: What’s that saying about how if you do the same thing every time you shouldn’t expect different results? Every year is different, every season is different, and there are new challenges -- and some are harder than others. It’s been an incredible journey. That’s what is great about open water; you learn something about yourself every single time. And that is what I enjoy most about it. Because that’s life in general; something new is coming up, and every time it will teach you about life, but also about yourself and those around you. I am more confident with myself. I am more comfortable with who I am, and who I am becoming.