By Bob Schaller//Contributor | Tuesday, July 25, 2017
Bill Rose hasn’t taken his eyes off of Hungary this week -- not only did Nadadores alum Ashley Twichell win open water gold, but the longtime Mission Viejo coach said after Monday’s events that the U.S. team is holding its own and then some -- and that he’s very proud of the Americans. The man who helped propel so many Olympians to their own dreams is retiring at the end of the year, but in this week’s 20 Question Tuesday, he provides some special insights on the 2017 FINA World Championships taking place in Hungary.
1. How about Ashley Twichell claiming gold, are you just amazed?
Bill: I am more proud than anything else. To see her just continue to be as motivated as she is and actually see her get better and better along the way despite a lot of setbacks, just incredible.
2. Ashley has had her share and then some of obstacles, hasn’t she?
Bill: It’s a great story to tell. She’s had enough setbacks -- most who had that many would say “Thank you very much” and call it a career. She won’t take that approach and go home. About six months ago, she was saying, “I don’t know, maybe this will be it.” Chip (Peterson) is moving on, so she was losing her training partner. She thought she’d just wait and see how it goes. Well, obviously now, what’s she going to do. It’s like, “Uh-oh, I’m a world champion!” I think she’ll want to continue.
3. How much do you appreciate Nathan Adrian and what he did Monday and hopes to do yet to come this week?
Bill: I am so impressed by him. It’s been an honor to know him along the way, even from afar. Any time I see him or have anything to do with him, he’s such a true professional. He never has a bad word to say about anyone.
4. Katie Ledecky has picked up where she left off, hasn’t she, this week?
Bill: There is such a chasm between her and the field. We have to work not to take her for granted because she’s in a different world. But I also really like Leah Smith -- she is always up to give Katie a good go all the time.
5. What in particular do you like about Leah Smith?
Bill: I’ve had very good conversations with Leah. What I really like about her is her doggedness. She keeps plugging along. But she really cares about others as much as she cares about herself.
6. Is there an example that comes to mind?
Bill: I remember her coming up to me when (former Nadadore) Katie McLaughlin had broken her neck, and Leah asked, “Is there anything I can do to help her? To realize she’ll be okay and come back from this?” Things like that, unsolicited. That’s character.
7. And Leah shifting up the distances and adding the IM?
Bill: Oh yeah! The situation she is in is incredible. I think, like Katie, she is going to be the best no matter what it takes. Leah is like, “I don’t care who is in front of me, or behind me. I will race the devil out of them.”
8. What’s something that makes her successful?
Bill: Leah, like Katie, is very coachable. I have seen how good Leah is. Her coach tells her to do something, she does it. She’s like, Lead me to the fire, let’s get on with it.”
9. Coachability seems less of an issue these days, but it’s still important isn’t it?
Bill: Yes. And for the most part, it’s just about buying into the coach. So many coaches are good coaches; if you have a good swimmer, and the coach follows the program -- they won’t allow themselves to be distracted by their own thoughts. That’s exactly the kind of person that Larsen Jensen was, too.
10. Who does Lilly King remind you of that you coached?
Bill: (Two time Olympic gold medalist) Michael Bruner. Lilly might open some eyes with some of her statements at times, but she’s just being honest -- she’s just being herself. And she owns it. She will tell you, “That’s just who I am.” She may not be a favored person all the time with some of her statements at times, but at the same time, she’s so honest about it, she’s like, “That’s who I am.” That’s how Mike Bruner was, “This is my path.” They know where they are headed.
11. How proud are you of your former assistant and current Tennessee assistant coach Tyler Fenwick?
Bill: He is someone who, if you and I are lucky enough to talk in a few years, will have a lot more great things to talk about. He turned a lot of corners coaching for me. He knew a lot, but thought he knew more. But as each year went along, he learned more and more. He was passionate -- as he is and continues to be -- but he knows now he still has a lot more to learn. He’s kept maturing. That’s why I think that’s where he is now, but he also has a great path in front of him because there’s nothing that should stop him.
12. Jordan Wilimovsky winning silver this week -- and his coach from Santa Monica, Dave Kelsheimer -- how does Jordan do it?
Bill: I don’t really know Jordan that well but there are a combination of things he has that makes him special. In my opinion, he’s got a great one-on-one relationship with his coaches. Dave Kelsheimer has done a great job, and Jordan is doing well in college now too (at Northwestern). Jordan is a young man of few words, but I can tell you he is a heck of a competitor regardless of his size!
13. Who has surprised you the most so far from Hungary?
Bill: Mallory Comerford. She is fantastic. The first time I noticed her this year was at NCAAs or a meet before that -- she’s swims for Louisville ... all of the sudden, she came onto the scene. It certainly wasn’t a one-time deal. Once she arrived, she kept making one giant step after another along the way. Where it stops, who is to know? She has come right along. In the last six months, she has come along more than most people do in 2 or 3 years.
14. Caeleb Dressel must be your cup of tea with his unique personality and diverse talent?
Bill: I love it and I love that he swims (at Florida) for Gregg Troy. We as coaches love people who buy into what we think is important. Gregg is a throwback. He trains Caeleb knowing he has a lot of speed but has to be in the proper condition to realize all that speed. He accepts the coaching. And he doesn’t accept “just” being a sprinter.
15. Kelsi Worrell -- what makes her so good as she showed again this week at worlds, medaling?
Bill: She’s really, really powerful -- scary powerful, as far as I can see. The other thing I have noticed about her is she has become a great student of the sport, and much more controlled -- she always had good walls, but getting her to finish a race in long course has completely turned around. I don’t see her wanting to stop for any reason. For her to be able to take it from where she was to where she is now and keep learning about the sport, I think there’s more left in that tank.
16. How about how Simone Manuel followed up Rio with what she did to start Worlds with the relay gold?
Bill: Absolutely, Simone is so impresses. Look at what she did in Rio. She stepped it up against everybody who was supposed to beat her and came out on top. You see what happens after an Olympic year -- people want time off -- and they’re happy if they even get close to what they did. She didn’t take time off. She and (Stanford, 2016 Olympic and 2017 World Championship) Coach (Greg) Meehan just moved forward. She did well representing Stanford and never took a step back. She’s also a really, really smart young woman, and a very hard worker. She doesn’t seem phased by the coverage of her -- she’s one who doesn’t seem to read her newspaper clippings, and that’s so good to see.
17. Kevin Cordes rebounding from Rio at Worlds with silver Monday, what does that say about him?
Bill: Anyone like Kevin who has been knocked down and comes back like that is a hero in my mind. It’s so difficult -- and this comes back to why I treasure what Ashley’s done so much -- when you don’t medal after that time and energy, but he still comes back. That was a tough race. He stayed with it.
18. A lot of people are excited to see Chase Kalisz swim. He overcame Guillain-Barre as a kid, he’s really a battler, isn’t he?
Bill: I have followed Chase’s career. He got pretty good, pretty young. A lot of times when that happens, they do all right but they don’t always keep coming. Chase wasn’t going to be stopped. He just gets up and goes for it. He’s quite a character.
19. What remaining women’s races at Worlds are you eager to watch?
Bill: The women’s 800 will be fun to watch -- to see how close Katie can come to her record, and to see how Leah does after what she did last year. I’d also like to see the 400 IM -- to see Katinka Hosszu from Hungary, swim. I really like how she goes after it.
20. On the men’s side what’s a race you’re looking forward to that is remaining?
Bill: I’ll look forward to the 100 free, with Nathan Adrian and Caeleb Dressel. It would be so nice to see them go 1 and 2. And it’s so good for Caeleb to have someone like Nathan to look up to -- and you know Nathan is cheering him on as much as anyone. The backstroke is also exciting to watch -- everyone wants to see Matt (Grevers) do well, because he’s been so great as a person and swimmer for so long. But we’re also going to be rooting for Ryan Murphy, too. He was really special at age 14, one of those kids who you’d hope would continue on. And he has -- just look at what he’s become today. He is awesome, just fantastic.