By Bob Schaller//Contributor | Tuesday, March 27, 2018
In Part II, Nathan Adrian offers his thoughts of three things on the minds of many swimmers: How great his Cal men’s team is, how amazing the Stanford women and the U.S. women’s Olympic team is, and just how incredible the ever-speedier Caeleb Dressel is, in this week’s 20 Question Tuesday.
1. How do you explain to people how amazing Caeleb Dressel is?
Nathan: First, the big thing is he is a great, great guy. He’s hard working, he’s talented and has the skill set to do some extraordinary things, as everyone can see.
2. Even though he’s young, he seems like a good leader, is that accurate?
Nathan: Yes, it is. He is genuinely friendly and gets along well with everyone. He’s a big part of the team chemistry.
3. The easy, lazy comparison is to Michael Phelps, but Caeleb could not be more different -- shouldn’t that be what’s notable about him, how unique he is?
Nathan: I couldn’t agree more. I really dislike when people say, “The next Michael Phelps,” “The next Tiger Woods,” or “The next Michael Jordan. Look at Caeleb’s skillset: He’s not the next anything. Everyone should be focused on being the first and best version of themselves. Caeleb has embraced that, which is great. Michael is the GOAT. Let Caeleb’s story unfold and happen organically as we go forward. There’s nothing wrong and it’s perfectly fine to make predictions, and even in that area, Caeleb is already wholly unique.
4. You really swam well at Worlds in Budapest, how was the city itself?
Nathan: Oh yeah, Budapest! I cannot say enough great stuff about Budapest the city and how they handled that competition. They had less warning than most, took it over late and did just an amazing job.
5. Did you get to experience the amazing history of that place?
Nathan: We had river taxis taking us to and from the buses. And we had a great hotel situation on the river, so we developed a better understanding and appreciation for how historic the region is.
6. Did you get a grasp of everything that city has been through?
Nathan: The historic landmarks on way to the pool were mind blowing, as well as how beautiful the city was. Cities that old don’t always age that well, but Budapest certainly did and continues to.
7. How crazy was it that the U.S. team at Worlds had such chemistry -- was it really that special?
Nathan: It certainly was. I love watching the way these teams unfold. And it’s interesting because it kind of seems like there are sections of eras these days, and this one is certainly one we’ll all remember as something special.
8. A new group and, though it’s cyclical, far fewer pros and far more collegiates than we used to see for a while there?
Nathan: Yes, on these trips Conor (Dwyer) and I are the old ones! But the teams we have now mesh as well as I have ever seen it. These people are genuinely friends. That adds so much to our performance. There’s not a rigorous way to quantify it but it definitely helps your performance.
9. And Matt Grevers for Worlds, you two as team captains -- a lot of people were happy to see him back, I bet we can count you among us?
Nathan: For Matt and I, we’re just so fortunate to travel the world together for going on 10 years now. That’s not going to last forever, and I think it’s cool we understand it.
10. So different from when you guys were on the road more than a half decade ago and the world fell in love with the friendship?
Nathan: It’s such a respect and friendship. And we cherish every moment on the team together. It’s cool to have someone else feel the same way. The young guys seem to feed off that, too.
11. We’ve talked for more than a decade now about what we’re doing next, what will you do post swimming?
Nathan: I have been giving that more thought. To that end, in 2016 I took a job working with Walmart in eCommerce. I learned so much. It was also challenging and helped me expand my mind and grasp of what is next. I learned a lot, and I was able to grow my skillset, and maybe build my network and put some feelers out for when I am looking to enter the job market.
12. You’re such a student of the sport though, can’t you see yourself coaching?
Nathan: I think about that. And I have actually thought, “Is this what I want to do, go into coaching or into swimming somehow?” I will spend some time exploring that. The better prepared you are, the easier it is to land on your feet -- and I say that now (laughs) but I realize that nothing about it is likely to be easy.
13. You got back to the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs recently. I haven’t been back in 15 years, do they still have the pool where the public can watch?
Nathan: They do and there are still tours that are available. At first you kind of feel like you are a little bit of a zoo (laughs) animal but you get used to it and enjoy it. It’s great to wave back to the kid waving to you and see how happy it makes them. That’s part of the whole deal for a trip like (that), and enjoying all the amenities and resources they provide for us.
14. I went up into the mountains of New Mexico and thought I’d suffer, but after a lifetime at altitude, it seems based in my system now -- is that something you get having been there so many times?
Nathan: It’s something that you manage. I certainly do feel it still, but I know what my body can handle. So I know when I can press the pedal to the metal or when to hit the breaks. It’s all a game of management and knowing what you can ask or demand of your body.
15. I was at a race. I got excited running around at the finish line and almost stroked out -- do you get that sort of feeling if you go too hard?
Nathan: You can definitely over train yourself, especially the first few days. There’s a right and wrong way to come to a training camp at altitude. The wrong way is to hit it too hard.
16. You’ve seen such a change at Cal, Dave coming in, the NCAA titles, the new pool, just these amazing Olympians -- what’s that been like being in that area during this era?
Nathan: I mean, there’s always change at Cal out here, and I was able to spend the latter half of the tech revolution in the Bay Area. It’s just like when I go home (to Washington) in so many ways -- in how it’s changed. It’s also interesting seeing how things change at different rates.
17. The men’s swim team at Cal has changed at a fast rate too, hasn’t it?
Nathan: It has been a great ride, and a great thing to be a part of. Being part of it, transitioning from a top 10 team to a top 5 team for all these years -- it’s crazy. And we take a lot of pride in that. During my time here, the guys Dave brought in turned everything around and created that change. They are a good group and easy to cheer for, and it’s good to see how they have taken ownership in that. It all starts from the top with Dave, through the training, and being with a bunch of guys who aren’t negative. It’s fun to be around them and see what they are doing and understand it on a day-to-day basis.
18. You -- and everyone else I talked to -- mentioned the chemistry on the World team, and how the U.S. had that in Rio, but it seemed to increase even more in Budapest -- how is that possible?
Nathan: We have a lot of good guys and good women. They are good people. Nice, good thinkers -- very good hearted and intelligent. Having that kind of person is one big piece of the puzzle that creates that sort of team atmosphere.
19. I’ve been in this role since before the 2000 Games. To see where the women’s program is now, how amazing are they individually and as a group -- and yet so unique, from Simone Manuel and Katie Ledecky to Lilly King and Katie Meili, and all the younger swimmers coming up?
Nathan: I couldn’t agree more, and when you know them it’s even more impressive. It’s great that people can watch it and experience what our team is like. Those are all true stories about how we got along and were there for each other. They are all such unique stories, who they are and where they are from, and what they’d had to overcome and demand of themselves.
20. And great leadership of which you are a part -- isn’t that a key in setting the tone and getting everyone going in the same direction?
Nathan: I wholeheartedly believe that. When you come up onto the team now, you can see someone in your race who is a role model on our team. That is so important for the younger athletes to see now -- it’s easier to see that path when you see someone standing before you who has done that or is doing that. You can compete against someone to get on the team or in a race, but you can also compete with and for them, too. It’s a special group when your teammates mean that much to each other, and the results show how it helps the performance, too.