Catching Up With Micha Burden

By Jason Marsteller

PHOENIX, Arizona, October 26. WHILE her head coach, Bill Rose of Mission Viejo, wasn't surprised at the success of Micha (pronounced Meeka for those that wonder) Burden at the U.S. Open Water World Championships Trials in Fort Myers, Fla., many even in the open water community saw Burden's win in the 10K as an upset.

Burden is definitely a self-made person. She rents a room from a host family, and lives on a bare bones budget as she focuses her entire life towards a dream – Olympic gold. Although TYR made sure she had the essential equipment to train for the World Championships Trials, Burden does not have a sponsor. And, when asked about the sacrifices she's made, she sees it as just part of the process and is not bothered by having done so.

Here is the interview SwimmingWorldMagazine.com did with Burden today:

First and foremost, with you training in California, are you impacted at all by the destruction occurring in California due to the fires in the southern portion of the state?
Yes. I am renting a room from a family right now, and their grandfather just lost their house.

How have the fires impacted you?
The fires have been devastating. When Hurricane Katrina hit, I never knew anyone directly that had been affected by it. When I came home from practice on Tuesday night, I asked George, who is the grandfather of the family I live with, if their house was okay. He looked at me and said, "No, it's gone." Knowing that they have lost many of the items that hold their memories that they will never get to see again, or be able to show to their grandchildren is difficult.

I am actually surprised by how well the family has handled it. They have handled the loss with a great amount of strength and are just grateful to know that everyone is okay and that they can move on from this.

Let's get back to something a bit more joyful. What were your emotions when you first won the World Championships Trials in Fort Myers, and what are your emotions like now?
It was kind of weird, because I had been planning on that moment for the last year and a half. I always had imagined I would be emotional. But, when I finished, I can't really remember. I was just in shock. I was so excited, but I couldn't feel any emotion. My family was there crying, and I was really excited, but I didn't feel as emotional as I thought I would be.

Now, I guess, I am still kind of in shock. I am anxious just to get back to training, and am trying to reassess my goals and do everything I can to be successful in Seville.

What do you think about the incredible open water group Bill Rose has going at Mission Viejo?
It has been a great work environment. With Chloe [Sutton], Fran [Crippen] and Chad [La Tourette] here, it is really competitive. Everyone is pushing each other to be better. It makes training better when you can compete against the best on a daily basis.

What do you think about Coach Rose?
I think that my decision to come here was the best decision for my swimming career at this time. At this time in my career, Coach Rose is the best coach for me to swim with, and I just love him.

One thing that occurred at Trials is that your teammate, Chloe Sutton, finished third to fall out of the process of trying to qualify for the Olympics as only the top two advance to Worlds in Seville. [From that point, only the top 10 will qualify to swim in Beijing.] What do you think about Chloe?
I think that Chloe is an amazing athlete. I really admired watching her this year as she charged every race and went for it. That is really admirable. It is unfortunate that she got third, but she is really young and has plenty more Olympics in her to be successful. I know she will do it. I really think I owe a lot to having Chloe on the team. I might not have been in the position I was to win if not for training with her.

Now that everyone on your team knows who is going to Worlds, how has the team worked on backing up your training as you continue with your Olympic dream?
We just got back from Florida, and our training hasn't been that good with the fires and bad air quality. We are going to be getting back to work next week, when we head to Colorado Springs. I don't expect it to be any different on the team now that I have made Seville. I am sure Coach Rose will still pick on me. We still have three people going to Seville, as Chloe and Chad are going to Seville in the 5K.

You spent your last few years of collegiate swimming at the University of California, what was it like swimming there?
I absolutely loved my experience at Berkeley. I loved the team and coach. I miss the city terribly, and was proud to be part of that team and swim with Natalie Coughlin and Staciana Stitts. I had a great time there.

What were your best memories from your time at Cal?
That's easy. I swam my fifth year because my fourth year, I was injured. My fifth year, we beat Stanford for the first time. When we pulled it out and won, it was the most amazing feeling I ever experienced. It was such a team effort. At NCAAs, I was on the 400 free relay and we placed third. That also was really exciting.

Before swimming with the Golden Bears, you competed in both swimming and water polo at Golden West College. Did that water polo experience help you while training for open water? How so?
When I went to Golden West, I had never played water polo before. I wasn't very good, and I definitely wasn't very aggressive with other competitors. I think it helped me a little bit in being a little more physical. However, I have been doing ocean racing and lifeguarding competitions since I moved to California, and that has been the best experience for me. A lot of the ocean races, you are swimming with men, and they will swim over you. All those races have given me an advantage.

What do you think about the physicality of open water?
I think it can be a little daunting at times, but I still think I have a lot of room for improvement as far as being in a big pack and holding my own. I am not very good at the physical aggression. In the next couple of months, I think that is something I have to work on. I have been able to deal with getting hit, it doesn't phase me as much as it used to. It is just something you have to accept. I know I can swim into people sometimes, and it is not always an attack. It's just something that happens in the pack.

Some swimmers are actually fans of the sport, while others focus completely on their own lane and just competing. Do you pay attention to what is going on in open water around the world?
I like to read about the World Cups and what people are doing internationally. When I was in college, I was never aware of what other people are doing. I was just swimming at Cal and cared about the Pac 10. I never really paid attention to anything else. This time around, I have been a lot more aware of what is going on.

With that being said, what do you think about some of the top-flight international swimmers out there?
Right now, I want to focus on the World Championships, with the Olympics as my main goal. I want to be successful there at both, so I really am not focusing on other swimmers. World Championships is going to be really aggressive and competitive, though. I don't want to underestimate the competition.

The World Championships are just going to be very aggressive and physical. I think that my race plan will be different going into Seville than in Beijing just because of the number of people that will be there.

We've heard that you have really had to sacrifice to participate in this sport. What types of sacrifices have you had to make? How are you able to afford to train?
I make a lot of the same sacrifices that a lot of people in my sport make. Financially, it has been difficult to train and pay the bills and keep training. When I set out on this experience, I didn't want to look back with regret. I wanted to do everything in my power to give this a go.

I have survived on a small budget, but I am not working because I have focused on my training. I do feel like I am getting older and I want to feel like a grownup and be able to afford rent and nice things, but at the same time I feel really fortunate to have this opportunity to struggle through. It doesn't really seem like a sacrifice, because I am doing what I want to do.

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