PHOENIX, Arizona, December 18. DARTMOUTH College junior Nejc Zupan became a major player in the collegiate ranks in the 200 breaststroke recently, and he talks about the circumstances that led to him being one of the nation's best swimmers on today's edition of The Morning Swim Show.
Zupan, a native of Slovenia, talks from the team's training camp in Florida about the freak skiing accident that forced him to switch from being a distance freestyler last season to a breaststroker and individual medley swimmer. That switch has paid off in surprising dividends, with Zupan posting the third-fastest 200-yard breast of the season, dropping three seconds off his lifetime best. Zupan also discusses the draw of leaving the distance free group, and whether he could represent Slovenia internationally as a breaststroker. Be sure to visit SwimmingWorld.TV for more video interviews.
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Jeff Commings: This is The Morning Swim Show for Tuesday, December 18th 2012. I'm your host, Jeff Commings. Dartmouth junior Nejc Zupan is joining us today in the FINIS monitor after a very good meet at the Brown Invitational where he put himself high on the list of the best 200 breaststrokers in the collegiate ranks. Nejc is with the Dartmouth team in Key Largo, Florida for some holiday training where he joins us right now. Nejc, how are you doing today?
Nejc Zupan: Great Jeff, thank you.
Jeff Commings: Well I can't imagine that life in Key Largo is all that bad as we could see. How's Christmas training going right now?
Nejc Zupan: It's great. The temperature and the environment definitely helps with hard practices. We've had great weather so far, sunny all the way through, and the training trip's going great.
Jeff Commings: Well it's time for you to make everybody jealous. You've got to pan the computer around so we could see what it looks like there in Key Largo.
Nejc Zupan: Okay. So as you can see over here there's a private beach for our resort in the ocean and then around here we have kind of a small pool, over there is the team just hanging out after a hard practice, and here's our coach Jenn Verser, and that's pretty much it.
Jeff Commings: Yes, that's definitely got to be one of the best places to be for holiday training. I can't imagine that you guys are complaining that much enduring a hard workout knowing that you've got this environment.
Nejc Zupan: No, not at all. You know after each hard workout you know that you can just go and relax in the beach in the nice weather and it's going to be so much different, so much harder so we're all grateful for this experience.
Jeff Commings: So when you guys go down to Florida for holiday training is it pretty much just increasing yardage or is there anything different that you guys do that you don't do in Dartmouth?
Nejc Zupan: Well for one there's a lot of traditional sets such as 16 400 IM sets, 100 100's, stuff like that that we only do on the training trip. Among other things I think that is different as I said we train a lot of – we have a lot of practices in the long course pool because we don't have that option back at home which is a great way to put in some cardio workout and practices are definitely harder especially because we have nothing else to do here but swim, whereas back in Hanover we have other obligations especially academic ones, so it's a little bit different.
Jeff Commings: All right, so let's talk about your meet a few weeks ago — 1:53.87 in the 200 breaststroke, a lifetime best by I believe a little more than three seconds. Where did that swim come from?
Nejc Zupan: Well to be honest I only started swimming breaststroke last year so I'm still on that upward curve. Well I was tapering for the European championship which was a week before Brown Invite and when I came back the coaches and I decided to extend the taper and to try to get the A-cut because my converted time from the EU Champs was pretty close to an actual A-cut and everything worked out great, everything worked out perfectly at the meet, and Indianapolis here we come.
Jeff Commings: Well let's talk about that. You said you'd only been swimming breaststroke for about a year. Now we interviewed your coach last year and he told us that it was because you had an injury when you went home. I understand you were doing some skiing and you broke your thumb. He said it wasn't really the smartest thing that you've ever done but it turned out well, I mean look what you're doing now in the pool.
Nejc Zupan: Yes. I definitely didn't expect that I would be doing that well in breaststroke, but after the injury I was out of like actual swimming for like around six weeks and the only thing I could do was kicking and I focused on breaststroke kick. I improved my technique a lot, and it's been working great so far. To be honest, even the practices for breaststrokers are way easier than the practices for the milers so I'm happy with that.
Jeff Commings: Well yes, being a breaststroker and knowing what mileage does I would say you definitely got it easy. So when you switched over to doing breaststroke and IM, was it something that you kind of looked back and said “I still want to stay a miler,” or was this something that you were like, “I'll embrace this and take it on”?
Nejc Zupan: Well it's definitely like I approached practices with more enthusiasm because I know they're not that hard, but the milers at least in our team have like a great atmosphere. The team of the distance swimmers they go along well and I guess I missed a little bit of that friendship among the teammates, among the milers, but other than that I'm not looking back.
Jeff Commings: I don't blame you at all, Nejc. I wouldn't look back either. Well, you said you dropped about three seconds in your 200 breast and you got about three seconds more to drop if you want to catch Kevin Cordes. Do you think 1:50.7 is kind of in your future?
Nejc Zupan: Well to be honest I don't know yet, at least not enough about how my technique and my stroke can improve but I don't think I've reached my full potential yet, at least not in 200 breast. I definitely think that I have some reserves especially in my strength, I can definitely get stronger faster in the first 100 and we'll see what that takes me.
Jeff Commings: And you're going to be the first male swimmer at Dartmouth to represent them at the NCAAs in I think 32 years. What does it feel to know that you'll be representing the Big Green at the NCAAs?
Nejc Zupan: Well it's exciting, it's great, it also puts a little bit of pressure on my shoulders, whether I'll do good or not, whether I'll represent my team well enough. But I'll do my best, I'll keep training hard, and we'll see how it goes in March.
Jeff Commings: Do you think there will be any other swimmers on your team who are close to making it to NCAAs?
Nejc Zupan: Hopefully some other people join me. We have a really good team and like each freshman class is getting stronger and we're getting stronger faster, hungrier, and I think that if not this year then next year there will be more than one person from Dartmouth joining the NCAA Championships.
Jeff Commings: That will be fantastic. Now you're from Slovenia. Why did you pick Dartmouth to go to college?
Nejc Zupan: Well when I was choosing a school the swimming part was not my first priority. I was mainly looking for a school with good academics because let's face it you can't really live well with swimming. I was choosing a school that combined both a swimming program, Division 1 program, and good academics and Dartmouth seemed like a perfect choice for me. We have a really good swim team but the school is also really supportive of your other interests. You can basically join whatever club you want aside from swimming. There are not a lot of restrictions such as in other scholarship schools. It's very liberal in that aspect and I think it's a great fit for everyone who knows what he wants and I honestly couldn't be happier with my choice.
Jeff Commings: From what I understand in high school in Slovenia you went to I guess it was like a baccalaureate school, is that correct?
Nejc Zupan: Uh-hm.
Jeff Commings: I guess the academics at that high school kind of seemed like equivalent to what you're doing now at Dartmouth, is that correct?
Nejc Zupan: Yes, that's correct. It was mainly like exams throughout the year, basically very college-oriented so the transition from that high school to college wasn't that hard which helped a lot with my freshman year.
Jeff Commings: What do you think you're going to be planning to major in at Dartmouth?
Nejc Zupan: Well I plan to double major in Mathematics and Economics, hopefully it works out, so far.
Jeff Commings: Yes, that's a pretty good double major. What kind of career path does that lead to?
Nejc Zupan: Well I would like to see myself working in a corporate finance firm, preferably investment banking division, maybe even private equity after a while, and then perhaps get an MBA after two or three years of work experience.
Jeff Commings: Well before you do all that we're already looking forward to seeing you at NCAAs but next summer it looks like there's a good chance you'll be representing Slovenia at the World Championships?
Nejc Zupan: There's a good chance, yes. I talked to my coach back at home already and we'll see how that training goes. Long course races are a little bit different and they require a lot of training in long course pools so I think I'll have to talk to Dartmouth coaches as well which I believe they will be more than happy to help me with everything. But it's definitely on the agenda and I think hopefully I will be participating in the World Championships in Barcelona as well.
Jeff Commings: Well that will be pretty exciting. Probably when you are making your goals you probably thought if you were ever going to be representing your country it was going to be in the mile and here you are. Your best chance is in the 200 breaststroke right now.
Nejc Zupan: Yes.
Jeff Commings: It's funny the way life turns out.
Nejc Zupan: Yes, definitely.
Jeff Commings: Well Nejc thanks so much for joining us. I can tell that you're having a great time out there working hard in Florida and we're glad to see that. Good luck the rest of this season and we'll see you at NCAAs.
Nejc Zupan: Thank you, Jeff. It was a pleasure talking to you.
Jeff Commings: All right, we'll see you in a few months.
Nejc Zupan: Bye.
Jeff Commings: All right, so that's Nejc Zupan enjoying some sun down there in Florida. And that's going to do it for us on today's edition of The Morning Swim Show. Be sure to log in to swimmingworld.com and follow us on Facebook and Twitter for all the latest swimming news. I'm Jeff Commings, thanks for watching.
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