PHOENIX, Arizona, June 15. ON today's edition of The Morning Swim Show Chuck Warner talks about the process that led to the publication of his second book, …And Then They Won Gold.
The book, which is available now as a pre-order in the Swimming World Swim Shop in advance of its Wednesday debut, features the comprehensive back stories of eight Olympic legends and their roads to wining gold. Warner talks about the people who helped guide him through these stories and why the athletes he picked were so compelling. Be sure to visit SwimmingWorld.TV for more video interviews.
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Jeff Commings: This is The Morning Swim Show for Friday, June 15th 2012. I'm your host, Jeff Commings. Today in the FINIS monitor we will talk to Chuck Warner, the author of a new book out next Wednesday featuring the extraordinary stories of eight swimming legends and the paths they took to Olympic glory. The book is called “And Then They Won Gold: Stepping Stones to Swimming Excellence” and Chuck Warner joins us right now from Martinsville, New Jersey. Coach, welcome to the show. How are you today?
Chuck Warner: Good morning, Jeff. It's great to see you.
Jeff Commings: So the title of this book as we said is “And Then They Won Gold: Stepping Stones to Swimming Excellence” but there's an ellipsis before that so when you're talking to people about the title do you have to pause first to kind of emphasize those? What is the meaning of those ellipses?
Chuck Warner: That was — a friend of mine came up with the title. First the idea that before you ever win a gold medal in the Olympics or anywhere else there's something that comes first, so that's why we put those three dots in front the title. This book is about what happens before the gold.
Jeff Commings: And you've got eight swimmers who have won gold medals in the Olympics and we'll run down those names now – Matt Biondi, David Berkoff, Mike Barrowman, Josh Davis, Lenny Krayzelburg, Ian Crocker, Grant Hackett, and Aaron Peirsol. So how did you pick those eight swimmers?
Chuck Warner: Well you know this was a rather amazing project. To my mind from your former coach Eddie Reese who suggested to me that what we needed in swimming for coaches and swimmers, some sort of a recipe book. He said that if you go in a kitchen to bake a cake and you don't just start pouring flour in a bowl, you go to the book, you go over to somebody experienced for you and you use that to help build your recipe to bake that cake and over time you learn. So I started thinking about having a sprint freestyler, middle distance freestyler, distance freestyler, back, breast, butterfly person that would all be in the book. Matt Biondi to me is one of the all-time great swimmers, and it just seemed like a story that should be told. There was a blend there between Matt and sprint freestyle and Mike and breaststroke and the legacy we've got covered pretty nicely in the last 25 years in backstroke with Dave Berkoff and Aaron Peirsol and Lenny Krayzelburg in the middle. And then the other thing, like you, I had coached some of these guys on the US National team, so I knew David pretty well, I knew Mike Barrowman pretty well, I knew Josh Davis pretty well and I felt like those guys would be a good part of the book.
Jeff Commings: And there's obviously an obscene amount of research and time that you had to spend interviewing a lot of people. From the first – I guess from the inception of the idea to the publication of this book next week what was the time frame of putting this all together?
Chuck Warner: Oh boy, when I wrote Four Champions, One Gold Medal I was coaching. It took two or three years to really bring it to fruition. And this book was six months or more of just working like a nut. I took my daughter to get her graduation dress in New York City and I sat in the middle of Times Square writing while she went into shops with a friend of hers. It was just an obsession for an immense amount of time for about six months.
Jeff Commings: So pretty much every spare moment you had you were writing.
Chuck Warner: I was making them, I was making the moments, it was a lot of time.
Jeff Commings: So in researching these athletes who as you said you've had the experience to coach were there any nuggets of information that you found fascinating that you had never known about them?
Chuck Warner: Oh my God, it was amazing. I wish I had had this book when I first started to coach because I think sometimes – I was talking to Dave Salo about this – while we're all coaching where swimmers see more of what the options are and be more creative and I think we get so consumed with our daily work — if you're a college coach recruiting never ends, if you're a club coach you're getting up several times early in the morning usually and you're working until late at night, you're dealing with parents, you're dealing with budgets, you're dealing with so many different things it's hard to step back and look at your whole program and really get a glimpse of what it would take for someone who really does it well. So I just – I hunted down Bert Hall, who was Mike Barrowman's summer club coach in the recreation department in Rockville, Maryland to try to find out how Mike got started. Stu Kahn was easier to find. He was Matt Biondi's club coach. For each and every person I tried to find where they started and talked with those coaches that helped them right in the beginning. I could go on for days about how many things there was to learn but just trying to articulate breaststroke the way Jozsef Nagy had done with Mike was something that would have helped me help you back in 1990 when we went to Paris together in the US Junior Team. I was too busy just trying to do my job and to learn more.
Jeff Commings: Well as you've mentioned this is your second book, your first book is the very popular Four Champions, One Gold Medal. For those who may not know followed four summers as they were preparing for and actually racing for that gold medal in the 1500 freestyle in the 1976 Olympics, correct?
Chuck Warner: Right. The last time America was dominant in this event.
Jeff Commings: And to me, having read both of these books I think this new one And Then They Won Gold seems like a sequel of sorts. You're kind of carrying on from this legacy of these four swimmers and how great training was in the '70s and now you're moving on to the way training is and was in the '80s and '90s.
Chuck Warner: Yes, a sequel in a sense of trying to learn more about now people have gotten faster. I wanted to make sure that we had people that were current. In other words, Aaron Peirsol is obviously the greatest male backstroker in the history of the world and I should say that I'm starting to work on a woman's book to compliment this one. It's too much to put all the men and all the women together in one book. I try to find people that were current. Biondi still has the pool record at Texas in the 100 freestyle, 48.42 I think, from 1988 Olympic Trials, those guys would still be very effective and very competitive today. So yes, in a sense it was bringing training more to a current level, the difference between Grant Hackett training distance freestyle and Bobby Hackett training distance freestyle or Brian Goodell training distance freestyle was huge but one of the neat things, Jeff, was Dennis Cottorell, Grant Hackett's coach told me that he would read stories from Four Champions, One Gold Medal to Grant Hackett and his teammates to help inspire them to know that some of the things that those guys had done in the '70s were a whole lot harder than what Grant was doing in the 1990's or 2000s.
Jeff Commings: Very interesting. So you mentioned volume 2 is going to be about the women. Do you want to give us a sneak peak about some of those athletes who we're going to be reading about?
Chuck Warner: Well I've been in touch with Mary T. and I really think Mary T.'s 57.9, 2:05.9 in 1981 butterfly is pretty darn current for our swimmers. She's the third fastest 200 butterflyer still today in all of American women's swimming. I hope Tracy Caulkins would be a part of it because anybody who has held every American record in every stroke deserves to be remembered and go from there. It's tough sometimes to get a good mix of people that are really current. These guys that won 28 Olympic gold medals between them – that's a pretty incredible group to have. So I'm not sure if I'll find women who have accumulated that many but I hope we can get some girls to help. These guys like Matt, Aaron, and Josh took a lot of time to contribute to this book and we all appreciate that and I hope the world the world of swimming does.
Jeff Commings: Well the book comes out next Wednesday as we said, June 20th, and we're all looking forward to seeing volume two, like you said. Mary T. and Tracy are excellent names and I can probably give you 20 more who should be included.
Chuck Warner: Well I'd like to hear them. I don't know if you recognize this poster back over my right shoulder but that is from Paris in 1990 when Jeff Commings and Josh Davis and Joe Hudepohl and Matt Hooper and Brad Bridgewater and a number of Olympians went for the national junior team there. Right in the center back here, Jeff, is your autograph with “USA number 1” and you're the only person on that poster that wrote that on it so I really appreciate the work you're doing in being on the Jeff Commings Show.
Jeff Commings: Well thank you very much Chuck. I always have vivid memories of that trip and it will definitely stick with me for the rest of my life. It was one of those experiences that started me on this journey and as you said all those other guys who had gone on to great swimming success.
Chuck Warner: Remember your byline, maybe on your show you can turn of your cell phone, right?
Jeff Commings: Yes.
Chuck Warner: You could help somebody else win before you win, maybe Jeff Commings can turn off his cell phone. Now this is an effort to try to help more guys like you and people that really care, swimmers and parents that really care, looking for more information to try to open the door for them and I hope we can do that.
Jeff Commings: Well I'm sure it will Chuck. Thanks for joining us today and best of luck with the new book.
Chuck Warner: Thanks Jeff, thanks very much for having me.
Jeff Commings: My pleasure. All right, so that's Chuck Warner, the author of And Then They Won Gold. You can pre-order this book right now in the Swimming World Swim Shop and you can also, as always, get the Four Champions, One Gold Medal, Chuck's first book, in our Swim Shop. That's going to do it for The Morning Swim Show for today. I'm Jeff Commings. Enjoy the weekend.
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