The Morning Swim Show, September 5, 2011: Erika Erndl Ready to Fight For Olympic Berth in Her 30s

PHOENIX, Arizona, September 5. ERIKA Erndl has made her first international team for USA Swimming at 33 years old, and on today's edition of The Morning Swim Show she details how she's been able to find a resurgence in the pool.

Erndl retraces the steps that led her back to the pool after college, talks about how she's managed to swim faster, how she gravitated to the 100 freestyle and what events she might swim at the Olympic Trials. Watch the full show in the video player below and visit SwimmingWorld.TV for more video interviews.

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Show Transcript: (Note: This is an automated service where some typos and grammatical errors may occur.)

Peter Busch: This is The Morning Swim Show for Monday, September 5th 2011. I'm your host, Peter Busch. In the FINIS monitor today we'll talk to Erika Erndl. At the ripe age of 33 she's swimming faster than ever. She's getting ready to represent the US at the Pan Am Games. Erika joins us right now in the FINIS monitor from Naples, Florida. Hi Erika, welcome to The Morning Swim Show. How are you?

Erika Erndl: Hi Peter, I'm great, thanks for having me.

Peter Busch: So for those of you who remember your collegiate days swimming at North Carolina, you were more of an IMer but now you seem to be focused on the sprint frees.

Erika Erndl: Yes, I used to actually train 200 and 400 IM and usually the 200 breast, sometimes 200 fly, so sprint freestyle is something pretty new for me. I've always done it but never really focused on it so it's always been sort of a relay thing for me, but a little bit of a change and I'm enjoying it.

Peter Busch: Or is this more of a move to increase your chances of making the Olympic team and get on one of those relays?

Erika Erndl: I don't know, maybe initially the thought was there to swim the 100 and the 200 free because they take six people but I think that it's actually – I think I'm the best at the 100 free and I kind of decided a few months ago that I would actually focus on that more than the 200 as well. I think it's just taking me a little – I want to kind of find what my best thing is.

Peter Busch: America has quite the diverse field of 100 freestylers right now. You're certainly in the conversation with as fast as you're swimming for an Olympic spot in that relay. We could potentially have someone in their teens, in their 20s. in their 30s, who knows if Dara Torres gets back into it in her 40s – this could be incredible.

Erika Erndl: Yeah, it's really exciting and I think it's really cool to be in the mix first of all and I think that it's definitely a short enough race that a lot of people can be in that top six, in that top four. I think it's really cool that the US has that many people at not many age ranges that are vying for a spot. It's really exciting.

Peter Busch: This comeback of yours, it's about four or five years since it started, but why did you get back in the pool?

Erika Erndl: Well I really got back in kind of by mistake. I started training masters when my husband and I moved down here to Naples. He was asked to coach and so he was waking up this really early mornings and I had been out of the water for about five years and thought I was finished. The alarm would go off, and I would kind of like laugh and roll over in my bed and then go to school and teach during the day and I really didn't have any interest in swimming and I thought I was finished. We actually went up to Clearwater and watched one of our friends compete in the World Championships up there and he had Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma. My husband and I both kind of looked at each other and we're like "What are we doing? We should be pursuing our goals and not leave anything undone." So I kind of decided maybe I'd get up and go to Masters practice with him and after a few practices went to a couple of meets and didn't really perform like I really wanted to because I was only swimming a couple of days a week. And so I remember sitting having breakfast with my husband and I was like "Do you think I could make Trials again?" and he's like "Oh yeah, you can make it but you're definitely going to have to start putting in a little more time." So that was when I decided at that breakfast with him that I was going to focus on trying to just make the Trials and I'll wait. Then I made the Trials and swam the 200 IM and 400 IM and actually made the 100 and 200 free kind of like the last minute — a couple of weeks before the meet — and did pretty well and then after that decided to try and focus more on the freestyles.

Peter Busch: And here you are now getting ready to go to your first big international meet.

Erika Erndl: Yeah, I'm really excited about that. It's something that I've always wanted to do and I'm really, really excited to just put on that American flag cap. I'm 33, but this is something that I've never done and a goal that I've had for myself for a really long time and I'm really pumped about it.

Peter Busch: You were an elementary school teacher for five years – I imagine that gives you a different perspective when you go back to being the student, so to speak, in the water.

Erika Erndl: Yes, I think it does. I think that just being 33 it gives me a few more years on most people that are in the sport and I think I just have a different perspective on a lot of things. I've just lived for a little bit longer than everybody else. But yes, teaching was a great experience. I think I grew as a person. I think that I learned a lot of things and I enjoyed working with the kids and it was a wonderful experience and it's something that maybe I'll go back to. I've actually this summer got to coach a couple of my old students. They were on our summer league team so that was really cool to see them a couple of years later and now they're like going into 5th grade, 6th grade so that's really crazy. But I love teaching and I love being a student as well so I kind of know both ends pretty well I guess you could say.

Peter Busch: And now you're training with Paul Yetter, who is best known probably for being Katie Hoff's coach during her teen days and now he's down in Florida. What is it about training with him that's worked so well?

Erika Erndl: I've been training with Paul since I guess last September and it's really just a lot of fun training with Paul. He's a phenomenal coach and he really takes a lot of time to kind of figure out what all of his athletes need. And for me, being 33, I think that I probably need different things than somebody who's 15 or 17 and he really takes the time to get to know me and I think that he's learned how to work with me pretty well so far and whatever I'm doing I think is working – I'm getting faster and I'm having a great time doing it so I'll just keep on going.

Peter Busch: What a wild next year it's going to be watching you and a lot of other swimmers. There's so much uncertainty but in a good way about the women's team right now for the US just to see how this is going to shake out in the trials.

Erika Erndl: Yes, definitely, it's going to be a fun year.

Peter Busch: So will you swim anything more than the 100 free?

Erika Erndl: I think so. I think that my other events are probably up in the air. I' think I'll swim the 50 for sure – that will just be a fun event because I think that that's at the very end of the meet if I'm not mistaken. The 200 is always a possibility. I think I'm pretty capable of doing a pretty good 200 so we'll see what happens with that; 200 IM is never out of the question for me. That's like my old baby — my mom wants me to swim that one just so that she can watch it. So maybe that and possibly the 100 fly. We haven't really talked about that but definitely the 100 free is on the list.

Peter Busch: Well Erika good luck at the Pan Am Games. Thank you for joining us.

Erika Erndl: Thanks a lot, Peter.

Peter Busch: That's Erika Erndl joining us in the FINIS monitor today. That's it for today's show. I'm Peter Busch reminding you to keep your head down at the finish.

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