Swimming World Presents: The Top 18 Interviews of 2018

katie-ledecky-best-of-2018
Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

2018 was a crazy year in the sport of swimming, even without a major World Championships or Olympics. Records fell all over the place and plenty of swimmers (and divers) had fascinating things to say after they left the pool. Swimming World has compiled a list of the 18 best (plus seven honorable mentions) meet interviews from the year 2018.

These were selected for their messages to young swimmers. Even the professional swimmers still learn every single day in this sport. These interviews were selected for their lessons learned and what kids should be looking at in terms of learning from the best swimmers in the nation.

18. Nathan Adrian After Crazy 100 Free at Nationals

Best Quote: (2:40) “I know how difficult it was to transition to being a professional. People forget because it was 2011 and I didn’t medal in anything. It’s really difficult to make that transition.

“It’s not the best we have seen from Caeleb. It really means nothing, he is going to be down to 47 low as early as next year.”

Adrian is one of the wisest men in swimming and showed it here for five minutes on the first night in Irvine. He knows his swimming and he talked honestly about his thoughts on Caeleb Dressel’s disappointing swim, as well as Blake Pieroni’s win in that event.

17. Lilly King After 100 Breast at NCAA’s

Best quote: (1:10) “(Ray) told me a couple months ago he’s gonna quit coaching if I don’t go 55, so I might have to look for a new head coach position soon.”

(4:30): (on the 200) “I’m just ready to go fast. I’m sick of seeing a 2:03 on the board.”

King has always been a great soundbite. This interview is important because King said she was unhappy with not going a 55, but didn’t sulk over that. She moved on from not reaching her goal and set her eyes on the 200, where she said she was sick of seeing a 2:03. King went out the next night and smashed the American Record with a 2:02.

16. Cody Miller on New Vlog Career at Atlanta Pro Swim Series

Best Quote: (1:05) “It’s cool being here. A lot of kids come up to me like ‘hey I watch your videos.’ That’s cool. I’m helping somebody out and if I’m helping somebody out, then I’m doing something right.”

Miller has turned into one of the most recognizable faces in swimming thanks to his vlog career. The national team are role models for the young swimmers in the United States and around the world and Miller took great pride in being one of the swimmers that others look up to.

15. Ali DeLoof on Juggling Student Teaching and Swimming

Best Quote: (2:04) “You have to come in at it 100%. It’s just like swimming or training. You have to come in at it a new mindset every day.”

(2:30) “You have to have this teaching philosophy, like why do you want to do it.”

Swimming has lessons learned that can be used in your professional life. DeLoof talked about how she has related teaching to swimming and how she used lessons she learned in swimming to her student teaching.

14. Delaney Duncan on Being Eastern Michigan’s Lone Swimmer at NCAA’s

Best Quote: (0:58) “I obviously have a little team envy when I go to the hotel and see huge teams, but I am really proud to be able to represent a mid-major school at this level. Only a few girls from the MAC were able to make it.”

Just because you don’t go to a big school, doesn’t mean you won’t get to compete on the big stage at NCAA’s. Eastern Michigan junior Delaney Duncan proved that at the NCAA’s in March with her fourth place finish in the 100 breast. Duncan said she had team envy at NCAA’s when she sees big teams at the hotel and she is by herself, but she proved that it is still possible to swim fast no matter what school you go to.

13. Eddie Reese, Austin Katz, Jonathan Roberts, Matt Scoggin Recap NCAA Team Title

Best Quote: (1:09, Eddie Reese) “Thankfully Matt Scoggin brought his divers to the meet.”

(3:08, Jonathan Roberts) “One of the biggest strategies for this meet was to win the night in the morning. Getting numbers in the A-Final, getting numbers in the B-Final. Any stupidity I can throw in by taking out my 4IM in 1:42. I’ll do that, it’ll probably scare Ed on the back end, but it’ll definitely get the fans going and get the team going.”

It’s swimming AND diving for a reason. Reese joked that he was glad Matt Scoggin brought his divers to the meet, scoring 81 points across all three boards, but he knew it was a total team effort to win Texas’ fourth straight national title.

One of the biggest things about a college championship meet is that the meet is really won in the morning. Roberts, knowing he was one of the first from the team to swim in the morning each day, knew his swims would set the tone in the morning for the rest of the day, and wanted to fire the team and the fans up by “going out in a 1:42” in the 400 IM prelims.

12. Justin Wright Was Not Surprised By Nationals Win

Best Quote: (0:08) “I feel like I should say I was surprised…I really did expect to have a great swim today.”

(1:29) “If you’ve got a secret sauce, you’ve gotta fully develop it. And in that part of the race, you have to make sure no one can beat you in.”

This was a great lesson for any young swimmer watching. Instead of focusing on what his weaknesses were compared to the other swimmers, he focused on what his strengths were and made sure no one else could beat him at those. Everyone was surprised by his 1:54 at Nationals in the 200 fly this summer but he was not. It’s a good lesson to people that if you are confident in yourself, you can achieve anything.

11. Ryan Murphy After 200 Back at Nationals

Best Quote: (2:21, on the Cal backstroke group) “Yeah! Everyone gets beat in practice.”

(3:24, on being the best backstroker in the world) “I don’t really need a certain swim to prove to myself that I’m good. At this point the body of work is what I look at. I know what I’ve done throughout the year and I know where I’m at. I didn’t feel like I needed to have that swim per se.”

Murphy, a world record holder and Olympic Champion, and one of the best NCAA swimmers ever, admitted he gets beat in practice by guys like Jacob PebleyDaniel Carr and Bryce Mefford. It’s a good message to all swimmers that you are allowed to be vulnerable and get beat in practice.

Murphy was also asked about being the best backstroker in the world and candidly responded with he doesn’t need any validation from his swims to prove that he is good. A good word of advice for swimmers that as long as you are confident in yourself, you don’t necessarily need validation from others that you are the best.

10. Josh Prenot On Rebounding From Disappointing 2017

Best quote: (4:26) (on not panicking after being strapped to a kick board for a month) “It’s pretty easy to not panic. You’re still doing work. I don’t feel like I got worse over that month, I feel like I got better if anything.”

Every one gets injured at some point in their careers, and Prenot points out that just because you are not swimming the normal practices with everyone else that you are not “getting worse.” Prenot injured his lat in April and was kicking for a month straight and had the confidence in his coaches that he would be just fine for the rest of the summer, saying they got some “serious kick work done” during that month.

9. Michael Andrew on Emotions After Winning First National Title

Best Quote: (0:42) “I can’t show up trying to beat or race Caeleb, because I end up putting him on a platform that doesn’t help me ultimately compete at my best.”

(2:37) “It’s actually a blessing that we did go through some negative feedback, because now I am able to impact others positively.”

Andrew, only 18, gave one of the most mature and heart felt interviews after he won his first ever national title in the 50 fly. Andrew gave a good message that he was not worrying about racing Caeleb Dressel on the day because it would deter from his focus. Yourself is the only thing you can control and you should not show up to race day thinking about what everyone else is doing in the pool.

Andrew also said it was a good thing that he dealt with negative comments about his unique training style and going professional at such a young age because it shaped him into the athlete he is today.

8. Simone Manuel and Katie Ledecky Recap NCAA Team Title

Best Quote: (6:03, Simone Manuel) “I think sometimes we focus too much on the expectations of others, knowing we were supposed to win the national title…We wanted to focus on how we could be better as individuals and as a team. We had an individual goal meeting without the coaches and some people shared times and goals of making NCAA’s for the first time…Every day at practice we are encouraging each other to be better, we are holding each other accountable. We know what each person is capable of and we want to see them reach their goals as much as we want to reach our own.”

Two of America’s best swimmers, Simone Manuel and Katie Ledecky, gave a lengthy interview after winning the NCAA team title for Stanford. Those two said they learned from their teammates and were encouraged by seeing them reach their goals in the season. Even though they are Olympic gold medalists, they did not put themselves on a higher pedestal and competed as hard as they could for their teammates.

7. Steele Johnson on Winning an NCAA Title With a Broken Foot

Best Quote: (0:57) “Coming in to this meet I had pretty low expectations honestly. Just because I took 12 weeks off. I have only been training eight weeks, all the other guys have been training for months and months without time off. I could have looked at it like I’m behind, but I really do think God has prepared me in a way where He is helping me get back into it a lot faster than I physically should be able to.”

Johnson won the 3m diving title after going through foot surgery earlier in the year and talked about how hard it was this year to come back and defend his 3m NCAA title. He gave a good soundbite to any athlete watching that patience is key when you’re injured. He stayed patient and focused throughout the 12 weeks he was not diving and it paid off with a national title at the end of the year.

6. Missy Franklin Candidly Explains Her Nationals Disappointment

Best quote: (3:46) “Every time I tell myself, I would 100x rather be sitting in Omaha 2020 having not made the team knowing that I tried, rather than looking back on these past few years thinking “what if?'”

(1:06) (on Allison Schmitt) “I have to be really careful not to compare myself then to get discouraged with where I’m at now.”

Franklin’s interview from the 2018 Nationals after her C-Final performance in the 200 free was great because it showed a more human side of Franklin. She has always been known to put a smile on her face even in her biggest disappointments and still say “I’m happy with it.” But when Franklin was asked right off the bat how she would assess her performance, she candidly said “I’m pretty disappointed.”

Franklin said she learned a lot, and she gave a lot of good answers that young swimmers need to hear, including how she was careful not to compare herself to Allison Schmitt, who finished second in the 200 free final earlier in the night. A good message to anybody, not just young swimmers, that the only thing you can control is yourself.

5. Kathleen Baker on Breaking the World Record

Best Quote: (1:07) “I put a goal in my phone so it reminds me every day and right now it’s a 58.10 and I just broke that so I am going to have to put 57.99 now.”

Goals are important. Kathleen Baker admitted she wrote down the world record time in the 100 back (58.10) on her phone to remind her every night at 8 p.m. which helped her break through and swim a 58.00 at the US Nationals.

4. Allison Schmitt on Her Comeback

Best quote: (1:46, on how she went faster than she did in 2016) “I’m happy. I was happy back then but I just have a completely clear mind now.”

(2:33) “I think (Michael Phelps) just reminded me that swimming is such a small part of life and, yes, I love it, and I am so excited to be back competing again, but at the end of the day, it is a sport, and it doesn’t matter if you get first or last, you’re still loved by the same people and you’re still who you are.”

Schmitt, a mental health advocate, said she kept the big picture in mind this summer at the US Nationals. She gives good advice to athletes that swimming is just a small part of your life but failure should not be the end of the world.

3. Micah Sumrall Explains Why She Came Back to Swimming

Best quote: (2:21) “In January when we moved into our new house, that’s when I started doing doubles and taking it really seriously. That’s when it was like ‘maybe I can go to Nationals’ and ‘maybe I’ll make the national team!'”

(3:58, on when the thought of if she could go 2:22 came to mind) “Oh, it didn’t. I was just like, ‘I’m going to do the best I can and hopefully it will be good enough. And it was.”

Sumrall very openly talked about her struggles with life after the 2016 Olympic Trials when she initially retired, and explained her reasoning for coming back. Sumrall was also very candid in her thoughts on if she imagined she could have done what she did this summer. She had a lot of pressure on herself leading into the 2016 Olympic Trials and did not perform as well as she wanted, and then did a lot better this year when she had no pressure on herself.

2. Caeleb Dressel After 17.63 50 Free

Best quotes: (0:25) (on if he thought 17.6 was possible) “I think there needs to be a fine line between goal setting and laughter.”

On 200 free relay win (4:49): “(Enzo Martinez-Scarpe) had a note card written above his locker last year. It was a thing where we wanted to write our goals and put them above our lockers so we see them every day, and his was: ‘NCAA Champions: 200 Free Relay.’ And probably the whole nation was laughing at Florida swimming for doing such a thing like that, because we are not known as a sprint school, and we just proved the whole world wrong tonight.”

This was perhaps the most memorable race of the decade at the NCAA Championships. “Where were you when Dressel went a 17.6?” will be something that swimming fans now will be asking each other for years and years. Dressel blew everyone’s mind with his swims in the pool, but he blew the media’s minds with his words in the interviews after.

He said his goal in the 50 was to go 17.6, not just a 17.9. He said he deleted all the apps on his phone and wasn’t looking at social media. He said he was reading more. It was so interesting to hear what he had to say because although his swimming is impressive, his words were even more impressive.

1. Katie Ledecky After Breaking 1500 World Record

Best Quote: (6:04) How are you able to break world records in-season? “The biggest thing for me and I’ve realized this over the years is I need my confidence to be sky rocketing to swim fast. It’s not really about the rest for me, it’s about how I feel my training has been.”

This is an interview that every swimmer should see. There are so many people out there that tend to complain about having to swim meets in-season without rest. When asked how she can break a world record in the middle of the season, Katie Ledecky said all she needs to swim fast is her confidence, and the level of rest doesn’t matter.

This is what separates Ledecky from the rest of the world. Instead of sulking in the fact she didn’t rest for the meet, she just put her head down and swam hard. She said she had been training really well and she knew she would have a good swim.

Confidence is key. Just because you’re not tapered does not mean you can’t go fast. Ledecky proves that time and time again.

Honorable Mention: 

  • Chase Kalisz and Olivia Smoliga argue on camera for four minutes
    • Kalisz and Smoliga give each other a hard time at the Mesa Pro Swim Series with Kalisz calling out Smoliga for not swimming anything over 200 meters, and Smoliga calling out Kalisz for not being able to make an A-Final in the 50.
  • Ryan Held after 800 Free Relay at NCAA’s
    • Held talks about NC State’s win in the 800 free relay from the ice bath on the first night of men’s NCAA’s and compares how different the 2017 relay win was to the 2018 relay win.
  • Caeleb Dressel recaps 42.8 100 fly
    • Dressel talks his mind boggling 100 fly from NCAA’s and why he doesn’t think he is Florida’s best butterflyer in the school’s history, as well as what it was like going 1-2 with Jan Switkowski and why he wears the cow bandana behind the blocks.
  • Caeleb Dressel after 100 breast American Record
    • Our most viewed interview of 2018. Dressel talks about his second American Record of the meet in his third best stroke and if he would go for the 100 back record.
  • Erin Gemmell on following in footsteps of Olympian older brother
    • 13-year-old Gemmell, who is the younger brother of 2012 Olympian Andrew Gemmell, talked about how she has followed in his footsteps as well as unabashedly say she would not give him her stuffed animals she won.
  • Carson Foster after 200 back at Columbus Pro Swim Series
    • Foster, while only 16, sounded like a seasoned veteran when talking about his preparation for the 200 back at the Columbus Pro Swim Series.
  • Reece Whitley and Emily Weiss talk winning 2018 High School Swimmer of the Year award
    • A more lighthearted interview, Whitley and Weiss sit down with Swimming World’s Andy Ross at the US Nationals to talk their favorite things in and out of the pool.