With an impressive nine Olympic medals between them, Janet Evans and Nathan Adrian are two of Team USA’s most decorated swimmers of all time. Evans took part in three Summer Games, capturing four golds and one silver, while the 25-year old Adrian owns four medals across two Olympics and hopes to add to his collection in Rio in 2016. With summer rapidly approaching, Examiner spoke exclusively with both athletes on May 29 to talk about their involvement with the USA Swimming Foundation’s Make a Splash Initiative, the return of Michael Phelps, and their shared love of “Game of Thrones.”
Tell me about the Make a Splash Initiative.
Janet: Nathan and I have partnered with the USA Swimming Foundation’s Make a Splash Initiative to both educate parents and adults and get kids in swimming lessons. Drowning is an epidemic in this country; there are 10 drowning deaths in the United States every day, and as an Olympian and Olympic champion, Iwe feel like we have a platform to encourage and inspire others. We believe that every child in this country should know how to swim and we’re partnering with the USA Swimming Foundation to help provide that opportunity for young children.
So how did each of you get involved with the program?
Nathan: Both Janet and I took lessons at a very young age…. even before both of us could walk. We… went through the cycle of becoming competitive swimmers and being fortunate enough to make the Olympics and do well there. We took a moment to look back and see how we could give back. Teaching kids how to swim just seems like such an important thing to do; 70% of African American children, 50% of Hispanic and Latino children, and 40% of Caucasian children don’t know how to swim. So Phillips 66 and the USA Swimming Foundation got together to create the Make a Splash Tour to get out the word: get your kids in swim lessons. A lot of people are super busy and just forget, but we’re here as the summer season approaches to remind you.
What’s one big water safety tip?
Janet: I’m a mom to two young children myself, so drowning is one of my greatest fears. I’ve met too many parents who have come close to or lost their children drowning, so my big rule is not to take your eyes off your kids in the pool. Never assume that you are water safe, never assume that your child is water safe. Keep your eyes on your children when they’re in the pool because drowning is silent and it only takes two minutes.
Nathan: My biggest rule of thumb is never, ever swim alone. Always have a partner with you, always swim in the designated swimming areas so a lifeguard can keep an eye on you whether it be in a pool or a lake. That’s the best way you can be sure you’re safe.
Janet: We also encourage parents and adults to go to the USA Swimming Foundation website to find partner programs in their local areas that have partnered with United States Swimming Foundation to help provide these swim lessons for children and adults too. Let’s get everyone in formal swim lessons and stop this crazy epidemic that’s taking place in our country.
I’m going to take both of you back to your Olympic days. Nathan, it was a great moment as a spectator to watch you beat [Australian James] Magnussen for that [100 meter freestyle] gold medal in London. What was it like for you personally to do that?
Nathan: You know, even re-living or re-watching it is so incredibly surreal. I have made the mistake, in my competitive career, of letting a lot of externalities affect my performance and in 2012, I had been through that…. I understood that the way to… have a peak performance and ultimately the best time is to only focus on myself, and that’s what I tried to focus on. There’s a lot of media stuff going on but I was there because I’d trained by entire life to try to swim that for 47 and a half seconds. And that’s what I tried to do.
Janet, are there any up and coming long distance swimmers we should be paying attention to for Rio and beyond?
Janet: Absolutely. I have to say, really quick, while Nathan was talking, I got chills. It was so cool to watch and so awesome! But yes, I think USA Swimming looks awesome heading into Rio, which believe it or not is only two short years away. I think the person to watch for on the women’s side in long distance is a young woman named Katie Ledecky who, at the Olympics in London, kind of just burst onto the scene. She’s from the Baltimore east coast area. She burst on the scene and won the 800 meter freestyle and it was awesome. She’s swimming really well so I think she’ll be a leader of the women’s team going into Rio.
Nathan, so Michael Phelps is out of retirement. Do you think he’s crazy for making a go at Rio?
Nathan: I think you’re crazy if you think his chances of making Rio are bad. He’s a big part of the relays I’ve been fortunate enough to be on for the last couple of years and we miss him. He’s an absolute hammer on those relays. He can always throw down a good split to either get us in the lead or pick us back up to wherever we need to be to be in contention for that gold medal. I’m very excited about the coming years in international competition.
Is the Phelps/Lochte dynamic what it looks like in the media or is it different in real life?
Nathan: Honestly, it’s a lot more cordial than you’d expect it to be. They’re friends and they’re great competitors. Both of them are really good at separating their competitive side versus their general, every day side. I’m certain that they’re absolutely set on getting to the wall first and they don’t care about whoever else is in the pool at the time when they’re competing, but afterward, they’re going to shake hands, share a hug and be excited. Because they’re usually both on the podium at the same time.
Janet, if you could look back at your stellar Olympic career, would you change anything?
Janet: You know, I wouldn’t. I think a lot of athletes gain perspective as they get older, and I’m getting older so I’ve definitely gained perspective. My first Olympics I was in high school. My second Olympics I was supposed to win two gold medals. I won one and I won one silver, and to me at the time as a 20-year old, it was terribly disappointing and I would’ve changed everything to have won that gold medal instead of that silver medal.. but looking back on it, I learned a lot. It’s lessons I’m teaching to my children: we’re not going to win everything we do and we’re going to have speed bumps along the way. And even every goal we set, there’s going to be specific challenges that come our way…. As a parent now, I want my kids participating in sports to learn those life lessons, to learn discipline, to be a part of something. That’s one of the reasons Nathan and I are here to encourage everyone to be a part of that lifelong sport we love so much.
One closing question for both of you. What’s your can’t-miss TV show?
Janet: I know mine. “Game of Thrones.” It’s so good and it shocks me and there’s parts I can’t watch. I am not a TV person but I cannot wait for Sunday nights. It wasn’t on last Sunday and I was actually really bummed. So yes, “Games of Thrones,” hands down.
Nathan: I can’t say I have a unique answer because I have to hop on board with that. It’s funny, I actually got hooked on “Game of Thrones” last summer at our national qualifications. I went through three seasons in like two or three days and I was like “how did I just watch 30 hours of television?”
Janet: It’s the only TV show I’ve ever tweeted about.