July 2, 2008
BERKELEY - CalBears.com recently spoke to Golden Bears' All-American swimmer Sean Mahoney about his dream of competing in the Olympics. The Rio Vista, Calif., product, who will be a junior in the 2008-09 season, will swim in the men's 200-meter breaststroke semifinals in the U.S. Olympic Swimming Trials on Wednesday in Omaha, Neb. A West Virginia transfer, he took third place in the 200-yard breaststroke at the NCAA Championships this past season.
CalBears.com: How challenging is it to go to school and train at Cal?
Mahoney: "Cal is a really great university. To go to school here and to do a sport is a lot tougher than many universities, I think. Last year, I was at West Virginia, and the academics were different. I think it's a lot harder to do both here. But here at Cal, you are really pushed to succeed; they don't try to make you fail. It's one of the best things about Cal; everyone's trying to help you. Everyone you talk to, here in Haas Pavilion, anyone with athletics, your GSI (graduate student instructor), your professor, everyone's trying to help you and is there for you; I think that's one of the reasons Cal is so great in academics and in sports.
CalBears.com: What is it like being at a university where you compete alongside multiple Olympians?
Mahoney: "I think it helps everyone collectively. I see it with my team. With our men's swimming team, everybody's there to help each other and everyone's pushing you. Whether you're the best guy on the team or the worst guy on the team, it doesn't matter; everyone's helping you in some form. That just says a lot for the team and the University. That's kind of the motto for the University - everyone's helping you and you are helping everyone. Everyone is helping each other."
CalBears.com: Do you have a swimming mentor?
Mahoney: "There are so many people who have helped me, it would be hard to single out one person and I don't want to leave anyone out. This year, with (Cal head coach) Dave Durden coming in, I didn't know what to expect. But he's exceeded my expectations 10 times over. It's amazing what he's done. Nort (Thornton, Cal's head coach emeritus) has the breaststroke group and he always gives us new ideas and makes us think new thoughts. I like that a lot. There's a senior, Richard Hunter, he kind of runs the breaststroke group. Ever since the beginning, he has helped all of us. He's more of a sprinter, but he's always wanting to go first and always pushing us; he's been great. There are a lot of people that have helped me."
CalBears.com: What's the biggest sacrifice you've had to make to pursue your Olympic dream?
Mahoney: "Mostly just the time, the time to train. We have to practice so much and eat decently. You want to do stuff like hang out with your friends, but you don't have the time to do that. I'm sure it's like that for all student-athletes, a lot of time goes into it."
CalBears.com: What are you looking forward to the most if you reach the Olympic Games in Beijing this summer?
Mahoney: "The food. I heard it is pretty interesting over there. I want to see what kind of food they have."
CalBears.com: What is your first or favorite memory of a past Olympics?
Mahoney: "Everyone loves watching the Olympics. I think the best thing I saw at the Olympics was when Tom Dolan came back in the 400 IM (individual medley) to win in 1996. That was just amazing. I think everyone agrees - that guy is on another level. I was eight years old in 1996. [Qualifying for the Olympics] is something in the back of your head. In the end, it's just another meet. You have to try your best; if you do great, then all right. If not, then that's the way it goes. It is a big meet and of course there is more pressure."
CalBears.com: When did you first become interested in swimming?
Mahoney: "Since I was four-years-old. I've never thought, 'Hey, maybe I can make the Olympics.' It's more, 'Hey, maybe I can make that time.' Then maybe, 'Yeah, I could make the Olympics.'"