June 23, 2008
Berkeley - CalBears.com caught up with women's freestyler Madison Kennedy before she competes at the 2008 Olympic Time Trials in Omaha and to talk about her goal of reaching the Summer Olympics.
CalBears.com: For which events are you trying to qualify?
Kennedy: "I am trying to qualify in the 50 [meter freestyle] and the 100 [meter freestyle], which are my best events. I don't know how I will do in the 50, but the 100 would be an awesome achievement for me."
CalBears.com: What's the biggest sacrifice you've had to make to reach the Olympics?
Kennedy: "I would say making the decision to transfer from Rutgers to Cal prior to the 2007-08 season. I wasn't developing my skills at Rutgers, but it was close to home, I already had a base of friends there and I was fine academically. So I decided to transfer to Cal, which has turned out to be an amazing opportunity for me. Even though I've had to move across the country and build a new life, I would say coming here has been the biggest and best decision I have made."
CalBears.com: If you make it to Beijing, what will you look forward to most?
Kennedy: "Just the experience of being there and being surrounded by all of these people that have been my heroes my entire life. Also, being able to see Natalie [Coughlin] swim, or Dana [Vollmer] or the other talented people who are swimming for the United States would be awesome."
CalBears.com: How challenging is it to be in school, compete at Cal this season, and train for the Olympics?
Kennedy: "There is no question that it is difficult. And there is definitely a lot of pressure. At the same time, this is what I have always wanted to do. I have never done anything else my whole life. I have always been training for swimming and going to school, and it is a privilege. The hardest part I would say is finding time to study, especially around finals time."
CalBears.com: What is your favorite memory of the 2004 Olympics?
Kennedy: "Amanda Beard carrying out her teddy bear. I definitely remember that, and everyone still talks about that. Everybody talks about how young Katie [Hoff] and Michael Phelps were when they went. It is just so cool to have someone that young to be so in touch with their sport. Every time I see people on the medal stands, it is very inspiring because I feel that I want to be there as well."
CalBears.com: When did you first dream of going to the Olympics or know you wanted to be an Olympian?
Kennedy: "When I was about five or six. When I was little, people would ask, `Do you want to go to the Olympics when you are older?' They just asked me that no matter if I was doing well or not. Then I would say `Oh, definitely.' It is amazing to have the opportunity to actually get there right now. I've always hoped that dream would come true."
CalBears.com: How has Cal helped you attain your goal of going to the Olympics?
Kennedy: "It sets up a direct path for achievement for you. It gives you direction and it allows you every opportunity to succeed. Cal makes you responsible for getting where you want to be."
CalBears.com: Do you have a mentor who has helped you to this point, or is there someone you look up to as a role model?
Kennedy: "My mom. She always told me that I was going to do great things. I would always respond with, `Mom you only say that because you are my mom and I am your kid and you want to be nice but she always said that I would be wherever I want to be.' She was fully supportive of me coming to Cal, which was a big change for me. She just said, `You are just taking one more step in the right direction.'"
CalBears.com: Who has been the biggest influence on you and your training?
Kennedy: "For the longest time, I would say my first swim coach. But now I would say it has been Teri McKeever. I love the way she sets such high and difficult standards and demands the best, because it pushes you want to reach those goals and be the best at what you do. If I could be a coach, I would want to be like Teri. She makes you want to work hard, and she commands respect. You want to work hard for her, and she has already made me a better person in and out of the pool."
CalBears.com: How did you first become interest/involved in your sport?
Kennedy: "When I was little. My mom was a dancer and my dad was a hockey player, so they gave me the option of those two. I said I wanted to swim and my mom said that our family didn't do that sport. I ended up really loving swimming lessons, jumping off the diving board, going under water and blowing bubbles. From then on I was not a land creature. I get hurt when I am on land."