March 21, 2012
BERKELEY - Mathias Gydesen is one of 18 members of the California men's swimming and diving team preparing to defend the Golden Bears' 2011 national title at the 2012 NCAA championships, March 22-24, in Federal Way, Washington.
Gydesen is also one of four seniors on Cal's squad who will be participating in their final collegiate competition this Thursday through Saturday at the Weyerhaeuser King County Aquatic Center. The 6-0, 180 pound backstroker/butterflyer from Alleroed, Denmark has had his share of highlights as a student-athlete in Berkeley - finishing as the NCAA runner-up in the 100 fly in 2010, earning first-team Pac-10 All-Academic honors and most recently helping the Bears win the 2012 Pac-12 title in the 200 medley relay (backstroke leg) - but is still looking to end his Cal career with more accolades at this year's national championships.
Calbears.com contacted Gydesen to get his thoughts on his Cal career as he and the rest of coach David Durden's squad prepare to defend their NCAA crown in Seattle.
Q: As one of four seniors on Cal's 2011-12 NCAA team, what are your expectations for the 2012 national championships?
A: The senior class knows we as a class, and team, have big shoes to fill after a tremendously successful 2011. What we're also aware of is that this team has the potential to go all the way if we have a good meet. We have top-notch freshmen and a lot of greatness to be unleashed. This year will be much closer among the top four teams than in previously years, and we appreciate being the underdogs coming into the NCAAs and look to surprise a lot of skeptics.
Q: You did not qualify for the NCAA championships your freshman year in 2009. What were the keys to you having an outstanding 2010 campaign?
A: I missed the NCAAs in 2009 by a couple of 1/10's of a second and was able to turn things around the year after to finish second in the 100 fly in 2010. What I learned, from coaches and teammates, was 'let go, to let it flow'. I was able to take a step back, see the big picture, and then focus on doing the small movements right during a full year. That made me a better athlete, mentally and physically, to be able to let go of my inhibitions. It made me focus on things other than swimming and ironically I ended up feeling better in the water and more in tune with my swimming.
Q: What have been the highlights of your Cal career, outside of winning the 2011 NCAA team championship?
A: The greatest highlight during my time at Cal is realizing that the reward is the journey and not a specific meet or point in time. It's overcoming a tough practice set on a rainy day in November, having a blast on a swim trip to Cal Poly, it's hanging out with an awesome team at weights and most of all - Secret Santa in Colorado Springs which is an annual tradition where we have fun during a rough altitude training trip.
Q: What did it mean to you to be part of a national championship team?
A: Being part of the national championship team meant being at the center and forefront of what our program - including alumni, parents, and fans - have been pursuing for a long time. We had so many people come support us in Minneapolis and I will never forget the roar they made when we swam and won. It was awesome even though I didn't have the meet I had hoped for.
Q: What event do you enjoy more, the butterfly or the backstroke, and why? Which event is harder to master?
A: In the collegiate pool, the yards format, I enjoy butterfly more because of the feeling you achieve. You literally feel like you're flying and just exploding off the walls. I think the backstroke has some trickier aspects to it and that makes it a little bit more technical. But to be honest, I just like racing no matter the stroke.
Q: Has swimming at Cal helped prepare you for the 2012 London Olympics?
A: Yes, Cal helping me prepare for the London Olympics is definitely an understatement. We (Cal swimming and diving) have so much experience, so many great athletes and such amazing coaches and staff that I feel I'm in the best hands going into this year's Olympics. It can be tough at times to focus on both yards (what is swam in NCAA competition) and long course meters (what is swam at the Olympics and other international competitions), but the coaches do a good job of preparing us for both.
Q: What do you plan to do after your swimming career is over?
A: My swimming career will most likely end after this summer and I have plans to try to attain an entry-level position in management consulting in the United States. This aspiration is one that many others will seek and the competition will be tough. So, should I miss this opportunity, I will most likely go back to my home country and get my graduate degree from the Copenhagen Business School. But, I would love to get experience and add value to an American firm before I go back to Denmark.
Q: What adjustments did you have to make moving from Denmark to Berkeley?
A: Not much besides changing my diet a bit, having more Skype conversations with friends and family in Europe, and learning a little bit of slang. I guess it's harder for my mom having me here. Berkeley, academically and athletically, has almost a vibe of constant influx of new people, so it's really easy to acclimate socially, athletically and academically. I guess everyone really just wants to see you succeed, so help is always nearby.
Q: Had you heard much about the University of California and its swimming program prior to arriving at Cal?
A: I knew about the proud swimming tradition and the standout athletes who have graduated from here, but it was when I started to really look into Cal and visit the school that I realized how eager I was to join this place...I was lucky to get in.
Q: Apart from swimming, what has been a highlight of your Cal experience?
A: I'm proud of studying at the Haas School of Business and love the environment up there. Aside from that I consider being surrounded by inspiring people - in the pool and classroom - to be a daily highlight. It's like Cal never stands still and you always find ways to improve individually and as a community.