April 17, 2008
Berkeley - Former California All-American and NCAA Champion Ashley Chandler, who was on the U.S. National Team eight years ago, including a spot in the 2000 Olympic Trials, is now back with the National Team and training with the likes of Natalie Coughlin. She talks about her amazing journey in this week's 20 Question Tuesday with special correspondent Bob Schaller on USASwimming.org.
1. What's it like to be back on the National Team?
Ashley: It's nice to have all the perks of being on the National Team. It was pretty awesome to find out I was on the National Team. My goal was to swim as fast as possible last summer to make the team that went to Japan.
2. How's it worked out for you, returning to the team at Cal and coach Teri McKeever, as a post-grad?
Ashley: It's been a really good fit. I just started swimming with Teri when I started swimming again. I love how she coaches. It really works for me mentally and physically.
3. What do you call the approach? Is it a less-is-more thing, or what?
Ashley: People think we don't swim, for some reason. We do plenty of yardage. It's more about quality, and race specific, which has helped me in my racing.
4. So you left, or what?
Ashley: I retired for a year after I was done with my collegiate eligibility. I went home for the summer and came back to school. I started staying in shape and decided I really wanted to be in it again. I asked Teri if I could swim with them. She let me, which was great.
5. How does someone with your talent retire at 22?
Ashley: I was just really unhappy with swimming. Then I started having all of these great practices and started swimming my best times in my second meet back, in the 200 free.
6. Was it hard to get that excitement back?
Ashley: I went to NCAAs with team last year, and they did so amazing. Being in that environment again, I wanted to get back in and race with them. Just being around Natalie and the other post-grads, it was easy for me to start swimming again because I'd have others to swim with. We have some of the best freestylers in the country, so I have a great training group.
7. How awesome is Natalie?
Ashley: She's a great friend. I am so lucky to get to be around her every day and see how hard she works. She's a very gracious person.
8. That is quite a group with Dana and Erin and Emily, isn't it?
Ashley: It is really great to train with Olympians every single day. Not a lot of people can say that.
9. Do you like Berkeley? I ask that as a native.
Ashley: It's really grown on me living here the past six years. I'm from Arizona originally, so it was a big change coming from 100-degree weather to a place that gets so cold that you have to dress in layers. I am a big connoisseur of foods, and this area has so many great options for great food.
10. You've qualified for several events. Which do you do at Trials?
Ashley: The 400 free is definitely my favorite event. I feel that is the best event for me. I think I only have one speed, though I have kind of gotten better at sprinting. I think I do well in the 400 is because I go the same speed I would go in the 100, only I go that the whole time.
11. So you will do only the 400?
Ashley: I'm swimming the 200 and the 100, and maybe the 800, along with the 400. The 800 is a little bit longer, but I swim OK in it. The U.S. women have so much depth right now in the freestyle - in any event! The 100 breaststroke, for example, there are so many people who could get those two spots.
12. What was Goodwill Games like eight years ago for you?
Ashley: I had actually won the 200 and 400 at [the previous] Summer Nationals, and the Spring Nationals before that. I had just come back from Japan for World Championships. I hadn't swum well in Japan. It was my first International meet, and I was 16. I remember being 16 in Japan, and it was really good experience. Once I got to Goodwill Games, it was great.
13. What was it like being a star at 16?
Ashley: I was pretty young. I was just excited to be swimming that fast. It was a really good experience, though I didn't know what it all meant at that time. I improved really fast. It was an accelerated curve, for sure. I don't think I really understood the significance, at 15 or 16, and I do now.
14. What happened in 2004?
Ashley: I don't think I was really into it that summer. I was a little burned out that summer. I wasn't focused on making the Olympic Team at that point.
15. What's it like for the Cal freshman swimmers when they meet you? Do they remember you?
Ashley: I don't think a lot of my teammates even know I was that good when I was younger, which is fine. It's funny when they do find out, because they were like 10 years old at the time, if they are freshmen now.
16. What has this whole thing taught you about yourself?
Ashley: Coming back after retiring for nine months or something like that, it taught me to be very open minded, that believing in yourself is ultimately what will help you make it.
17. Will you continue past 2008?
Ashley: I think this is ultimately going to come down to how I swim at Trials and how I feel after Trials. The U.S. is really stacked. So it depends what point in my life I am at, and what is going on.
18. Where will you go when you enter the "real world"?
Ashley: Yeah, well (laughs) I am not really sure about that. I was planning to become a pastry chef when I retired from swimming. We'll see if I can get back on that rout. Natalie is into that too. We were actually at Borders looking at cookbooks the other day.
19. What advice would you give to future college swimmers?
Ashley: I would say, "Have a life outside of swimming. Do not getting too bogged down by worrying about everything all the time. Have fun with it, and take it one day at a time."
20. You are still sort of under the radar in some ways. Is that hard?
Ashley: No, not at all. That's how I like to be. It would be really weird to have someone from years ago come up and say, "I have a shirt signed by you." But really, people back then didn't know me that well, which is fine. This is something I want to do, and it's all on me. It's not for anyone else, and that's a lot different than doing it for someone else or trying to prove something to someone else. I'm swimming for myself, to make the Cal Bears proud, and for my country. For a while, I no longer loved swimming. Now, I love it again. And I want to keep this feeling as long as I can, and see where it takes me.