May 20, 2013
BERKELEY - CalBears.com caught up with Rachel Bootsma, the 2012 Olympic gold medalist and one of the stars of the Golden Bears' talented freshman class, prior to the end of the school year. The talented backstroker talked about her debut college season - which included her winning the 100-yard backstroke at both the NCAA and Pac-12 Championships and capturing the 200 butterfly at Pac-12s - adjusting to life in Berkeley and her summer plans.
CalBears.com: You had a strong season individually and with the team. Has Cal so far turned out to be what you expected?
Rachel Bootsma: I don't think you could ever expect or plan what happened. I kind of did coming into this year, but I quickly realized you can't do that. I just went with the flow after that, and I'm really pleased with how we did as a team and how I did individually.
CalBears.com: Cal has several talented backstrokers - including you, Cindy Tran, Elizabeth Pelton, Stephanie Au and Melanie Klaren - with obviously more coming next season. What was that dynamic like this season?
RB: In practice we all kind of do our own thing. It's pretty rare when we're all together racing. But it's pretty fun when, at a meet, like at Georgia Invite in the 100 back, there were five of us out of the eight people in the final. It's really fun to have your teammates and also really great competitors together in practice or in meets. It really strengthens all of us in practice because we're secretly trying to beat each other in practice. That makes us, I think, better racers and brings us closer together because we have a special bond, I guess you could say. We all know how tough backstroke events are.
CalBears.com: You of course have been busy in the pool over the last year, which included winning a gold medal in the London Olympics. What was the last significant break you had from swimming?
RB: After the Olympics, I took a two-week break to get a tattoo.
CalBears.com: How challenging is it to juggle swimming - from practice to travel and competition - with the rigorous academic demands at Cal?
RB: It's really challenging. The first couple months especially were really challenging. I never did morning practices - I only lifted weights in the morning - when I was in high school. Coming here doing four mornings a week, having to go to class all day and having afternoon practice plus weights was really difficult. But there are tutors and study groups, and everyone's rooting for you to do your best and helping you in any way possible. Having all those people helping you made it a whole lot easier.
CalBears.com: What do you want to major in?
RB: I don't know. I have no idea.
CalBears.com: What's your favorite class so far?
RB: I really like my MCB (molecular and cell biology) 32 class, which is a physiology class. It was really, really challenging, but it was a lot of information that I felt like I can apply to the pool - how muscles work and how the body works.
CalBears.com: Has it taken time to get adjusted to life in Berkeley?
RB: I'm still working on it. It's a very, very different lifestyle in Berkeley than in Minnesota, but I love them both equally. When I left Minnesota, I felt, I'm never going back. After being out here, they just both have such different aspects that I love. Berkeley's a great place.
CalBears.com: What's the biggest difference between Berkeley and your hometown of Eden Prairie?
RB: The weather. At home last week they got 12 inches of snow, and here it was 90 degrees, so it's nice to be out here.
CalBears.com: What are your summer plans?
RB: Right now, I'm planning on staying out at school until World Championship Trials. As a team (Cal Aquatics), we'll be going to the Santa Clara Grand Prix (May 30-June 2) and then we'll go to World Championship Trials (June 25-29). If I make the World Championship team, I'll go home for a couple days and then come back here and train, and then go to worlds and then go home in August, and then come back for school. But if I don't make worlds, then I'll just go home in the beginning of July, train at home and see my friends and family.
CalBears.com: What music do you listen to before meets?
RB: Really anything that can put a smile on my face. If it's up tempo, I just find myself smiling. Typically anything that would be on my iPod would put me in a good mood.
CalBears.com: Any songs in particular?
RB: I'm kind of superstitious; I don't tell people what music I listen to. I pick songs and I don't tell people because they just have special meaning to me. People think it's weird that I do that, but I've done that my whole life.
CalBears.com: What's your favorite movie?
RB: "Something Borrowed," I think, is my favorite movie. I recently watched that. I like a lot of movies; any romantic comedy movies.
CalBears.com: What's your favorite TV show?
RB: Over winter training we stayed here, and everybody else except for the swim team was gone. I watched all six seasons of "Gossip Girl" within a four-week time frame.
CalBears.com: Where do you keep your Olympic gold medal?
RB: My gold medal is in a safety deposit box back home. My parents take pretty good care of that.