Feb. 11, 2012
BERKELEY - With No. 1 California preparing for its Big Meet with rival and eighth-ranked Stanford, Cindy Tran found the time to sit down with CalBears.com and chat about the season, backstrokers and her family. The sophomore swimmer is the defending NCAA champion in the 100-yard backstroke and brings what is currently the nation's fourth-fastest time in the 100 back (52.26) into the meet with the Cardinal at 1 p.m. on Saturday on the Farm.
CalBears.com: Individually, how is the season going?
Cindy Tran: It's been good. For most of the meets, I'm a little bit better this year than I was last year. It's a little different being a sophomore, having experience this year, knowing what's coming and being prepared for it.
CalBears.com: How was the Hawaii training trip over winter break?
CT: It was a little more intense than last year, but it was also a little more fun. I definitely went to try different places to eat and explored a little more. Last year I was so scared about training that I was scared to waste energy. But this year I trained when we trained and outside of that I could enjoy Hawaii. It was a better experience this year.
CalBears.com: In May 2010, you broke Natalie Coughlin's high school record (52.86) in the 100-yard backstroke with your time of 51.85. (Incoming Cal freshman Rachel Bootsma has since broken Tran's record with a time of 51.53.) Have you ever spoken to Natalie about surpassing her mark?
CT: No, not about the record. There are a few times I've gone to ask her some technical questions about swimming, and I've gotten great feedback. She's such a wise athlete.
CalBears.com: As the two NCAA championships in three years prove, Cal does well in a variety of events. But why do you think Cal produces great backstrokers in particular, including Natalie, you, Deborah Roth, Stephanie Au, Rachel Bootsma, her fellow incoming freshman Elizabeth Pelton and many others?
CalBears.com: Does anyone else in your family swim competitively?
CT: My little brother, Alex. He's a junior in high school.
CalBears.com: Are you the first member of your family to go to college?
CT: In my immediate family, yes.
CalBears.com: What does it mean to be able to attend a place where you can excel academically as well as win national championships?
CT: Sometimes I just look around and I'm so grateful for being able to be here and being able to have this experience that not many people will have in their lives. My cousins and my family - they will never understand the team and being a part of something like this, so I'm lucky.
CalBears.com: Your parents had quite a journey to get to the United States. They grew up in Cambodia, fled the civil war there, migrated to Canada and then moved to California, where you and your brother Alex were born. Have your parents told you much about what life was like in Cambodia?
CT: My dad, when I was a lot younger, would tell us stories to put us to sleep, but I don't remember any of them. I've been encouraging him to try to write about it. I'm going to get him a tape recorder and get him to talk about it on that, because they don't really like talking about it. My family history is a little fuzzy, but I want to know more about it.
CalBears.com: Have you ever been to Cambodia?
CT: The summer of my junior year, I went to Cambodia with my family, everyone in my immediate family except for my dad, because he refused to go back. I was there for about three weeks. We didn't talk about exactly what happened, but we went to this concentration camp area, where I think my mom might have been through. That was the first time she had gone back for like 20 years.
CalBears.com: Have you spent time in Canada, other than at that British Columbia meet you competed in last year?
CT: Yes. In the past, my family would go over Christmas break. But we haven't gone on vacation there in about two and a half years. I think I'm going to go back this summer because my grandmother's getting old. She lives up there. Everyone on my dad's side lives up there, in France or in Cambodia. My mom's side pretty much lives in California or in France.
CalBears.com: Have your parents seen you compete much since you came to Cal?
CT: Yes. Every time I get to go down to Long Beach or if I'm in the area, like during the summer when we go to L.A., they'll come. Every opportunity that they get, every session, they'll always be there. But it's hard when we have home meets. For championship meets, my dad will always be there. My mom doesn't get to go as much, because she has to take care of Alex and our donut shop.
CalBears.com: Shifting gears a bit, what's your favorite movie?
CT: I have many. The first one that came to my head - a very inspirational movie - is "Without Limits." It's about Steve Prefontaine, the runner. I really like that movie.
CalBears.com: What's your favorite TV show?
CT: At the moment, I'm in love with "Dexter." It's so good. I really like the show "Fringe." And I like "Bones." I really like "Glee" and "Friends." "Friends" is an all time favorite. We bought all 10 seasons on DVD. Those are my top five.
CalBears.com: What's the most-played song on your iPod?
CT: It varies. It's kind of embarrassing, because my music is kind of lame compared to other peoples'. I don't really like rap. I like slower, more lyrical, relaxing stuff, by singers like Jack Johnson. I own all of his CDs. I like John Mayer.
CalBears.com: Colleen Fotsch, your senior teammate, gathers the music the team works out to; she's your team's DJ, so to speak. Who will take over that role when she graduates?
CT: Technically, I am supposed to, but I don't think that's a good idea, because I'll probably put everyone to sleep.