Olympic Hopeful Q&A with Emily Silver

July 4, 2008

BERKELEY - CalBears.com spoke to star swimmer Emily Silver recently about her dream of competing in the Olympic Games. The Golden Bears' All-American finished her collegiate career in the 2008 NCAA Championships last March, when she placed fifth in the 100-yard freestyle and was a member of four Cal relays that finished in the top five of their respective events. She is currently competing in the U.S. Olympic Trials and will race in Friday's 100-meter freestyle final.

CalBears.com: What events are you focusing on at trials?

Silver: 'I'm swimming the 100 fly, 100 free, 200 free and 50 free, but I think out of all of those the one I'm expecting to make it in is the 100 freestyle. With the freestyles, in the 100 free and 200 free they take up to the top six instead of the top two, so I have a better shot of making it. I'm a better 100 freestyler than I am a 200 freestyler. Hopefully I can make it for the 400-free relay.'

CalBears.com: You swam in some different events this year. Was that to work on a new stroke for trials?

Silver: 'I wanted to try something new. I dropped four seconds in my 100 fly. I dropped three seconds in my 200 individual medley, so I obviously improved on those. I think I kind of lost focus on my freestyle events, but after NCAAs, having that time to refocus, the 100 free is really what I want to do well in at trials. I've really been working on my freestyle in practice. Hopefully it will pay off.'

CalBears.com: How is preparing for the Olympic trials different than preparing for the NCAA Championships or any other big event?

Silver: 'I've tried to keep the same mentality that it's just another meet. I think if you get over excited for something it can negatively affect your performance. I remind myself that it's just another swim meet. Obviously I'm preparing well for it, but I'm not over thinking things.'

CalBears.com: When did you first realize you wanted to compete in the Olympics?

Silver: 'I think I was a sophomore in high school, and I had gone down to Novaquatics to swim with Dave Salo in Southern California. I went to this one nationals with Nova, and I swam the 100 free on the end of one of the relays, and my split was a really good time for long course. I remember Dave saying to me, `You could make the Olympic team. I really think that you could make it in the 100 freestyle.' Having someone say that to you...Of course you've always thought as an athlete, when you get to a certain level, you wonder how much better can I get? How much more can I succeed? When he actually said that to me, that he thought I could do it, that was when I thought maybe I could. I just kept that in the back of my mind and advanced my career from there.'

CalBears.com: Have you ever had a swimming mentor?

Silver: 'When I started swimming at Dave's program, the first day of practice I didn't know anyone. And Staciana Stitts (the former Cal All-American and U.S. Olympic gold medalist) came up to me and she said, 'Hi, I'm Staciana, and I just want to welcome you.' She was so nice, and I swam in her lane the first day of practice. I really looked up to her. She was an Olympian and she did so well here. She was just like everyone else and she was so nice. Her work ethic in the pool was really inspirational.'

CalBears.com: Is your sister, Helen Silver, who won the 2006 NCAA title in the 200-yard backstroke while at Cal, retired from swimming now?

Silver: 'She stopped. After she competed at NCAAs, she competed a little while longer after that, but she decided that was all she wanted to do. I really think she could have made the Olympic team in the 200 backstroke if she had continued. Now she works and makes her own money.'

CalBears.com: How has Cal contributed to your Olympic quest?

Silver: 'Being here and being surrounded by so many amazing athletes, being able to train with Natalie Coughlin every day, Erin Reilly, Ashley Chandler, all these different elite athletes, has allowed me to really start to believe that I could be at that level. To be able to compete with them, to be able to train with them every day to see what they do, to have amazing coaches like Teri McKeever and Kristen Lewis and have them believe in me, to just really know that there are other people out there who believe I can do it, that's allowed me to really start to believe. I think if I had gone to school anywhere else I wouldn't have felt this way.'

CalBears.com: What's your favorite memory of a past Olympics?

Silver: 'I remember watching Dana Vollmer - it's so funny she came to school here, and she's a year younger than me - but I remember in the past Olympics watching the 800-free relay. I'm not sure which leg she swam on it, but I just remember the TV commentator saying, `Oh, look at Dana Vollmer,' and she dove in and they were behind, and she caught up, they said, 'She's having the most amazing swim.' I remember thinking, This girl is so talented. I would love to be in her position. And then she came to school here and I got to know her. I train with here every day, and I love it. She works so hard, and it's great to be around someone like that who has the same goals as you.'

CalBears.com: Is there any one thing you're looking forward to if you get to Beijing?

Silver: 'Just to be able to be there and say I'm an Olympian. I don't have to have any material things to take away from it. If I didn't get anything out of the meet, just to be able to be there and have that experience would be enough for me.'

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