Olympic Q&A with Martti Aljand

July 30, 2008

BERKELEY - CalBears.com spoke to swimmer Martti Aljand about joining the family tradition of competing in the Olympics. Aljand, who recently completed his freshman year at Cal, will swim for Estonia in Beijing in the 100- and 200-meter breaststroke.At the 2008 NCAA championships, he placed sixth in the 200-yard breaststroke, eighth in the 100 breast and 13th in the 200 individual medley, and he swam the anchor leg of Cal's 800-free relay that placed 10th. Aljand was also third at the 2008 Pac-10 meet in the 200 IM and fifth in the 200 breast. He is a five-time Estonian champion in the 200 IM.

CalBears.com: What was your Olympic qualifying experience like?

Aljand: 'I was kind of nervous, because we didn't swim long course much. Yards is very different than long-course [meters], but I made my cuts.'

CalBears.com: What's the biggest sacrifice you've made to try and reach the Olympics?

Aljand: 'The biggest sacrifice I've had to make is leaving my home country, to leave my friends and adapt to a new life here. It has made a big impact, a positive impact. The team and the coach and the staff we have here is very good and we work together very well.'

CalBears.com: What are you looking forward to the most in Beijing?

Aljand: 'My first race is the first day, the day after Opening Ceremonies, so I'm probably not going to attend that. The race wouldn't be very good after that. The whole experience of being around the best athletes in the world, I'm really looking forward to that.'

CalBears.com: How challenging is it to be in school, compete at Cal and train for the Olympics?

Aljand: 'It was a risk coming here; as I said before, it was all worth it. It all came out okay'

CalBears.com: When did you first dream of competing in the Olympics?

Aljand: 'I think that is the ultimate goal every athlete has. My grandmother was an Olympian; she competed in backstroke. My sister, Trin, went to Athens.'

CalBears.com: How has Cal helped you attain this dream?

Aljand: 'I think at some point change is always positive. I trained with the same coach for over 10 years, but there was a stage at which I though I got all the information I could from him, so I needed a change really bad. The team I have here is very competitive, racing in a competition every day.'

CalBears.com: Who has been the biggest influence on you and your training?

Aljand: 'It's not one person. It's the team, the coaches, my family. It's all the people who have supported me.'

CalBears.com: How did you first become interested or involved in your sport?

Aljand: 'My grandmother and grandfather all swam, so it's a swimming family. My parents wanted me to try something else, but I went with my sister to the training camps, I would hang around the lake. One time I fell in and almost drowned, so my parents decided I should learn to swim.'

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