10 Questions with Kaitlin Sandeno
Swimmer Kaitlin Sandeno won the bronze medal in the Sydney Olympics 800-meter freestyle event with an 8-minute, 24.29 swim, becoming the eighth fastest performer ever, and the third fastest in U.S. history. Sandeno also finished fourth in the 400-meter individual medley and sixth in the 200-meter butterfly. No American had ever competed in these three events in the Olympics.
Impressive? Now consider this: SHE'S STILL IN HIGH SCHOOL!!!
Sandeno first rose to prominence in the swimming world at the ripe old age of 15, in the 1999 spring nationals, where she won the 400 IM, finished second in the 800 free and finished third in the 400 free. At the 1999 Pan American Games, Sandeno won the 400 and 800 free, the latter in a Pan Am Games record. At the 2000 spring nationals, she took her second 400 IM national title, finished second in the 200 butterfly and third in the 800 free.
Today this Olympic hero/Homecoming Queen is a senior at El Toro High School, where she serves as the school’s vice president (she was class president during her first three years).
Prior to leaving for Sydney, she received work from her teachers to ensure that she got credit for the month of school she missed. "I think the Olympics is a pretty good excuse to miss school," Sandeno told reporters. She appeared on the television show Extra last August. When the cameras shot at El Toro, she says all sorts of people gathered around, trying to get on TV. Her neighbors kept asking her mother when the segment would air, so Jill finally put a sign outside that read: "Kaitlin will be on Extra on Tuesday."
This raises some interesting questions: How does a teenager handle the pressure of the worldwide spotlight? How does an Olympic medal winner go back to school and take instructions from a P.E. coach in the high school pool? Does an Olympic Medal count as extra credit in gym class? SportsHollywood met with Kaitlin in order to find out.
TEN QUESTIONS (PLUS EIGHT)
SportsHollywood: What's your favorite swimming event?
SANDENO: I like the 200m Butterfly because it's a new event. I like the 800m freestyle best, probably. I used to not like it, but now I like it more.
SportsHollywood: Do you like the 800m freestyle more now for obvious reasons?
SANDENO: Because of the medal? Yeah! (Big Laugh) If you're good in it you usually like it!
SportsHollywood: Men's synchronized swimming: For or against? And if you're for it, should they wear makeup?
SANDENO: (Loads of giggles) I think it's a feminine sport! We'll leave it at that.
SportsHollywood: Where do you keep your Olympic medal?
SANDENO: Nowhere special yet. I do personal appearances at schools and I always bring the medal. Once I'm done with my career, all the big ones will be put in a case.
SportsHollywood: Are you planning on swimming in 2004?
SANDENO: Yes, in Athens, Greece.
SportsHollywood: Are you planning to swim the same three events?
SANDENO: You never know! I'm still pretty young to decide what event or events I want to "major" in.
SportsHollywood: What do you plan to do when you retire from competitive swimming?
SANDENO: I say this now, but I plan on swimming to 2004 and then finish up my career there. I don't want to swim forever. I want to take my swimming achievements, successes and experiences into the field of communications and broadcasting. I want to do sports commentating. That's my plan now but I'm only 17 and that's what a 17-year-old is saying. Who knows, later down the line if I have a major goal I haven't accomplished, I may keep going. Swimming is a sport that's kind of hard to see the future in.
SportsHollywood: What's your favorite sports movie?
SANDENO: A League of Their Own. I like Mighty Ducks too! After I saw it I wanted to play hockey. Oh, I also love the movie Rudy!
SportsHollywood: Is there a swimming movie?
SANDENO: (Big Laugh) No! Swimming gets no press until the Olympics, then… big press!
SportsHollywood: Who should play you in The Kaitlin Sandeno Story?
SANDENO: (Big Laugh) Me!!!
SportsHollywood: Favorite moment at the Olympics, other than winning your medal?
SANDENO: Anything that involved team unity. I would be in the stands cheering and it would hit me that I'm at the Olympics with the most powerful, powerhouse swimming team that there is, representing the United States. That's the biggest honor that there is. It was very surreal. One of our coaches, who has been with the team for several years, told me that we had something special. We were a very close team. I developed a lot of good friendships there.
SportsHollywood: How many hours do you swim each day?
SANDENO: An hour and fifteen minutes in the morning, two and a half at night. That's in the water. But then I do 45 minutes of dry land.
SportsHollywood: Who are your idols?
SANDENO: Summer Sanders and Janet Evans.
SportsHollywood: Who has the worst tattoo on the Olympic swim team:
SANDENO: (Laughing) We all have the same one, the Olympic rings.
SportsHollywood: Do you swim on your high school team, too? If so, can we bet money on who wins your next meet?
SANDENO: (Laughing) In California, swimming is really tough and competitive. Every school has a star swimmer on it. There are two of us from the Olympic team that swim here. Also there are a lot of girls that swam in the Olympic trials.
SportsHollywood: We heard that you were the Homecoming Queen this year.
SANDENO: Yeah, it was great. My dad got to escort me. There are over 600 people in my class and they only picked five, so it was quite an honor. It was funny because the other girls were nervous. After the Olympics, this wasn't that nerve-racking. I was just cold!
SportsHollywood: How do you get all that hair under that small swim cap?
SANDENO: It easy. I just put my hair in a ball and the caps stretch.
SportsHollywood: Ever go for an entire day without remembering to remove your swim cap and goggles?
SANDENO: (Giggles) Yes! I wore it to school!
Interview by Phardoe
Occupation: High School student; Student Body Vice President; Homecoming Queen; Olympic Medalist; National Hero
Favorite Song: "Try again" by Aaliyah
Favorite Movie: "Happy Gilmore"
Favorite TV Show: "Popular"
Hobbies: Soccer, running, volleyball, surfing
Distinguishing Characteristics: Tattoo of the Olympic rings on lower back; Look for a lot of gold around her neck in about four years
'Ten Questions' Archive