By Bob Schaller//Correspondent
Her gold-medal breaststroke performance in Sydney put Megan Quann front and center in the world of swimming. In 2008, Megan Jendrick showed the disappointment of failing to make the ’04 team was not going to keep her down, and she finaled in Beijing. With her 30th birthday upcoming, and a beautiful 2-year-old son she and her husband are enjoying every single day, Megan decided to retire from swimming, though she’ll still be very involved in the sport, as she explains in this week’s 20 Question Tuesday.
1. Why retire now?
Megan: Well, I’ve been at it for such a long time and have kind of been multiple back and forth several times before (on retiring), after I missed the team in 2004, and after ‘08 I wasn’t sure if I’d come back.
2. How is your son doing?
Megan: He is doing so well. He is a 2-year old boy so he is (laughs) getting into everything and making a mess! He loves playing with cars and trucks and trains, and climbs on everything. He is always active.
3. What are you doing work-wise?
Megan: So one of the pools I grew up training in is the Fife Swim Center. I have done private coaching there for the last four years. We have rented that facility for quite a few of our Aqua Swim Camps. They run a big Swim America program. I pretty much manage that and all the employees.
4. What a great job, managing at Fife in your native home of Washington State – but hey, weren’t you just a teen gold medalist not long ago?
Megan: It’s so funny, because it seems like time flies! It’s hard to believe that was 13 years ago already. Through the camps and private coaching I do, I see kids that have the same drive, determination and positive attitude – that goal-setting mentality, and it reminds me of myself when I was that age.
5. Looking back at the relay and the breaststroke from Sydney, how could it have ever been better?
Megan: The only way it could have been better is if I got the world record in the 100 breaststroke! But I was on cloud 9 winning the gold. I remember people asking how our relay would do, and we said not only were we going to win the gold medal but be the first relay under the 4-minute mark. Not only did we win gold, but we broke the world record by three-and-a-half seconds.
6. What did that mean, the relay record and gold with that incredible crew of women?
Megan: It really did mean a lot. Winning the individual gold is probably the highlight of my career. But to be part of a relay with such iconic swimmers was right at the top as well.
7. Swimming with Jenny Thompson on that – what made that special?
Megan: What’s so funny is I went to a Grand Prix meet in 1997, which was one of my bigger meets (at the time). Jenny Thompson was there; I had a newspaper article she was in, and so I shyly asked her to autograph it for me. I still have that in my scrapbook. Three years later (in 2000) I was on a relay with her, competing together, and representing the U.S. together.
8. Do you stay in touch with those women much?
Megan: With Jenny and B.J., but unfortunately, I don’t get to see them very often.
9. Was B.J. (now Miller) as funny then as she is now?
Megan: B.J. is hilarious. She can put a smile on anyone’s face in any situation. I remember my first time at the ready room (for the 100 (breaststroke) at the Sydney Olympics, it was just dead silent, and no one was talking – just a really intimidating environment. Five days later, it was very different for the final relay with B.J. standing up, telling jokes - just a completely different atmosphere where everyone was happy and excited to be there – I wasn’t nervous or intimidated at all.
10. How difficult was it four years later to just miss making the team in 2004?
Megan: I mean, yeah, anytime when you are going for a specific goal and come up short – 11/100ths of a second short – you have to look back and reevaluate if you want to keep pushing through it and dedicate that time to something because you don’t know if four years later, with all the hard work, that you won’t miss by eleven-hundredths again. Fortunately it worked out for me a second time (in ’08). It was another close one though.
11. To final in Beijing was incredible – you seemed to will yourself to that, is that accurate?
Megan: My Mom would say I willed a lot of races to happen. I’ve always been so mentally strong. A lot of people look at Olympic athletes and think they are just so talented. For me, I have not been that talented in the water; I am not the tallest, and I don’t have the best feel for the water. My talent in life is my mental ability, my ability to set goals and achieve them no matter what.
12. With everything that happened through the years, you had to do everything from changing coaches (not of your own doing) to changing programs – how did you prevent that from slowing you down?
Megan: Adapt and overcome, that has kind of been my motto the last few years. That’s one of the things I think sports really teaches you. Certainly, it does teach you good time management and organization, but the ability and mindset to adapt and overcome is what I have really taken from my experience.
13. How have you stayed so positive and been able to adapt and overcome so many challenges?
Megan: I get asked about motivation during camps. How do you stay motivated when you go a season or two without going a best time? I went nine years (between best times)! So I always talk to kids about that, about being really positive with goal setting and overcoming the situations I was dealt, and still always finding a way to make goals happen.
14. You have directly and indirectly given so much back to the sport, with charitable work, donations to charities, and as a swim ambassador and coach/clinician – why is that so important to you?
Megan: I think that’[s] just part of the way I was raised. Our parents always instilled in me, my brother and sister that you want to leave things better than when you got there. So I love to give back to a sport that has given me so much. I have had a 20-year career, though I am still in the sport with the city of Fife, and I want to give back to something that has molded my life so significantly.
15. You stayed in Washington when a lot of people went to a different program or followed a coach – what kept Washington in your swimming DNA?
Megan: It really is who I am. My husband and I have talked quite a few times when coaches have moved on and/or programs have changed, “Do we want to move, do we want to go somewhere else?” We have so much family here and we love the area.
16. Quite a change from being a teen gold medalist in 2000 to being an Olympic finalist in 2008, isn’t it?
Megan: It’s really not an easy journey, because at 16 years old I was living at home – I was in high school, and my parents (laughs) were paying all the bills, making all my meals, drove me to practice. And then eight years later, I have a family of my own, I am responsible for my own bills, cooking my own meals…the effort that went into that – not that making the Olympic team is easy by any means – but the effort that went into making that Beijing team was much more intense (laughs) than Sydney .
17. How did you feel about the 2008 Games?
Megan: Beijing was amazing. I was bummed I just barely missed the medal stand, because I really was hoping to bring home some hardware. But being part of the 400 relay (and winning a silver medal) was very, very exciting.
18. That swim in Sydney was one for the ages, wasn’t it?
Megan: I looked at my time from Sydney, and that would have won a silver medal in Athens, and in Beijing it would have been a bronze medal time. Things took off (laughs) so much in London that I am not sure if I my time would have even made the final! That Sydney swim is something I will never forget because I knew without a doubt that I was going to win the gold medal. I have never had that same feeling since, but I knew I was going to dive in and win that race. It’s funny looking back because going out I was almost always in first place at the 50-meter mark, (but in Sydney) I went out in fourth place at the turn, which was the opposite of how I used to race. Even though I was going to win, something came over me, even though I raced that race completely different than every other time.
19. You must be thrilled, being so kind-hearted and well-liked, to see two teens like Missy Franklin and Katie Ledecky occupying that spot now and doing so well with it, right?
Megan: I don’t think there could be two more amazing people to take over that position now. Both of those girls are so sweet. Missy Franklin grew up competing in this area at the sectional meets when she was younger. Kids ask me at camp if I know Missy, and I tell them I have known her since she was 13 years old. The next question (about Missy) is, “Is she really that sweet?” And I tell them, “The Missy you see who is so sweet and so caring and so humble – she’s exactly that way in person.”
20. You left such a great legacy, left it all in the pool as they say, and so many people care about you from how you carried yourself, what do those notes and emails and postings make you think about?
Megan: That makes me feel so, so good. Even getting fan mail and saying that I inspired someone in some way, working with kids in camp, or swim lessons with those who are just beginning to swim. That I made a difference in the sport makes me feel good. That I inspired anyone? Well, that’s the biggest compliment I could ever ask for.