University of Minnesota sophomore breaststroker Jillian Tyler will compete in her first Olympic Games as she represents Canada in the upcoming weeks. Tyler, who finished a phenomenal rookie season last year, will compete in the 100 breaststroke heat on Sunday. If she advances, Tyler will compete in the semifinals on August 11th, followed by the finals on August 12th. Gophersports.com sat down with Tyler while still training at the University Aquatic Center prior to her Olympic trek.
Gophersports: How did you find out about Minnesota swimming and why did you decide to join the program?
JIllian Tyler: “There were many reasons that contributed to my decision after I took my trip here. It was nice because my primary coach had previous experience with (co-head coach) Kelly Kremer when he was on the men’s side with (former Gopher) Mike Brown. Mike left school before my trip, but I trusted my coach’s judgment in coach Kelly. I came here when I found out what kind of guy coach Kelly is and I personally think the entire coaching staff is world class with a world-class facility. I fell in love with the team and Minnesota in general. It reminds me of home and by the end of the day it’s the kind of place I can see myself living and swimming there for four years. If I have to get up and swim in a pool for years I’d better like it and I actually loved it here. I knew my first full day here this was it for me. I called my family the next day after lunch and told them I’m coming here.”
GS: Describe coming in as a freshman and your first year here at Minnesota.
JT: “This whole year has gone by so fast and at the same time has been a real growth process. I was in a new environment as many of the incoming freshmen were. I’d never trained yards, so for me that was an entirely brand new experience. I didn’t know that much about time so that was new too. I’d never trained the way that we train here and never been coached like they coach here. I wanted that change, which is why I looked at coming to the states for school in general. I wanted to be in a more competitive atmosphere and train with high-level athletes. The first two or three months were the least enjoyable just because you’re trying to get used to school, swimming and our dry land programs. But it was so much fun at the same time. I think around our training trip was when I settled into the group and being a Gopher. By the time Big Tens rolled around, the team had a goal to win. It’s obviously what the team was working for and training for. They were so much fun and it was just really fun to be a part of something like that. Everything here is so much more exciting and competitive than anything I did in Canada. My NCAA experience was different than anyone else on the team since I was focusing on (Olympic) trials a week and a half later. But it was still so exciting and a really good experience to have before trials since I had the chance to swim against the fastest swimmers in America. It’s nice to experience that level of competition and it really helps you come together as a team.”
GS: What is it like to represent your country?
JT: "I'm so ecstatic to be representing not only my home country, but also the University of Minnesota. (When I swam at the trials) I wore a Minnesota tattoo on my cheek in honor of our team. I couldn't be happier and it's more then anyone can ask for."
GS: What is your training schedule heading into the Olympics?
JT: “We go to Singapore for the two week camp which starts July 21st. We do that because of three main reasons. The first is to get used to the time difference and the temperature difference. We also have to get used to the culture and lastly we need to get into our wrap cycle and preparation stages. That’s when I’ll start my taper and I’m very excited. Then on August 4th we go to Beijing and move into the village. I think that week between when we move in and I race will be when I get down to the nitty gritty and getting final preparation ready.
GS: What goals do you have during your Olympic debut?
JT: "My goal heading in is to just take it one step at a time. My first goal is to get a best time and I would really enjoy getting a second swim. If that’s all I accomplish, then I’ll be happy. Beyond that I would really enjoy breaking the Canadian record and beyond that I would love to even make a final. If I can do that, I would get put on a relay. I love relays because it’s a different side of swimming to experience and it’s great to be a part of.”
GS: What can take away from your time at Minnesota and how can you apply it to the Olympic experience?
JT: “Just being part of a team in general. In Canada, we only have club swimming and not high school teams. For the most part it’s individual oriented. Here obviously everything is much more team oriented and it changed my perspective on what it is to be a part of a team and to be on a team in general. I think I can contribute what I’ve learned is my team management. I also have just grown as an individual athlete. I think I’m more competitive and that fire will still burn inside when I’m at Beijing.”
GS: You went to the U.S. Olympic Trials as a volunteer coach. What was it like to go to an event like that as a spectator?
JT: “I was so grateful I was able to go. It was unique in the sense that it was everything I’ve experienced in the states compared to Canada. It was more exciting and the trials were unbelievably competitive. The field was so deep here too. What it would take to make a top eight time in Canada would be dead last in the USA. It was bigger and the crowd was huge. They put on quite a show with fireworks. I really refocused and it got me really excited heading into Beijing. It got me back to what I want to accomplish in the Olympics.”