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Olympic spotlight: Rebecca Soni

Rebecca Soni
USC alumna Rebecca Soni shoots for her second gold at the London Games.

USC great Rebecca Soni ’09, some four years after breaking onto the world scene with gold and silver medals at the 2008 Olympics, secured her berth into the 2012 Games in London with a second-place finish in the 100-meter breast at the U.S. Swimming Olympic Trials in Omaha, Neb.

Name: Rebecca Soni

Age: 25

Hometown: Plainsboro, N.J.

Events: 100-meter and 200-meter breaststroke, 400-meter medley relay

Resume: 2008 Olympic gold medalist and two-time silver medalist; three gold medals at the 2011 World Championships; current world-record holder in 100-meter and 200-meter breaststroke (short course); 2009, 2010 and 2011 American Swimmer of the Year.

JM: Since your coming out party at the Beijing Olympics in 2008, what has life been like for you?

RS: There’s been a lot going on for me, both in the pool and outside the pool. If you remember, after the 2008 Olympics, I still had another year at USC. I was only a senior. Once I graduated, I got right in to the professional side of the sport, with sponsors and promotional appearances. It’s been a lot of fun, but it has also been a whirlwind for me. As soon as 2012 hit though, I got really excited. This year, it’s all about business and staying focused on what’s to come.

JM: As one of the faces of the sport in this country, how do you go about getting fans excited about swimming?

RS: It’s a growing sport and even since I’ve started competing, I feel like it’s grown. A lot of that has to do with Michael Phelps and people’s interest and him, but that’s good for all of us. From my conversations with fans, I don’t have to do much selling. You’d be surprised how much more people know today than they did maybe four or eight years ago. We would love to get all of our big competitions on TV though, to show everyone that there are still things going on with the sport outside of the Olympics.

JM: This will be your second Olympic Games, and going into London you know not only what it takes to compete but what it takes to win gold and silver on the biggest stage. But, what do you know now that you didn’t know in 2008 in terms of training?

RS: There’s a lot that goes into training, especially now that there is probably more pressure on me than say 2008. There is a lot more focus on what I do every single day from coaches and trainers. I don’t necessarily know more or less than I did heading into Beijing, but I’m still constantly working on the mental side of things. I’m trying not to get caught up in the things I can’t control.

JM: Do you feel like heading into these games you are a better swimmer than you were in 2008?

RS: Not necessarily a better swimmer, but I feel like maybe I’m a better all-around athlete and a smarter swimmer. I’m constantly working on the small things to get better. Focusing on the mental side of swimming is the best way I’ve found to stay dominant in the sport. Four years is certainly a long time to think, but I’ve learned to control what I’m thinking about at all times.

JM: Anything you hope to do differently this time around?

RS: I hope to compete at a high level in every event I take part in. The Beijing Games were very special for me, but I wish I took some time to enjoy it a little more. Because I had to come back for my senior year at USC, I didn’t get to stick around for the closing ceremonies. This time around, I hope to just enjoy the overall experience a little more. My goal is to do my best to represent the country and even USC’s swim and dive program, but it’s also to embrace the opportunity.

JM: You talked about representing the United States and obviously those are the colors you’ll don in London, but how special is it for you to also be serving as an ambassador for the USC athletic program?

RS: USC will always be like a second family to me. I lived here for so long and continue to cherish the time I got to spend as a swimmer here. I really came into my own on this campus and it’s a very special place to me. I’m swimming for my country, but I am also swimming to make everyone back here proud.

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