Q&A with Summer Sanders on Michael Phelps, her sock drawer
It's hard to believe that it's been eleven years since swimmer Summer Sanders struck gold twice at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona. Since then, she's become a popular television personality. She's a co-host on "NBA Inside Stuff" and host of "U.S. Olympic Gold," and NBA TV's "Mind Body and Spirit." She's also a special correspondent for NBC's "Today" show. Juggling all her projects can be overwhelming, but Sanders found time to share her thoughts on Michael Phelps, reveal what's hiding in her sock drawer, and admit to being a wimp.
Q1: What do you think about how well Michael Phelps is swimming?
SUMMER SANDERS: He's a phoneme. He made his first Olympic team at such a young age and when guys make a team young you always worry, 'Are they going to be able to come back and do it again or was it just a sort of a freak accident that they made the team?' because they usually peak later. He just continues to get better and better. The cool thing is, I don't know him, but I feel like he's not even really surprising himself. I feel like he knows he can go even faster than he's going right now.
Q2: Which athlete did you enjoy interviewing the most for "U.S. Olympic Gold"?
SUMMER SANDERS: It was such a treat for me to be able to interview Jackie Joyner-Kersee. I love her dearly as a person and as a friend, but she was my hero. I'll never forget when I first met her. It was right after the Goodwill Games in 1990 and it was my first really good meet. I'd won three gold medals there. Jackie and I were in the same room and she obviously was like an unbelievable athlete in my eyes like gold medals, world records, she'd done everything.
I was in awe and she walked up and said, 'Hey, congratulations you just won three gold medals at the Goodwill Games.' It literally floored me. I couldn't
even speak. I was like, 'You're not supposed to be saying that to me I'm supposed to be saying all about you and your gold medals and things.' But she's just literally the epitome of what you would hope any Olympic champion would be. She's so humble and she is just to the core one of the best people. To be able to hang out with her, she was teaching me javelin, was really fun.
Q3: Who's been the toughest Olympian to interview?
SUMMER SANDERS: We weren't sure if I was going to be able to crack Maurice Greene. He's got this image of like, 'I'm tough, I'm cool,' but we cracked him. He was showing me how to start because whenever you think of Maurice Greene and the sprinters it's all about the intimidation factor and the start. They're walking around, they've got this stare in their eyes, and this whole breathing rhythm. So he showed me how to do that. He loosened up after that.
Q4: Is it true that you keep your gold medals in your sock drawer?
SUMMER SANDERS: True. My theory was that if people were going to rummage through my drawers, I would think that they would focus on the underwear, bra, or whatever drawer, but sock drawers just do not seem interesting at all. The Barcelona medals came in a little pouch so they resemble socks.
Q5: Ever look at videotapes of your wins?
SUMMER SANDERS: The last time I did that was two years ago when my boyfriend's mom was visiting and she wanted to see my race and my boyfriend hadn't seen my race either so I dug it out.
Q6: Do you laugh when you see what you were like back then?
SUMMER SANDERS: When I watch my interviews I think, 'What a dork.' And then it's fun to watch when you're swimming just because it's strange to think that that was me.
Q7: When you're interviewing Jenny Thompson or watching Dara Torres achieve her comeback, do you ever think that could be you?
SUMMER SANDERS: No, not even in a way where there's a thought in the back of my mind. I'm so happy for them. When I'm sitting here talking about Michael Phelps and Natalie Coughlin I also think of Jenny Thompson. Unbelievable. I can't believe that she's still at it and she deserves her individual gold medal, but she also just deserves to swim as long as she ever wants to and I think she'll do that because she's unbelievably gifted and talented when it comes to the sport of swimming.
Q8: If you could interview any U.S. Olympian, living or dead, who would it be?
SUMMER SANDERS: Babe Didrikson Zaharias because she was an unbelievable pioneer. She was the first woman to really put women's sports on the map way back when. She did everything from diving to golf to baseball to tennis. I just think it's really cool.
Q9: If you could compete in any other Olympic sport what would it be?
SUMMER SANDERS: I would love to lead the United States in table tennis because they have yet to make their mark in the sport.
Q10: You wouldn't want to try something wild like aerial skiing?
SUMMER SANDERS: I'm a wimp when it comes to death-defying acts. I just freak out and death-defying to me is even platform diving.