February 1, 2007

Ten Questions with Brad Newman and Wes Newman

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After completing one of the most successful seasons in men’s swimming and diving history, senior co-captain Brad Newman and his sophomore brother, Wes, swam a few victory laps with Paul Testa.

1. So it’s college, and it seems like the time to experiment, but I’ve never done this with two dudes before. I’m going to have to lay down a ground rule OK? Wes, you’re the youngest, so every time before you speak I’m going to need you to clap or whistle, OK?

Wes: All right.

What?

[Whistles] W: OK.

Excellent, let’s get down to business. The swimming and diving team finished the dual-meet season a perfect 10-0 with last weekend’s victory over Columbia. In fact, you two sealed the victory over the Lions with your 1-2 finish in the 100 fly. How sweet was that victory and how amazing has this season been?

Brad: The season itself has been phenomenal. There have been so many firsts. It was the first time we beat Harvard, Yale and Princeton in a season, the first time to go undefeated and to win the [outright EISL] dual meet title. Just that in general is amazing. For me as senior, it was just a great note to end on.

W: It was a great way for him to go out. I remember one thing my roommates and I kept talking about was how every meet became the biggest meet. There was so much riding on the line.

Did the prospect of going undefeated weigh heavily on your minds? How much added pressure was there?

B: Well, it was not like we were coming into it with a lot of pressure on us to go undefeated. No one thought we would. I guess it was just pressure we were putting on ourselves to keep it going. There weren’t many expectations, especially at the beginning of the season.

W: The team handled it really well, going into every meet with the same attitude.

What was that attitude? What was the game plan before each meet?

W: Everyone was just getting up, ready to race, wanting to win individual events and wanting to get important points. Guys were just staying relaxed and trying to have a good time.

B: That was especially crucial in our win over Yale. Our [head] coach [Joe Lucia] would tell the team that we needed points from everyone, not just the people that are winning events.

2. How do you motivate yourself in the pool? Is it something purely personal or are there rivalries with other swimmers that push you to get better?

W: I guess it’s a bit of both. Everyone who swims knows there’s a huge individual aspect where you’re trying to beat your best time and go longer than ever before. But there’re definitely guys in the pool who race, and there are definitely people in the pool who push each other. I’m pretty sure everyone has at least someone in the pool that pushes him.

B: That’s something that our coach really stresses. When you’re in the water just practicing, he really wants you to be racing other guys just to get used to it, because when you get to a meet that’s what you’re going to have to do.

At a certain point are you ever like “Another tenth of a second… meh. I’m pretty happy where I am,” or is it a constant drive for that next personal record?

W: I think that’s what differentiates a good athlete from a great athlete. You’re not necessarily unhappy, but you’re always trying to do better.

3. How much better can you guys do? It’s been a solid regular season. Where does the team go from here with the EISL championships next up in late February?

B: At championships, you’re always going to drop a lot of time. It always happens.

W: You prepare for championships differently than you do for dual meets.

We’ll take a couple weeks resting and recovering right before the meet and that definitely helps a lot. People will drop a couple of seconds in a meet. It’s like cross country then, where you’re trying to peak at the right time. Do you feel like you have peaked?

B: We’re swimming a lot faster right now than we ever have, so we’re not exactly sure how it will transfer over. If it transfers over from the season to the championships, it will be real fast.

Are we talking a top-3 finish at EISLs this year?

B: I think that’s the team’s goal.

W: Definitely. Last year we missed top-3 by six points.

.4. Tell me a little more about the team dynamic. Are the divers the equivalent of place kickers on a football team?

B: They train separately from us, so we don’t see them everyday at practice. But especially this year in meets, it’s been proven that they’re vital to the team. They’ve gotten us some huge points.

W: We obviously don’t see them as much, so we may not be as close to them. But they’re just as much a part of the team as anyone.

Come on, these guys are lounging by the side of the pool working on their tans while you’re slogging through laps, aren’t they?

W: I mean, it’s different training.

So no.

B: No, I mean they do a lot of dry land stuff, and then the rest of it is practicing on boards.

W: I can swim laps on end for two hours, but I’m pretty sure I couldn’t get on a board, mess up, fall in the water and then get back up and do it again 50 times.

B: When they practice those dives, they’re not nailing those dives. They’re smacking against the water a lot. It’s probably pretty painful.

So senior diver Trevor Fontes is basically a big klutz. How much would it take to get a diver to a turn a swan dive into a huge belly flop during a meet?

W: We were joking about that last weekend. They always call out dives before they do them, and we were wondering what kind of score you’d get if you said you were going to do a cannonball and you made a huge splash.

It’s got to be a perfect 10. I think you should start recruiting some linemen from the football team.

5. What are your favorite strokes?

B: Butterfly.

W: Butterfly or free.

Really? I feel like the butterfly’s kind of an awkward motion — too jerky.

B: It looks awkward, but if you train and do it well, it’s pretty easy to get into.

See, I’m more of a breaststroker. However, when I do the butterfly, the lifeguard blows the whistle assuming I’m drowning.
[Awkward laughter]
What’s the key to a good butterfly?

W: Do you really want to get into technicalities?

Desperately. Is it about wingspan or color?

W: It’s more about timing. You have to get your feet and arms going at the same time.
Can a hungry caterpillar become a beautiful butterfly?

B: I’m going to have say no on that.

6. Most swimmers these days wear the Fast Skin suits. Have you ever thought about bringing back the Speedo?

B: People still wear the Speedo, but for racing purposes, Fast Skin’s tested and proven faster.

Does self-consciousness come into play? I seem to remember Teagle being a little cold.

W: Not so much. We train everyday in training suits.

B: I’m more used to walking around in something that small, so it doesn’t bother me anymore.

What happens when you go to the beach? Do you bust out the short shorts or are we talking more Maui Fever board shorts?

W: I refuse to do that at the beach.

B: There are a lot of guys who do for tanning purposes on team trips. But I’d never just go to public beach on my own wearing them.

7.You guys spend a lot of time in the pool, but your hair looks better than mine. What’s your secret?

W: You’re probably the first person to compliment my hair. It’s really not that nice.

B: It’s like steel wool.

Can I touch it?

W: Be my guest.

Ouch! I think we’re talking beard consistency.

B: I wear a cap so it’s nowhere near as bad.

W: Brad has all the nice fancy shampoos as well.

What’s in your shower caddy right now, Brad?

B: Fructose Sleek and Shine.

What works best?

B: I would say that does. That is why it’s in my shower.

Wait, it’s one shampoo?

B: Well the shampoo and the matching conditioner.

Would you say you’ve got better hair than most of the women’s swim team?

B: Umm…

Pick a girl on the team. We’ll set up a sort of blind Pepsi-Coke challenge type test.

B: We’ll go with [junior] Leah [Tourtellotte]

Who takes it?

B: I didn’t know we were doing this. I mean there’s a lot of consideration that goes into it, like I don’t really know, manageability, how soft it is.

Would you take the Newman-Tourtellotte hair challenge?

B: I take a lot of pride in my hair so I’d like to think I could take it. No hard feelings toward Leah.

I’m sure she’s furiously grooming as she reads this.

8. Let’s continue along the personal grooming path. It looks like you both have a little playoff beard going, but during the regular season or before a championship, do you shave and how much?

B: Just for our championship meet basically. We don’t really do it in season.

W: Some guys will grow out their beard now, but by championships it will all be gone.

How much are we talking here, chest hair, legs?

W: All of it.

What about the rest?

[Laughing] B: That’s personal preference, I guess.

Do you guys do it yourself, or is some freshman shaving your back?

W: You get most of it yourself.

Who has the worst back hair, either between the two of you or on the team?

B: Between the two of us, I’d have to say Wes. And between the team, I think I’d still have to say Wes.

W: I don’t have back hair!

Is it like a carpet?

W: I don’t have back hair.

B It’s more like a patch.

Here’s what I always thought: swimming is all about fluid dynamics, so instead of shaving all your hair off, why don’t grow it out and style it into a fin? Is that even legal?

W: If you could grow your hair and make it into a rudder, I don’t think they would object.

9. So coming from Canada, I can’t imagine that swimming was that big of a sport?

W: No it wasn’t. Not at all.

B: It’s kind of ironic because we have a lot of Canadians on the Cornell swim team.

W: We play the Canadian national anthem before meets.

Are we talking hockey team levels here?

B: No. We can’t compete with that.

Being Canadian imports, how much do you guys miss poutine, or as Americans know it, fries with gravy and cheese.

B: Quite a bit.

Is there any place in town you can get some good pouty?

B: I’ve never seen it here. I had it once in New York, and it wasn’t that good.

W: I’m actually doing a speech on it tomorrow morning, on how to make a real, proper poutine.
What are the keys?

W: You need cheddar cheese curds and a barbeque gravy.

B: A barbeque chicken gravy.

W: And no frozen fries.

So is this a standard dish at the Newman residence?

W: We do have a deep fryer.

10. What’s the hottest varsity team at Cornell?

B: We’ve done a lot of research on this.

W: This has been discussed to all ends on the team.

B: We came up with the 1936 women’s fencing team.
[Astonished.] What?! I’m not sure I can accept that but I’m intrigued. Tell me more about the 1936 women’s fencing team.

B: If you track down their composite, it speaks for itself.

Is it something about a woman with a sword that’s attractive?

B: I think it’s the sword, the tight white suit and the mask. That would probably do it for most people.

W: That’s a little kinky, Brad.

What about the 1937 women’s fencing team?

B: I don’t know what happened there. It was just a bad recruiting class.

[Laughing.] I think our readers need a more current varsity team. You can give separate or combined answers.

W: I’d probably have to go with the field hockey team?

Why field hockey?

W: I know a couple sophomore field hockey girls, not that well, but I think they’ve got a pretty cute team.

Field hockey’s got a very talented sophomore class. Do you take stick skills into account or is it a pure looks call?

W: Mostly the looks. They’re pretty cute. I haven’t actually seen them play any games.

So you’re going straight from the field hockey’s roster on CornellBigRed.com. Nice.
All right, Brad do you have team in mind?

B: I’ll go women’s lacrosse.

Also a solid choice; both teams have very good blonde ratios. Is that something you gentlemen prefer?

W: I guess it depends. My girlfriend’s pretty blonde though.
Works for me.

Paul Testa is a Sun Assistant Sports Editor. 10 Questions will appear every Thursday this semester unless Testa is arrested for wearing his Speedo in public. Comments and suggestions may be sent to pft4@cornell.edu.