February 23, 2006

10 Questions With Senior Swimmer Brookman

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Before jumping on the bus and traveling to Boston for today’s Ivy championships, senior swimmer Jess Brookman splashed around with Sun Senior Writer Per Ostman.

1. First things first – do you know who Josh Katz is?

No, should I?

Probably not. Just checking.

1a. In your last meet (2/11 at Buffalo), your times in both the 200-meter butterfly and the 200-meter IM were the second-fastest in school history. Were you actively going for the records?

Not at all. My goal for that meet was just to win the events so we could win the meet. It was a pleasant surprise to come that close.

Do you have these numbers in your head? Are you aware of how close you are?

I knew the 200 fly was about a 2:05, but I didn’t know the hundredths or anything. So, I knew I was in the area. I missed by 0.15! I should have cut my fingernails that day.

Are you going to break these records over the next few weeks?

That’s the goal. I hadn’t tapered at Buffalo.

Your name is already among the all-time top-5 for a number of events here at Cornell. Do you swim with a sense of history?

For me, I think the most important thing by the end of this season is to get my name on as many records as I can. Pretty much any event I’m swimming is fair game right now. I want to leave my legacy.

2. Swimming is like track & field in that it’s both an individual and a team sport. How do you reconcile this duality?

I think the most important thing for the team is to have everyone going for individual excellence on their own. That way, there’s a push for everyone on the team to be excellent. If you’re excellent in every event that you swim, along with everyone else, then the team is going to be excellent as a whole.

That’s excellent.

I think that’s where our team is headed. It’s where the great teams in the Ivy League are now – Harvard and Princeton. Every girl on those teams is trying to win her event.

And this translates into team success.

Right, definitely.

What are you’re emotions like if you win your races but the team loses?

It’s frustrating for me because I always want to be on a winning team. Just like any athlete, I don’t like to lose personally or as part of a team. It’s a scale between being happy with my own performance and being frustrated that we didn’t win the meet.

What about the opposite? What if the team wins, but you lose? Are you going to be that person who’s sulking in the corner and flipping over Gatorade jugs?

No, actually. That counteracts some of the frustration I’d have if I didn’t swim well. If the team swims well and wins a meet, and I didn’t have the best race of my life, it’s still a good day for us.

3. All athletes are competitive, but race athletes especially. Does this spill over into your everyday life?

I’m definitely more of a perfectionist than the average person. I try to do everything perfectly and as well as I can do it. I don’t race people walking to class or anything, but I don’t like getting stuck behind slower people.

I’ve started shucking people like a linebacker.

I just weave, I’m a weaver.

I don’t have that kind of agility – I just go through people. Do you find that you have a hard edge to you? Can you turn your competitiveness on and off?

Yeah, I mean, I definitely can. It’s on probably three-quarters of the time. But I know how to have fun, though.

Has there ever been a situation where it’s been on, and it really shouldn’t have been?

Oh, with my sister. It’s always competitive when my sister’s involved. I have a hard time turning it off with her. She’s a swimmer, too.

Have you ever raced each other?

Well, we’re on the same club team. We train together at home. It’s nice to have someone push you, but once you go home afterwards, you have to turn it off. It’s hard.

4. Have you thought about what life is going to be like after your senior season?

I’m going to keep training. 2008, baby.

Seriously? Beijing?


Rock on.

I’m a second off the Olympic trial time. I just started seriously training in July – really applying myself to trying to qualify for the Olympics.

Ah. Hence that salad you’re eating along with your pizza bagel. [Points to dinner]

Hey, a pizza bagel is really healthy when you have a tossed salad.

I’ve talked to a few other athletes who are thinking about the Olympics, so it’s nice to hear it’s on your radar.

I don’t want to get ahead of myself. I think it’s something that I have to commit to right now. Now’s the time – we’re two years out. I can do it.

5. Do you enjoy recreational swimming, or are you burnt out? Can you separate work from play?

I’m a water baby. My mom dropped me in the pool when I was three months old.

Same with me. My mother paddled me out into the middle of the lake and threw me overboard.

Yep! I just have a pretty good feel for the water. I like being in the water. I have a pool in my backyard, and I’m in it all the time.

So, swimming is peaceful for you? An escape?

Yeah. It’s different than training, obviously. But when you’re out there, floating on your back, and the sun’s out?

It’s good times.

I’m from Connecticut, so that doesn’t happen that much, but when it does, it’s nice.

Hey, it’s better than Ithaca.

6. The butterfly is kind of a ridiculous stroke. Do you swim fly outside of competition?

Yeah, it is. People ask me to do it.

Really? Like you’re a freak?

Yeah, just to show them.

Do you get tired of doing it?

No, I mean, for me it’s very efficient. It’s easier for me to do than other strokes.

What makes fly your best stroke as opposed to anything else?

It’s all in the hips.

So to speak.

I’m Italian, so I have good rhythm. You should write that, too.

Oh, don’t worry. It’s times like this when I love my job.

7. Have you ever worn those full-body “swift suits” we see at the Olympics?

You mean the Fast Skin?

Yeah, that’s it. I’m an idiot.

I just tried mine on today, actually. There’s a new design this year. It has different paneling.

Like one of those old station wagons?

Yeah, kind of. My parents have one of those. They have a Grand Wagoneer.

Do they really?

Yeah, my Dad loves it. He won’t let anyone touch it.

Oh, it’s vintage. I completely understand.

Yeah, so I have wood paneling on my bathing suit. And it will help me swim fast. I’ll be like a boat.

Don’t patronize me.

The suit is actually pretty much painted on my body. It’s pretty sweet.

Uh huh.

It’s full-body, foot to neck.

Is it bright red?

It’s black. Black and gray.

I like black.

Yeah, they don’t make them in red. You have to look like a bullet!

Not a popsicle.

8. All that time in chlorinated water must wreak havoc on your skin and hair.

[Laughs] See these highlights?

What highlights?

Yeah, exactly.

So, how do you combat the dryness and frizziness? And can you recommend some products to us?

I’m going to have to say Pantene Pro-V Deep Conditioning Mask. Once a week, apply for 30 minutes. I wish I had the discipline to do that, actually. I usually don’t wash my hair that much.

I knew I smelled something.

I think it’s a lost cause. I’m about ready to cut four or five inches off my hair until the end of the season and then just start over.

It’s pretty long. Doesn’t it get all knotted up in your swim cap?

Does it get nappy? I’m usually okay. I have pretty strong hair. But can you see this line where it’s lighter?


That’s from the summer and training outside in the sun. The chlorine bleaches the shit out of your hair. I’m sorry, I don’t have any recommendations for anyone. Stay out of the pool! Go to the beach. It’s much better for you. Salt water is a natural exfoliate.

9. I want you to set the record straight. Men in Speedos: at all attractive? Or by invitation only?

Depends on the guy.

So, by invitation only?

Yeah. But they don’t really wear Speedos anymore. They wear the shorts. They wear Fast Skin.

Thank God.

It’s still tight, though. Whatever. If they don’t have the body to back it up, you don’t want to see that shit.

This is why I stick to boardshorts.

Although, Michael Phelps – great body, but not a great face. So, it really depends on the guy.

So, the suit can draw attention away from other things?

Yeah, other deformities.

How do you feel about men’s swimmers shaving their bodies? Is it really worth those extra tenths of a second?

Well, I don’t really mind. It grows back.

I can only imagine how much that itches.

I don’t want to think about it. That would be like letting my armpits go from 0-60 like that. [Lifts arm].

Thanks. That’s going to replace the White Whale in my nightmares.

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

I feel morally obligated to say men’s swimming.

This column is devoid of morality.

Okay, I see the crew guys in the erg room. Keep up the good work guys!

See, there we go. Finally someone has answered this question right. They used to be even hotter, though.

Oh, we love the erg room. It’s right next to the pool.

It’s all about the spandex, isn’t it?

Yeah, I’m pretty into athletic bodies. I’m not a fan of the athletes in the Beer Olympics. Not a fan.

No Varsity Beer Pong players for you?

No, keep that at the amateur level. But hey, you’re still going to include that I mentioned men’s swimming, right?

Why should I do that?


Because why?

Because my dear boyfriend in on the men’s team.

Awwww. Is he so insecure that he’ll break up with you if you say another another team is more attractive?

Oh, no. Of course not. He’s pretty hot. Let’s be honest.

I wouldn’t know. I didn’t get his calendar in the mail.

10 Questions with Per Ostman will appear every Thursday, or until he starts wearing a speedo to the Sun offices. Comments can be sent to [email protected].

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