The Michigan Daily - Sports Monday- September 21, 1992 -Page 3
Gold medalist Mike Barrowman
tells of his journey to Barcelona
Blame ItOn Nio
After arriving at Michigan in the
fall of 1987, Mike Barrowman
qualified to swim in the Seoul
Olympics. Following a disappointing
fourth-place finish at those games in
his specialty event, the 200m breast-
stroke, Barrowman re-dedicated
himself to winning the gold in 1992.
During his next four years at
Michigan, Barrowman rewrote
swimming's record books, breaking
the NCAA record in the 200 yard
breaststroke and breaking the 200m
world record six times. The last of
those records came this summer in
Barcelona where Barrowman finally
won the gold medal he has coveted
since the Seoul Olympics.
Barrowman needs 17 more cred-
its to receive his degree from
Michigan, and plans on returning in
January to complete his education.
w Daily writer Jennifer Silverberg
spoke to Barrowman in his Potomac,
Md. home after the games. Here are
some excerpts from their con-
Daily: What happened when you
went to Seoul?
Barrowman: For me the trials
were everything in life I'd ever
wanted. I wanted to make the
Olympic team. And for those two or
three weeks afterwards, I got cards
and letters from ten billion people
and every newspaper in the country
had me on the front page that day af-
ter I set the national record. And that
was everything I wanted.
My whole life's goal was to
make an Olympic team and here I'm
asked to change that goal in three
weeks to try and win the Olympic
games and I was completely unpre-
pared for that. I didn't expect that.
There was not enough time and I
was too young, too inexperienced to
try and come back and do that. But I
also think everything has a reason
and I may have won the Olympics
and may have broken that world
record but I never would have bro-
ken it so many times to bring it
down to the point it is now if I had
won that race. That would have been
D: What was different between
Barcelona and Seoul?
B: It was like going from night to
day. Seoul was completely unstruc-
tured for athletes, it was structured
for the Korean people, post-Olympic
games. In Barcelona, they took every
step possible for the athletes. It was
a game for the athletes. The only
problem I had in Barcelona was
there was no air conditioning. So I
slept three hours, woke up sweating
to death, would take a shower, sleep
a couple more. It was just stifling the
whole time but everything else was
thought out very well.
D: Were there any personal dif-
ferences for you between Seoul and
B: I think I had gotten to the
point in Barcelona where I could
look at it through different eyes. You
have to be the best at preparing for
something so unusual. It's not just
your regular competition, it's the ul-
timate circus. Everybody is coming
at you from every direction. The
eyes of the world are watching, ev-
erybody knows it. You feel the esti-
mated 700-800 million people
watching you in every event. You
* know it, you feel it and you have to
be prepared for that. I think the first
time I wasn't, I wasn't even thinking
about it yet.
D: Did you learn ways to prepare
B : tYou prepare by being the
most prepared. There was no way I
was going to lose that race (in
Barcelona). I was ready to do any-
thing that needed to be done to win
that race, time wise. Physically, I
was more prepared than anyone else.
Mentally, I was more prepared than
anyone else. I was ready for the race.
I had over-prepared. We went that
extra step in everything to be ready
for anything. I mean, if there was a
typhoon in lane eight when I swam, I
still would have won the race.
I was ready for anything and I
think that's the key. You have to be
prepared for every obstacle along the
way. I even brought plastic spoons
that motivated me. It had been a very
tough winter, right before the trials.
It was very tough. He had a tumor
removed and complications for the
last several months. But after that, it
was a motivation. I knew I had to do
it for him as well. It also hurt a lot of
times. It's the kind of thing, you
never really get the thought out of
D: What do you do with a gold
B: That's the kind of thing that's
for everybody who's helped out
along the way. Let them come over
and do whatever they do with it. For
me, I know what I've accomplished
whole point of doing that. Not to
break the world record, that was just
a bonus that came with it.
D: Do you want to be a coach?
B: No, I'd like to teach the
coaches some of the things I've
learned and then let them handle it. I
mean, I've had enough, I think, of
this sport. I've done everything I
wanted to do. It's time for me to
move on to something new.
D: So you won't go to Atlanta?
B: Not unless the Americans
can't come up with another breast-
stroker or I have some incredible
desire, strong calling, but I've done
what I had to do for myself, my
country, my coach and my friends.
What else is there to do? It's too
hard of a sport to continue. How
much is it worth it to do it?
This isn't like some of those
other sports where you run, talk to
your coach for a few minutes and
then go back and do another exer-
cise. It's continuous, non-stop tor-
ture. I think anybody will tell you
when you get to that level there's a
lot of work involved and it's tough,
it really is. I don't want to do it. I
don't enjoy that life. I wrote an arti-
cle for the Free Press and the first
line was, "It's like eating caviar and
dirt." You've got the caviar of being
the world champion, Olympic
champion, etc. etc. but you mix it
with the dirt of training everyday
and it's eating caviar with dirt. You
lose most of the taste even though
the caviar is still there and you know
it. You have the spoils of victory but
when you mix it with what you have
to go through to get it, you lose a lot.
D: Do you feel you missed any-
thing along the way?
B: Well you do, but you figure, I
have the rest of my life to play but
until I win a gold medal I want to
dedicate my life to that.
D: When you go back (to
Michigan) will you know people or
will most of your friends be gone by
B: No. Swimming, for me, has
been like a fraternity to a point
where there have always been
friends there. I think there will al-
ways be people that I know there.
That's a scary thought.
D: Will you finish school in one
B: I really don't know. I'd like
to finish it off one of these days.
Then again, like my coach says,
"once you finish with schooling your
young life is finished too." I don't
look forward to that. I mean, I really
don't care. I know that I'll finish. I
know that I'll get a degree. I'm not
in too much of a rush. I'm thinking
of heading back in January. I've
always had the plans of going to the
Olympic games. I've always had
plans that I had to do. If there's
anything I learned through all this,
it's that whatever I do in life I know
that I'm going to do it well enough
to be happy. I've learned that much
at least. So now I don't worry. It's
been ten years of worrying. So now I
look forward to everyday as a day.
As something where I don't have to
worry. I'm excited about life. So I
don't know, I don't have any plans
and I'm not worried about it. I know
that when the time comes when I
need plans, then I'll find what I need
is readily apparent
"National Communists Against Athletes."
With the passing of the Cold War era, that harsh acronym emblazoned
across Brian Bosworth's T-shirt as he stood, suspended, on the sidelines
at the 1988 Orange Bowl carries a little less impact. Bosworth wore the
shirt to protest his suspension for the disputed results of a drug test. The
suspension, he felt, was a misguided act by a hypocritical group.
Much has changed since that humid night in Miami - Bosworth's
football career went "Stone Cold," his movie career followed suit, and
Barry Switzer is now raising cattle somewhere in rural Oklahoma.
Still remaining, though, is the embarrassment that college athletics
calls a governing body. The NCAA. Someday, and hopefully someday
soon, it will go the way of baseball's commissioner - into the history
books, in a chapter titled, "Well-Intentioned Ideas That Never Worked."
Case in point #356,292: The Michigan Athletic Department scrambles
to keep three players eligible after they (gasp!) appeared at the same bas-
ketball instructional camp together and took money for their time.
Welcome back to the USSR.
Eric Riley, Jalen Rose and Chris Webber were declared ineligible by
Michigan in a report submitted to the NCAA two weeks ago.
That said alone, sounds rather frightening. Riley, Rose and Webber in-
eligible? For how long? All year?
The NCAA must thrive on this power trip. We are in charge, they say.
You doubt us? Fine, then sit out two games because you stole a fry from
your coach at McDonalds. The old men who make the rules hold these
young men's lives in their hands, in many respects. They must want all
involved never to forget just that.
How else can one explain these latest problems?
The Michigan basketball staff allowed its players to attend insturuc-
tional camps all summer, just like they do every summer.
Granted, you do have to wonder why no one checked things out with
an NCAA representative beforehand. Somebody should have said, "Wait
are you absolutely sure this is OK?" It's not like the NCAA suddenly be-
came this insanely unpredictable entity. It's been amazing us for years.
But all that is moot now. It is unchangeable past. Now, out of fear,
Michigan has been forced to make drastic moves in an attempt to appease
those in power who are looking for some publicity.
Why? It is hard to say at this point. The highlighted case revolves
around the Holland, Mich., charity event on Aug. 22 that Riley, Rose and.
Webber attended as special guests. They were paid $300 each, apparently,
while the benefit raised thousands more for a four-year-old boy who
needs an operation to correct a hearing loss. At question is whether $300
is a "reasonable amount," according to over-vague NCAA standards.
On several other occasions this summer, Michigan players attended in-
structional camps together. That, too, apparently is a violation of an
NCAA rule which prohibits more than one player per team from attending
the same camp - a rule designed to prevent possible recruiting advan-
tages and extra practice time.
Silly rules, silly consequences.
Michigan, like so many other schools before it, now must sit and wait
patiently while the great minds at NCAA headquarters in Overland Park,
Kan., mull over the alleged infractions in Michigan's own report and then
decide that, "Since they kissed up to us, and since the only rules they
broke were those really stupid, insignificant ones on page 3,213 ... we'll
let them off with no penalty."
Yet that won't change the fact that the three players have been de-
clared ineligible. It won't change the fact that the NCAA's massive rule-
book, which contains mostly useless petty guidelines, has once again
found a way to needlessly harass a member college for breaking the letter
of the rule, but not the spirit.
This most recent folly reminds us of some of the NCAA's more bril-
Remember Steve Alford? The clean-cut, apple-pie Hoosier boy whose
picture appeared in a charity calendar while he was still playing college
basketball at Indiana. The nerve of some people. The NCAA sure taught
him a lesson. A two-game suspension. Next time, make sure the calendar
profits somehow get funneled to us and we'll take it a little easier on you.
Or how about Conrad McRae? His sinister crime occurred as he made
his campus visit to Syracuse. No fancy cars, no $200 handshakes, BUT
the recruiters took him to lunch off-campus. Sort of like if Steve Fisher
would have taken Webber to Big Boy instead of the U-Club.
Then there are the more painful memories. There is Phil Gamble, a ju-
nior basketball player at Connecticut, who was forced to stay at school in-
stead of going home to Washington D.C. over winter break a few years
back. The team was to play in a tournament during the break, and Gamble
was left to fend for himself since his dorm weren't serving meals.
They found him picking through the trash for food.
He didn't have the money to pay for any, and certainly his coach, Jim
Calhoun, couldn't loan him any.
That would be against the rules.
Prominent sociologist Prof. Harry Edwards has written and spoken at
length on the subject of college athletics. His conclusion? That it is slav-
ery. When the NCAA does things like this, it is hard to disagree.
At Michigan, we have been lucky enough to only witness the
hypocrisy up until this point. Now we are part of it.
There is so much of this latest inquisition left to be played out - ques-
tions abound as to what the NCAA will do, who allowed it to happen, etc.
- but it is painfully clear that more harm than good will come of the en-
That, however, is no new ground for the NCAA to tread on. We have
walked this path with them before. Unfortunately, we probably will again.
with me in case the water they
washed the dishes with was bad.
That's the smallest minor deal.
D: You trained with Roque
Santos and Sergio Lopez (fellow
breaststrokers). Is that unusual to
train with your two biggest competi-
B: Nobody else in the world does
it, not in our sport. It's a mental
game in the end. And what we did,
we'd get together everyday and beat
up on each other mentally. Every
single day. My first thought in the
morning was, "O.K., how can I
screw the other guy up? How can I
break him? How can I physically
break him? How can I mentally
break him?" And that was their first
thought as well. We'd play mental
games with each other, every single
day, twice a day, so by the time we
got to the Olympics, our mental ar-
mor was impregnable.
D: So it was worth it?
B: Yeah. It was hell at the time.
Everyday I'd be worried about those
two guys. Sergio Lopez trains as
hard as anybody in this.world and if
he had his mental suit on, he may
have been a challenge for the gold
medal. So that made me really ner-
vous. Everyday I'd just worry if he'd
ever put it together or not.
D: Your father passed away
shortly after the Olympic Trials. Did
that motivate you more or (id that
hold you down?
B: It was definitely something
along the way.
D: Do you put it in a safe?
B: No, I've never understood
that. It's something you wear, it's
not to be tucked away forever and
ever. Somebody from Michigan
asked me to put it in the Michigan
museum - I don't know which one
he was talking about - a while back
before I had won it. And I didn't
take him seriously because I hadn't
won it yet.
D: Would you do that?
B: Yeah, eventually, I mean. I'd
never seen one until I won it. I think
that would have been a pretty good
motivator to see it. It's nice to have,
but I don't want to become stuck on
one thing. There are other things in
life to go out and accomplish and
other things in this world to do.
D: Do you think the world record
can be reduced more than your last
B: Yeah, that wasn't much of a
time. I was only swimming to win
the race. I think if I had swum for
time it would have been a much dif-
ferent story but that's not what you
go to the Olympic games for. I've
already set the world record six
times and if I was to continue for
another who knows what, I could
probably do it again and again. But
the point is to do everything once.
I've won the World Championships,
broken the world record at least once
and I had never won an Olympic
championship and that was the
Jonathon B Pub
IN NIGHT KARAOKE
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