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Q&A Sophie Gustafson speaks freely about finally conquering her stuttering

May 20, 2002
May 20, 2002

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May 20, 2002

Q&A Sophie Gustafson speaks freely about finally conquering her stuttering

A three-time winner on the LPGA tour, Sophie Gustafson, 28, has
often had trouble completing a sentence in press-conference
settings. During the off-season the Swede spent three weeks at
the Hollins Communications Research Institute in Roanoke, Va.,
learning to talk again.

This is an article from the May 20, 2002 issue Original Layout

SI: Why now, after all these years?

SG: I didn't know that the institute existed. They contacted the
LPGA tour, and the timing was right since we didn't have any
tournaments in January. I thought that if I didn't go then, I
probably never would, so I gave it a chance.

SI: Tell us about the program.

SG: You're there for nearly three weeks and work with a therapist
eight to 10 hours a day. You have the middle weekend off to go
out in the real world and practice the techniques you have
learned.

SI: Such as?

SG: We practiced exaggerating syllables and manipulating muscle
movement in the tongue, lips and jaw. We also worked with the
vocal cords and doing different breathing patterns. I still have
to practice a lot, but the more I use the drills, the easier it
gets.

SI: How long have you stuttered?

SG: Since I started talking.

SI: What is the feeling when you know what you want to say but
the words won't come out?

SG: I hardly ever feel embarrassed anymore. Most of the time it's
pure frustration.

SI: There's an old rumor that as an amateur you purposely blew
tournaments so you wouldn't have to give an acceptance speech.

SG: That's not true. It may have been in the back of my mind, but
it was not a conscious thought. When I was on the Swedish team,
we had an exercise in which everyone had to make a victory
speech. I finally decided that if I just said, "Thank you," that
would be sufficient and would take off some of the pressure. Six
weeks after that I won my first pro tournament [on the Swedish
tour], and three weeks later I won my first European tournament.
It might have been something that held me back, but I didn't
realize it.

SI: You can sing beautifully?

SG: No problem there. Most people who stutter don't stutter when
they sing. Most don't stutter when they talk to their pets,
either.

SI: Is it true that you speak much better after a couple of
beers?

SG: Beer relaxes me, as with most people, and when I didn't know
how to talk, it did help. Now I have to think really hard when I
talk, and beer doesn't help.

SI: What is the weirdest advice anyone has ever given to you to
correct your stuttering?

SG: Stand on my head and drink a glass of water ... or maybe that
was for hiccups.

COLOR PHOTO: ERIK PEREL/AFP