SI: Ian Thorpe is at your meet, the Janet Evans Invitational.
Just how good is he?
Evans: People used to ask me, "What makes you better than
everyone else?" I said hard work. But when you watch Ian Thorpe
swim, you realize this man was born to do this. It's like
watching Michael Jordan on the basketball court. Ian Thorpe was
put on this earth to do what he does.
SI: The Olympic pool in Athens will not have a roof. How will
that affect the competition?
Evans: I don't think it's good for world records because you need
to have optimal conditions. But every swimmer is in the same
boat. Everyone will be suffering the heat. The backstrokers will
have to look at the sun in their eyes, but that's just how it is.
June 13, 2004
SI: What's been the most impressive feat in swimming?
Evans: My gut answer is Mark Spitz winning seven gold medals [at
the 1972 Olympics], but Tracy Caulkins at one time in the '80s
held an American record in every stroke. That may be the greatest
feat, and it's often overlooked.
SI: American Olympians are being warned to tone down their
celebrations in Athens. Should they?
Evans: It's motivating to look up in the stands and see American
flags and see your countrymen cheering for you. There's nothing
more touching than seeing someone on the medal podium with our
flag. I think the venues will be safe, and the athletes should
celebrate. But they should be careful when they are not in that
SI: At the 1996 Olympics you passed the torch to Muhammad Ali
before he lit the flame at the opening ceremonies. How
nerve-racking was that?
Evans: They didn't tell me it would be Ali until three hours
before because they didn't want me to freak out. But I was
freaking out. I knew it was going to be major, and I was scared.
I didn't want to be the little swimmer who lit the stadium on
SI: You were married to Bill Willson in April at the Long Beach
aquarium in front of a giant fish tank. Do you recommend an
aquarium setting for all brides?
Evans: [Laughs] I recommend an aquarium setting for Olympic
swimming brides. --Richard Deitsch
For more from Janet Evans, go to si.com/siexclusive.