Havre Daily News Sports Editor
So much has changed for Megan Quann since that sultry summer Sydney evening in 2000 when she became an American darling of the summer Olympics, winning a gold medal in the 100 breast stroke at the ripe old age of 16. Her popularity only grew when she added a second gold medal in the 400 relay.
For starters, her name is different. She goes by Megan Jendrick now, after marrying longtime boyfriend Nathan Jendrick in December. Then there is her status in the swimming world. After being at the very top, there was nowhere else to go but down. She failed to qualify for the 2004 Athens Olympics, missing out by mere hundreths of a second at the Olympic trials.
But perhaps the biggest change is her attitude toward swimming. There was a time when it just didn't seem to be that much fun to get in the pool. The love was there; the joy wasn't. It felt like, well, work.
But after an eight-month hiatus from training following the trials, Jendrick is back where she is happiest - in the pool.
And this past weekend, Jendrick was not just at any old pool, she was at Havre's Community Pool as part of the annual All-American Swim Camp hosted by Havre Lions and Havre High coach Chris Inman and camp organizer Jerry Lusk, of Ladysmith, Wis.
"When we first pulled into town, I didn't think this town even had a pool," Jendrick admitted.
"We've been doing this camp for the last few years," Inman said. "Jerry really does a nice job with these camps. I remember going to some of his camps when I was younger."
Jendrick is a member of the camp staff, albeit the marquee member. Besides talking with the kids for nearly 40 minutes on Friday morning about her life in swimming, she also provided instruction along with other coaches. It's something she excels at.
"Megan is a very good teacher," Lusk said. "When I get ready to pick out new coaches, I don't choose them because they are gold medalists. All that means it that they can swim fast. I'm looking for people that can teach kids, and Megan can do that."
For all of her expertise with the various techniques of each stroke and her firsthand knowledge of what it takes to excel at swimming's highest level, Jendrick believes she brings a simpler message to the kids at the camp.
"The big thing I like to stress is goal setting," Jendrick said. "I started out in the same place they were at. I couldn't even swim one length of the pool at 9 years old. But through goal setting and hard work, I was able to reach the epitome of success in our sport."
Obviously, most kids won't reach that level no matter how much goal setting they do. But Jendrick said goal setting doesn't need to be looked at in just that way.
"It could be something simpler like setting the goal to play with your brother and sister every day or having fun at school," Jendrick said. "No matter how small it may seem, setting goals for yourself is important."
As much as her life has changed, Jendrick's goals remain close to the same.
"I want to set the world record in the 100 breast stroke," she said without hesitation.
Don't think that it isn't within her reach. The eight-month break from swimming has refreshed and refocused Jendrick.
"I love swimming so much more," she said. "Part of why I am doing so well is that I have newfound love for the sport."
It wasn't that she loved the sport less two or three years ago. To be honest, it was too much success, too soon, with too little time and too many people wanting her for something.
"After I won my gold medal, my parents literally had 10 typed pages of all the requests for me," she said. "I had to turn most of them down so I could get back to school and a normal life."
But as much as she tried, her life wasn't going to return to the normalcy of pre-gold. People would stare at her in stores and ask her for autographs. There was the appearance on "The Rosie O'Donnell Show" and throwing out the first pitch at a Seattle Mariners game.
"I was still training, but it wasn't the same," Jendrick said. "After 11 years of training, it's easy to get burnt out."
The loss at the trials didn't make things better. There were rumors that she was going to retire. Even she didn't know exactly what was going to happen. She did some coaching along with other things that weren't swimming-related
What she found out is that she missed the sport. She missed the burn in her muscles after a hard workout. She missed the adrenaline rush of competition. She even missed the smell of chlorine.
Her husband got her back into training by e-mailing Shawn Hutchinson of the King County Aquatic Club in Federal Way, Wash. Megan was coaching with Hutchinson at the time. Nathan and Hutchinson sat down and discussed getting Megan back into the world of competitive swimming.
"I came back on my terms," Jendrick said. "Shawn's a good coach. He's very tough. He isn't afraid to tell me when I need to work harder. He doesn't let me get away with anything."
Indeed, after eight or nine hours of instructing, lecturing and sometimes baby-sitting the 50 campers on Friday, she had to get in the pool and crank out a two-hour workout.
With her newfound enthusiasm for the sport and Hutchinson's help, Jendrick has been posting some of the best times of her career. She rolled to wins in the 100 and 200 breast stroke at the Western Sectional Championships in March, defeating 2004 Olympic qualifier Megan Kirk.
"After taking eight months off, people aren't expecting much out of me," Jendrick said. "But I am doing better than I ever have."
She is looking to continue that trend at the Pacific Rim Championships on June 24-26 and at four more meets, culminating with the U.S. Open championships in December. But there are even bigger meets in the future.
Asked where she would be moments after the 100 breast stroke ends at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, she said instantly, "On the gold medal stand with a world record this time."