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Discussion: Olympic Iowans with Dan Gable and Natasha Kaiser-Brown

posted on August 7, 2008 at 8:30 PM


Paul Yeager: Joining us are two Iowans who have been in the Olympic arena. Natasha Kaiser-Brown is a two-time Olympian, earning a silver medal in the 4x400 meter relay in 1992. She has also won a world championship in the 4x400 relay. She currently coaches both the men's and women's track teams at Drake University. Dan Gable is winner of the gold medal in wrestling at the 1972 Munich Olympics. He later compiled an untouchable record as a coach at the university level capturing fifteen national championships. He has also coached three Olympic wrestling teams. To the two of you, welcome to The Iowa Journal. So, when you see those profiles what feelings are triggered inside of you?

Dan Gable: Well, I see athletes that are getting ready to get the job done. I see it in their mannerism and with that in mind I think they'll represent the state very well.

Paul Yeager: Same question to you, do you still get some of those same feelings that you want to compete now when you see it?

Natasha Kaiser-Brown: I was stressing out right now. I obviously didn't do the same event that Lolo did but it's just the whole concept of being at the Olympic Games and knowing what it takes just to get to the first round so you can truly say I ran in the Olympics. From the timeframe after you make the team to the time you actually run is a long time.

Paul Yeager: When you see that you finally have gotten there when did it finally click in that I'm here, I'm an Olympian?

Natasha Kaiser-Brown: It was the first round and for me it was don't false start, don't make a mistake, make sure you get through the first round because then you can truly say I'm an Olympian. But when you pull up on the bus and you get out into the stadium and there's so many different checkpoints, you check your spikes, your uniform, your numbers to make sure everything is accurate and when you finally step out there into the arena it's almost overwhelming so you have to regroup and kind of focus on okay I came here to run so all this other stuff doesn't matter. It's a difficult task.

Paul Yeager: Same question to you, Dan. When did it finally hit you in '72 that you were in Munich and you were there to wrestle for the USA?

Dan Gable: It's probably only hit me about now because at that particular time as an athlete my focus was so much on kind of what I did day-to-day that I just expected anything but a championship in the Olympic Games. So, I expected a championship so it was one of those things that it was just another competition to me and I really didn't put the emphasis that this was an Olympic game, the highest honor and all that. So, I think if I would have lost I probably would be tormented.

Paul Yeager: You both have mentioned this, I've seen you both say that in that past. How do you differentiate between the Olympics and do you really try to separate that? It's not separate, it's the same, it's just another competition. The mat is still the same, you're still going to wrestle, the referee is still going to call the same thing.

Dan Gable: I just think it's a frame of mind. I think some people start dwelling on this is the Olympics and this is where I have to do certain things and I think those are the people that probably have a more difficult time. But at the same time if you take it as just another major event and you take every event as a major event pretty much except for the peaking process I think you'll have a better chance. It also depends on really what you've been doing day-to-day in your training and if you'd have an unbelievable success in your day-to-day training it helps a lot. And I was one of those guys that for probably a two year period at least didn't have many bad practices so I felt pretty confident.

Paul Yeager: So, it's a very physical thing, it's also mental. Which one is harder to prepare for? Is it the mental aspect of don't false start, don't do this? What one was harder for you to do?

Natasha Kaiser-Brown: I think probably the mental because it was an event that I really didn't care for and Dan's right, it's your day-to-day preparation but it's also every meet kind of learning what works for you, what doesn't work for you and what thoughts work for you and what thoughts don't. So, by the time you actually get to the Olympics you've rehearsed this so many times that it's easy just to kind of not necessarily go into a zone but you can recall it to your mind and for me it was when they would say runner to your mark that everything comes back to exactly step-by-step when I'm supposed to be out of the box, when I'm supposed to be on the first curve so it was kind of that no turning back point.

Paul Yeager: It would have been kind of hard to say I don't want to be here. You talked about the physical aspects of this a little bit. Doug Schwab, for instance, what has his training been like? You've been an Olympic coach, you've been an Olympian yourself, coached at the university level. The physical nature right now that they're having to go through, when did he hit his physical peak? Is it going to be in a couple of days when he wrestles or has he already hit that? How physically is he getting around?

Dan Gable: Well, you would think that he would be pretty close to being physically ready right now and he probably is. But after watching his workout just a couple of days ago it was an extraordinarily long one which I think he needed that because he stayed at the practice until he felt good about himself and it took a little longer than probably expected but he didn't want to leave on a negative note especially getting ready to fly to the event. And so he did what he had to do to get his mind correct for that practice. Coach Brands had already been done with him and he was on his own while he met some things that he had to do himself.

Paul Yeager: Natasha, you talked about how you weren't in an event that you really wanted to be in but you trained. How does that differentiate in your training then if you have to kind of be I can run this race, this race or this race, you're a little different. How did that affect your training?

Natasha Kaiser-Brown: It was interesting because I had to train with training that didn't involve running the 400 meters or running anything over 400 meters so I did a lot of shorter distances, repeat two hundreds, repeat three hundreds and those I love so I can do those all day long. But I had a great coach though that also ran me through the gamut of workouts so when it came time to actually train and really train myself it just became second nature.

Paul Yeager: Lolo does a different event than you do but how is she a different athlete?

Natasha Kaiser-Brown: She loves her event. She absolutely loves it and it's an exciting, dynamic event. Lolo is in the perfect time of her life. She's the right age and 25 years old is usually the age that Olympic athletes make the team and are successful so she's perfectly fit, she doesn't have any injuries. She honestly should medal. She should be the gold medalist in these games.

Paul Yeager: Technology is in track and field. How has technology impacted the athletes in wrestling? How different are they from when you wrestled to the way they are now?

Dan Gable: Well, it's mostly the rules and regulations, things have changed a lot from a wrestling point of view and you're kind of limited in what you need to do well. And it's almost an art now and a lot of the Europeans who really like that style, it favors them a little bit. If there's 20 athletes per weight class, which that is the situation for the men's wrestling, there's probably not much difference between the 20 athletes as far as scoring points. There might be one point differentiation between all 20. And with that in mind it's going to take somebody to be able to step up a little bit and get the job done. So, I think Doug's situation is going to depend on whether he can kind of widen that gap a little bit, take that one point and make it two or three points and if he can do that then he'll have a good chance.

Paul Yeager: What about technology with track and field? Is Lolo bigger, faster, stronger? Are they similar?

Natasha Kaiser-Brown: I think she is leaner and the muscle training that she has done is a little bit different from probably what I've done and what Kim had done and I think now coaches are really figuring out that your demands of the event that you do are specific to how you train for those as far as the strength goes. She also has Asics is her sponsors and they make a great sprint shoe so you're now talking about this shoe that you put on that you barely feel and it's fast and it's durable and so all these little pieces go into the making of a great athlete. Plus you've got the track surfaces now are even different. They're much cleaner and more efficient.

Paul Yeager: You mentioned a sponsor, that's kind of something too that it appears that has changed, the sponsorship aspect of it, the financial aspect of it. Lolo has some sponsors now but what is life like after the Olympics for her endorsement wise, financial wise? Does this allow her to earn more money as an athlete?

Natasha Kaiser-Brown: It should. Coming back, just being an Olympian gets you a certain level in your contract but when you come back as a medalist it obviously raises your stature a little bit so sponsors usually want to kind of up that. They also want to do it in a four-year increment so after that Olympics is over she'll have another contract for the next three years to see and kind of tie her in too.

Paul Yeager: What about the money aspect of wrestling?

Dan Gable: Well, it's kind of funny because Asics sponsors Doug as well. But the big thing that I should have pointed out was we have instant replay now in wrestling and so a lot of close situations will be reviewed by judges, a panel of judges right there and it stops the action and you have to wait, it kind of breaks up the momentum of the match and somebody will determine by looking at a camera whether you scored or the other person scored and a lot of times things get out of your hands and it's based on some of those things that you talked about. But if you're really doing the job like he said earlier in the show that he's doing his holds and he's scoring his moves and he's not kind of depending on his opponent to give him a break or something.

Paul Yeager: We saw in the sports as you're most familiar with but in this final question here if you were to give advice to Shawn Johnson from an athletic perspective or to any of them really for that matter what advice would you give from your history of being an Olympian? What would you tell them?

Natasha Kaiser-Brown: Not to focus on the outcome, to focus on what you do well. So, every time Lolo would line up or Shawn would line up you really want to look at yourself and think only about your routine or your race strictly and not what everybody else does because you can't control that.

Paul Yeager: Same thing from you?

Dan Gable: Almost perfect. It's so many times in competition you're worried about your opponent and then you worry about your opponent and you've forgotten about yourself and it's you that is going to win, not your opponent.

Paul Yeager: Predictions? Do you want to go out on a limb and say gold for all three?

Natasha Kaiser-Brown: Absolutely.

Dan Gable: She's confident and she's a coach and I'm not in the coaching realm anymore so I'm gonna go with the coach.

Paul Yeager: Very good. Dan Gable, Natasha Kaiser-Brown, I thank you so much for coming in tonight for The Iowa Journal. That will do it for us tonight. The Journal will not be here next week because of Iowa Public Television's fair coverage. However, in two weeks we'll be in Davenport to examine the state of Iowa's gambling industry and in three weeks we'll be looking at how the state will need to handle its water resource in the face of potential climate change. Until then, I'm Paul Yeager. Good night.

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Tags: gymnastics Iowa Olympics sports wrestling

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