Q&A with Maya DiRado
What is your earliest or favorite memory of watching the Olympics? Did you imagine yourself being in that position someday?
I remember being obsessed with the Sydney Olympics in 2000. I would lay down in front of the TV and swim on the carpet as they swam their races. Total nerd. I never even thought I would be close to going someday.
What is your earliest memory of playing or seeing your sport and what was it about your sport that propelled you to dedicate your life to it?
I remember getting my first team suit in time for my first meet when I was 6 and just being so excited about it. I wanted to sleep in it but my mom wisely forbade that. There wasn't ever one moment that made me decide "I want to do this professionally," but it was sort of a gradual progression of working hard and improving and then one day I realized, "yeah, this isn't a bad way to make a living." I've always loved the hard work from a very young age though which helps take you this far.
Who has been your greatest influence in swimming and why?
Watching Misty Hyman win her gold in the 200 fly in 2000 was pretty special. She was a Stanford girl and nobody expected her to win. It's so strange now knowing her as a Stanford alum and getting to talk to this person I idolized so much.
What's something cool or intense about swimming that people don't normally see?
The early mornings are actually pretty great. It's early and cold but feels so good once you're moving. We're able to see some pretty spectacular sunrises during these practices.
What are your pre-competition rituals?
Pre-competition is all about feeling relaxed and calm. There are a few sets we do before a meet to get dialed in and then after that it's mostly just shutting down the brain and getting ready to go. I generally like to do my nails before a big meet but that's about it.
Tell us a bit about your family.
Married to Rob Andrews, a software engineer and former Stanford swimmer. And I have one older sister Sarah who is married with a baby girl Evangeline. She's the cutest.
What is your music of choice while training? Do you have a favorite go-to song that motivates you?
My coach Greg will put it on the '80s cardio Pandora station on hard IM days because I love my '80s jams. "Ignition Remix" was stuck in my head during the swim when I first qualified for Nationals so that's always fondly remembered. Before races I like upbeat pop songs. Nothing hardcore. The 400 IM is hardcore enough for me.
What are some of you quirky habits and secret talents?
I have to have the eggs balanced in the egg carton. I'll take them out based on what keeps the carton balanced and will rearrange them if someone did it wrong.
Also, at Jason's Cafe I think I hold the unofficial "quickest pancake combo consumption" record. It's two pancakes, two eggs, and two pieces of bacon. I think my best is 2 minutes and 45 seconds.
What are some of your hobbies?
I enjoy hiking - we go up to Yosemite about once a year. I hiked Half Dome last summer and it was incredible and also incredibly hard. I love to cook. It was so much fun to make a wedding registry and get these amazing pots and pans. I actually use them for which I'm quite proud of myself. And I love Ina Garten. She's just the classiest and has the life I would love to lead. If I could cook with her or get cooking advice that would be a dream.
Yoga and pilates are favorite dryland activiites. Yoga helps loosen up all our tight spots and I think the movements and posture in pilates has great carryover into swimming technique. Bikram yoga is the most "aaahhhhh" inducing activity I've found. I feel so loose and mellow after that. I love to read any World War II book or Churchill biography I can get my hands on.
Do you collect anything?
I love to buy beautiful books. Coffee table books, old used books, new ones. I have a Kindle and love it but nothing compares to the smell of old books.
Do you have a celebrity crush? Do you have an Olympic crush?
Oo. My husband is a huge golf fan, is pumped golf will be in the Olympics and likes Jordan Spieth, and I think Jordan is adorable. Hopefully he (and I!) make the Olympic team so I can fan-stalk him in Rio.
When you have time to relax, what are your favorite TV shows?
I tore through all seven seasons of The West Wing in eight weeks during one quarter in college. I love Parks and Recreation, Newsroom (was so bummed when that ended!), and 30 Rock are other faves as well.
What is your favorite movie?
The Sound of Music. My mom is obsessed with Julie Andrews. We had three copies growing up, and I've been to two SoM sing-alongs. For one, I dressed up as a brown paper package tied up with strings and won a stuffed goat. It played a pretty big part in my childhood, clearly.
Do you have a personal motto?
My mom always says "a closed mouth don't get fed!" which helps me be assertive and ask for what I need when I'm feeling shy.
Can you admit what your worst habit is?
I have a tremendously messy locker at the pool. I'm pretty organized in the rest of my life but my locker is just filled with years of clothes buildup. It needs to be dealt with.
When you have time off, what would constitute a perfect day for you?
I love to go boogie boarding down in Santa Cruz with my beach crew. Ideally I'd have a dog (ahem, Rob) and then we'd go to this cafe in Santa Cruz called The Buttery for a long lunch. Read the paper, attempt the crossword, and then have a big dinner with family that night.
A good day of boogie boarding or body surfing does wonderful things for the soul.
How do you unwind after a competition?
I eat everything for a few days and then enjoy doing yoga, pilates, and beach trips during my few weeks off.
Do you like to travel? What has been the most special place you have traveled to and why?
I love traveling. I've been so lucky with swimming to be able to visit so many different countries. Barcelona has really stood out to me in all my travels. Gaudi's La Sagrada Familia is the most amazing building I've ever been in. The size, the light, the way he incorporated nature into his designs and the fact that it's still being constructed just make it an amazing place.
Q&As with swimmers of Team USA
Get to know the swimmers of Team USA:
Elizabeth Beisel | Haley Anderson | Missy Franklin | Simone Manuel | Maya DiRado | Connor Jaeger | Conor Dwyer | Kevin Cordes | Katie Meili | Katie Ledecky | Ryan Lochte | Nathan Adrian | Cammile Adams | Jay Litherland | Gunnar Bentz |