SWIMMER Q&A: CATCHING UP WITH TOWNLEY HAAS
2019 Jun | By
By Rachel Lutz, Swim Writer
Townley Haas won the 200-yard freestyle at the NCAA Championships three times in the course of his career at the University of Texas. Now, he’s moved on as a full-time pro, but Haas plans to stay at Texas and he hopes going to finish his coursework by this time next year.
With the 2019 World Championships just a month away and the 2020 Tokyo Games approaching, check out the fifth installment in our monthly series of Swimmer Q&As, as swim writer Rachel Lutz chats with the 200m freestyle Pan Pacific Championship gold medalist.
Q. Did you just finish school? And what is your plan for the future?
TH: I just finished my eligibility. I’ve been here for four years. I have more actual class left, but I’m done with eligibility. I’m technically pro, I guess. I plan to stay as long as I can, honestly. I love it here. I don’t really see a reason to leave.
Q. You obviously found a lot of success in college. How would you sum up your overall experience?
TH: It’s been incredible – one of the many words I could use. It’s been a lot of fun too, just being able to swim with the guys, my team, win NCAAs three times. Everything in between has just been awesome.
Q. Can you compare Trials in 2016 to what it was like to swim at the 2016 Olympics in Rio? How did you adjust to those different environments?
TH: That was my first Trials and then obviously my first Olympics. I think Trials is an insane meet. There are so many people there. It’s kind of a weird thing: the pool was lit but the stands were dark. I couldn’t actually see the people, but I kind of liked it because it gave you a little bit of calm. I could hear them, but when you’re not staring at 12,000 people, it made it a little easier.
There were more [in Rio]. I could see them. Knowing where I was and what I was about to do was a little nerve-wracking for sure. It was incredible. It was so much fun. The whole team was a group of amazing people and I definitely learned a lot about myself and swimming.
Q. Had you always had your sights set on 2016 or did you think that because of your age that 2020 might be your target?
TH: I wasn’t specifically like, ‘I want to go to the 2016 Olympics.’ Then, freshman year, I had an incredible year and it made me realize that it was more of a possibility. NCAAs made me think it was possible that year. I kept training hard and got a good taper.
Q. I want to ask you about the world championships in 2017, where you won a silver medal in the 200m freestyle. Sun Yang won gold. Do you ever wonder about being upgraded to gold because of all of his questionable doping troubles?
TH: Yeah. That’s obviously tough… the whole area is tough. It’s one of those things where it’s like, I don’t think he should still be allowed to swim but I’m also not in charge of it. It’s one of those things where, as much as I don’t want to I just have to accept what the governing body has decided. It’s not what I wanted. It’s way, way out of my control right now.
Q. I didn’t know how often that crossed your mind, if ever.
TH: I mean, it has and it does. But it’s not a lot. Someone will bring it up and it’s one of those, ‘yeah, that stunk’ but you know, it’s two years later now. I try not to keep thinking about it because I’m not sure what I could do to change it right now.
Q. You won the 200m freestyle at Pan Pacs in Tokyo, the site of the 2020 Olympics. How did you like the city?
TH: The last day we were there, we got on a bus and they drove us around and showed us where the village would be and the new pool that they’re building and stuff like that. It was a lot of fun. I love Tokyo. It’s an incredible city.
Q. How will you adapt to morning finals and nighttime preliminary heats?
TH: I don’t know how it’s going to be. I know they did that in Beijing (2008). Obviously, Michael Phelps did pretty well there. That’s probably something that sounds like a bigger deal than it is. It would probably take us a few days to get used to and then we would be fine. It will definitely be a new experience for me.
Q. You were a finalist for the Sullivan Awards, given to the best amateur athlete in the country. What was that experience like?
TH: The eight of us [the finalists] flew to New York. We stayed at the New York Athletic Club. It was awesome. We did a bus tour of New York. We did an escape room together. Obviously, we talk to other athletes [in different sports] but that was two days that I was pretty much only with them. It was cool to hear their experiences and stuff.
Q. How did you fare in the escape room? Did you beat it?
TH: We did – with two minutes to spare. It was way more fun than I thought it was gonna be, to be honest. I went in a little skeptical, but it was a lot of fun.
Q. Hypothetically, if you had to give up one event between the 100m, 200m, and 400m freestyle, which would it be?
TH: The 400.
Q. No hesitation there! What about between the 100m and the 200m?
TH: I would have to say the 100m. Just because the 200m is just my event. I can’t not swim that!
Q. How different do you think your life would be if you went by Francis, or Frank (your given name) instead of your middle name, Townley?
TH: It’s not a bad thing and it’s not anyone’s fault. It’s something I’ve had to deal with my whole life. Attendance, for instance: ‘Francis Haas?’ ‘Oh, I go by Townley.’ And then, I get to the point where I have to say Townley like four times because people can’t understand what I’m saying. It’s a unique name. It probably would’ve saved a lot of time, honestly [laughing].
I don’t know that it would’ve made me a different person, necessarily. Even if I went by Frank, that’s much easier than explaining that I go by my middle name and them having to figure out how to say it.
It is such a unique name. I know that – and I love it. Even at restaurants, they’ll be like, ‘what’s your name?’ and I’ll say Townley. And they’ll say, OK, Townsley, or Towney. They’ll leave out certain letters or add certain letters. It’s just… not my name!
Q. Your poor barista.
TH: Yeah. I try to make my own coffee!