USC: Clement Lefert

One-on-one with Clement Lefert

March, 28, 2010
3/28/10
7:36
PM PT
As part of an ongoing look into the non-revenue sports at USC, we're doing a series of one-one-one interviews with prominent Trojans in some of the other sports around campus, like swimming, track and field, and tennis.

Today, we have men's swimmer Clement Lefert, a 22-year-old junior who's made waves in his first year with the Trojans. Lefert started off his career with a bang, winning the first event — in the 1000-yard freestyle — of Pac-10 tournament season last November, and he has continued his success throughout this season. He specializes in the freestyle and butterfly strokes.

USCTrojans.com
The 22-year-old Lefert is already the third-fastest Trojan ever with a time of 1:43:72 in the 200-yard butterfly at the Pac-10 Championships.





At the NCAA Championships going on this weekend on the campus of Ohio State, Lefert has earned All-American honors as part of USC's 800-yard free relay team and finished third in the solo 500-yard free. Lefert is a native of Nice, France and a participant in the 2008 Beijing Olympics. He addressed adjusting to living in the United States as the first member of his family to do so, the obvious language barrier, the differences between American and European swimming, and being a part of the USC swim team:

Question: Tell me about your journey in the swim world from France to Los Angeles.

Lefert: I competed in Beijing in 2008 and in Rome in the World Championships last year, and then it was tough for me to keep studying and swimming at the same time in France. In France, people either just swim or just study — they don't do both. And so I made the decision to come to the United States.

Question: I'd imagine it'd be hard to spend 21 years in one country and then suddenly adjust to a completely new one. How quickly were you able to adjust to USC and the team atmosphere?

Lefert: I felt comfortable very fast, because the team was very nice with me. It's very nice to be a part of a team. When I was in France, I used to swim by myself, more individual. College swimming is more like a team thing, you know? You support the others, they support you. Everyone is cheering, and it's very nice. But our daily schedule is very tough. First, it was funny. When the coaches used to give us training instructions, I couldn't catch some of what they said, and when the swimmers are speaking very fast in the locker room with slang words and jokes, I was lost. And then like, month after month, you begin to get some words and you just get used to it. They look at you because you do a bunch of things different, and I look at them because they do a bunch of things different. It's crazy at first, but I think it's good, because I brought them something good and they brought me something good.

Question: Have you ever thought about focusing on swimming and doing school later? On that note, what are your goals in swimming?

Lefert: Yes. If I was a big star, I would do it. Like if I could earn millions of dollars, I would do it, but not lots of people in swimming earn millions. I feel like I need a diploma and I need a job after, there is no real choice for me. My main goal is to make it to London in 2012. And we'll see what happens there. I need like an intellectual activity, like going to class or a job. Just swimming, it's kind of hard. You just wake up in the morning, go swimming, play PlayStation or Xbox, sleep, and go swimming again. You just get crazy after a few years. I like to go to class and have normal relationships. It's good for keeping yourself in society, you know. When you're a high-level athlete, you're not part of society.

Question: Training with USC, is it easier or harder than what you were used to?

Lefert: It's way different. I spend a lot more time in the weight room here, and I never used to go to the weight room at all in France. There is different ideals about swimming. In Europe, it's like, you have to swim a lot. Here, it's like, lots of weight room and everything you do in the water has to be very fast.

Question: What about the coaching? The swimmer-to-coach ratio at USC is probably a lot different from what you were used to in France. Has that slowed your progress at all or made it harder in practice?

Lefert: That was the first thing I thought when I came here, because I had my own personal coach at home. I thought, 'Oh, they're not going to correct me on technique and stuff.' But after two sessions, every single little mistake, the head coach tells me how it's not good, you have to do this, you have to do that. I don't know how they do it, but they have eyes for everything. It's great.

Lefert concludes his initial season with the Trojans this weekend at the NCAA Championships. His next meet will be the French Olympic Trials in April, from which he hopes to qualify for the European Championships.

One-on-one with Presley Bard

March, 18, 2010
3/18/10
8:49
AM PT

Today, we have women's swimmer Presley Bard, a former college All-American and U.S. National Team swimmer in the 100-meter backstroke. Bard is taking part in her first set of competitions with USC after transferring from Indiana following the 2008 season. At the Pac-10 championships last month, she broke two individual school records in the 50-yard freestyle (with a time of 22.26) and the 200-yard back (1:51.80).

As part of an ongoing look into the non-revenue sports at USC, we're doing a series of one-one-one interviews with prominent Trojans in some of the other sports around campus, like swimming, track and field, and tennis.

Now, Bard looks to lead the Women of Troy to a top-five finish at the NCAA Championships, which run from Thursday-Saturday at Purdue in West Lafayette, Ind. The junior sat down on a rare break from practice to discuss an improving USC squad, developing as a swimmer over a long break, the differences in lifestyle between Los Angeles and Bloomington, and more:


Question: You took a lot of time off from swimming, last competing with Indiana in 2008 and sitting out three semesters before finally swimming for USC this spring. Was it hard to wait all that time — did it lessen your enthusiasm for the sport at all?

Bard: Once I got back in the pool and started racing again, I started to get really excited. I think that's contributed a little bit to my success this year. I consider myself more of a racer than a trainer, so being out of competition for so long was a real challenge for me. There's some people that are just exceptional at training. I've never been that great at training, so my confidence really comes from racing, and I was lacking a little bit of that confidence. I never thought that I'd be excited for another year of swimming, but USC's just put a whole new spin on it for me.

Question: What was the adjustment process like, switching from Indiana to USC in the spring of 2009? You seem to have great relationships with your teammates now, but did that take some time to develop?

Bard: Yeah. It took longer to make the bonds than it had in Indiana, just because when you're a freshman you have a whole class of girls that are all trying to make friends and you're living in the dorms with them, whereas here I came in as a junior and I was kind of on my own so it definitely took a while to feel that team unification. But when the new freshmen came in in the fall and it was like a fresh start, that's when things really came together for me and I started to feel like I belonged to a team again.

Question: Did you ever reach a point where you questioned your decision to transfer?

Bard: I'm not going to lie, I did ask myself that a couple times. I was just like, 'I don't know if this is right, should I have stuck it out?' But now I have no regrets, no second questions, at all. Really, at USC, is the first time I can honestly say I love swimming and I enjoy going to practice. It's just fun.

Question: You're a backstroker by trade, but you've done some freestyle swimming this season as well as other strokes, including medley relays. Have you found it to difficult to balance doing these multiple events at the same time?

Bard: I like to think that in swimming it's better to have a variety of races that you're good at, just because if you can compete in relays and you can score in all your other individual events then you can contribute that much more to the team. I definitely think it's possible to be just as good in multiple events. I just feel lucky because I have the luxury of being like, 'Oh, I want to be in short sprints today,' or, 'Oh, I want to be in long sprints today.'

Question: What's the level of competition like in daily practices with the Women of Troy?

Bard: I have amazing teammates to swim against — Haley Anderson, Katinka Hosszu, Lyndsay DePaul — they're top in the country. You can ask anybody at any school about those three swimmers and they'll know who you're talking about. Having them to train with is really helpful.

Question: Last year, USC finished ninth at the NCAA Championships led by — among others — Olympic gold medalist Rebecca Soni. With Soni and others gone, why are expectations higher?

Bard: This year, we still have a lot our top guns, but we have more depth. There's just a lot more elite level athletes on the team this year.

Question: At Purdue, you're going to be pretty close to where you were at in Indiana. It probably will be pretty cold. Are you happy with the weather you're dealing with here as opposed to back in the Midwest?

Bard: The Southern California weather is so nice. Sometimes, I'm like, 'Is it really February or March?' It doesn't even feel like it at all. I wore a two-piece to practice a few weeks ago and I was thinking, 'If I was in Bloomington, I'd first of all be swimming indoor and there'd be snow outside, and people would look at me like I was crazy.' But that's the advantage of being outdoors and being in Southern California — you get wonderful weather all year long.

Bard is among the top-four qualifiers in three different NCAA events. Preliminary heats begin tomorrow at 11 a.m.

Next up in the series is men's swimmer Clement Lefert, a 22-year-old freshman and a participant in the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Lefert, a fly and free specialist and the men will take part in next weekend's men's NCAA Championships on the campus of Ohio State.

Monday links and notes

March, 8, 2010
3/08/10
10:54
PM PT
Plenty of USC-related news on this Monday:
  • To start it off, multiple sources are reporting tonight that USC coach Kevin O'Neill has decided not to retain assistants Phil Johnson and Gib Arnold. Both Johnson and Arnold were in their fifth seasons with the program. At the time he was hired last year, O'Neill said of Johnson: "I have a great respect for the basketball knowledge of Phil Johnson and am very pleased that he has decided to stay at USC," said head coach Kevin O'Neill. Arnold is known as a recruiting extraordinaire. Bob Cantu, the only USC assistant to stay on staff according to reports, tweeted today: "Well now that the season is over its time to hit the recruiting trail hard!!"
  • Beyond Nikola Vucevic, Dwight Lewis and Marcus Johnson's end-of-season Pac-10 awards, multiple Trojans were also honored today. Point guard Ashley Corral was named Pac-10 player of the week after she scored a game-high 20 points in USC's come-from-behind victory over Arizona State on Staturday. Corral also garnered USC Credit Union Student-Athlete of the Week honors, as did men's swimmer Clement Lefert. Lefert won the 200-yard freestyle event at the Pac-10 championships last week and set USC's school record in the process.
  • On the topic of school records, Blake Shaw became the first Trojan runner in the school's history to run a sub-four-minute mile on Saturday in Seattle, Wash. Shaw, a sophomore, ran the mile in 3:59. Watch the video of his performance here.
  • Football news: USC announced Jeff Fucci has been hired as director of football operations, projected starter at safety Drew McAllister is likely to miss spring practice due to hip surgery, and the Trojans conducted their third of six conditioning sessions on Howard Jones Field this evening.
  • From Tuesday on, USC baseball will play a remarkable six games in the next seven days, starting with an away game at Pepperdine tomorrow, a home contest with Connecticut on Wednesday, and a four-game series at Hawaii beginning Friday. USC's Kevin Couture will start tomorrow's game, roughly 48 hours after he was roughed up in his start against New Mexico on Saturday. He lasted just 2/3 of an inning in that game.

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