I hate walls. I hate turns,” says northern California native Haley Anderson. An unusual statement to say the least from the reigning NCAA champion in the 500-yard freestyle, a gut-busting 4-minute swim that requires 19 flip turns.

But the personable 20-year-old has good reasons for her dislike of walls and turns.

She is one of the world’s fastest open water swimmers…and her career is just beginning.

I feel more relaxed in the open water. I love the open water. I like getting ready for anything in the open water and like the need to be ready to adjust to conditions, currents and the competition. I grew up near a lake [Folsom Lake] in northern California. My sister and I would always walk over for a swim. You can just swim and swim without worrying about walls or turns.”

While Anderson knew open water and its challenges and allure from an early age, it took her a while to find herself back on the shoreline as she focused on the pool and developed into a top age-group swimmer emerging and high school star. The fast-improving junior at the University of Southern California studying communications and occupational therapy is really coming into her own in the pool and open water. “I love USC. I have grown up here and matured. I have improved every year here under my coaches Dave Salo, Kevin Clements and Catherine Vogt. The Trojans take such pride in their school, from the students to the professors. You can be walking down the street in your USC shirt and people just come up to you and talk. It is like being in a big family.”

And one of her family members is Ous Mellouli who will join her in their quest to qualify for the Olympic 10km Marathon Swim at the 2012 London Olympics. Mellouli, already a gold medalist in the 1500, is branching out like Anderson with hopes to be racing in the Serpentine in front of an unprecedented worldwide TV audience. “Ous works out so hard and he is so confident in himself. He is tough as nails. We workout together and it is good to have someone to talk to about open water swimming. It’s not easy, but that is what is fun about open water – you can talk about the races afterwards with others. It is important to discuss what happens out there with someone who understand what you are going through.”

Anderson has been through a lot in her relatively short open water swimming career, from being fast-tracked onto the USA Swimming national open water team to completing a 25 km in the cold water (16°C) at the 2010 World Open Water Swimming Championships in lac St-Jean in Canada. With the qualifying swim in Portugal and the Olympics in London, the cooler side of the open water plays to her strengths. “I am totally fine with the cold water. It doesn’t bother me.”

Nothing much seems to bother Anderson whose DNA seems grounded in optimism and good-nature. She always emerges from the water – cold or warm, rough or calm, pool or open water – with a big smile on her face. “I’m always happy and I love to race.”

The hard-working Anderson is certainly ready to race come June 9th with an Olympic berth on the line in Portugal.

Watch for her bright smile at the start … and the finish … on Portuguese television here on June 9th.

Copyright © 2012 by Open Water Source