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Barbara Terry interview with Amanda Beard

Amanda Beard is an all-American girl – a gifted Olympic swimmer and a gorgeous model. She participated in four consecutive Olympic games – 1996 to 2008 – winning seven medals: two gold, four silver and one bronze. She’s graced the cover of dozens of magazines, but, at heart, is a simple, down-to-earth, wholesome and happy woman.

Why did you choose a truck?

I usually prefer SUVs and stuff like that, usually because it fits my lifestyle more. Whether it’s because I have to load up dogs in the car or surfboards or snowboards or whatever crap I have to put in, I need something just a little bit bigger.

Can you drive a stick shift?

Yes.

Pretty good?

Yeah. I raced cars, so I know how to drive manual because that’s what you have to drive in order to race. I first learned how to drive on a stick shift, and my dad taught me when I was about 14 or something like that. I learned how to drive and then kind of forgot. It’s just like learning howto ride a bike, so when I got back into driving, it just came naturally to me.

What all do you drive now?

I still have a Lincoln Navigator. It’s older, I’ve had it for about eight years. It’s all kind of trashed, with dog hair and stuff, so we’re actually looking to get a new car. But we can’t figure out what as of yet.

I hear you have an amazing motorcycle. What can you tell me about it?

A Ducati Monster.

Where do you crusie that monster of a machine?

Actually, I haven’t been riding it. What happened was, right before the Olympics this summer (2008), I wanted to stay off of my bike because I didn’t want to injure myself. I was on my fiancee’s bike for the whole year. I usually end up riding with him, but he ended up crashing his at the track. He totaled his bike, so now he doesn’t have a bike and I don’t have a riding part­ner. Now we’re waiting for him to get a new bike, and figure that stuff out, so I can ride with him. Usually, when we ride – because I used to live in Venice – we would ride up PCH and through the canyons to Malibu and stuff like that. We try to go to places in L.A. where there aren’t too many people.

Wow, that is a nice ride on a bike.

Yeah, it’s pretty. You can go at your own pace, because I’m not super fast on a motorcycle. I’m a little slower. That way, I’m not caught up in traffic.

So, your first car was a truck. What have you had since then?

I haven’t had too many. I had my pick-up truck, a Chevy Tahoe…l put a seven-inch lift on that, so it was humongous. Then I got my Navigator right after that. Not too many.

Did you ever have a dream car when you were growing up? Like a Porsche or a Ferrari?

I’ve always wanted an El Camino.

Really? That is very unique and nice. I love your choice!

My friends make fun of me. They say that if I ever get one, they’ll never ride with me in it. But I just love it. It’s like a great little muscle car. I don’t know. I’ve just always want­ed one. For a while, I was looking them up, looking at some of the ones that won some car shows and stuff, and decid­ing if I wanted to get one or not. I just never splurged on myself to do it.

Barrett-Jackson Auto Auction is a great place to find one of those. I bet there’s one running through at the Phoenix sale. Have you ever looked at, let’s say, somebody else in your sport one of their cars that they’ve had, and just thought, ‘I’ve gotta have one of those?’

I don’t know if there’s anyone specific, but I always watch Cribs and stuff, and I’m always wondering, especially ath­letes, if all those cars actually belong to them. They pull out, like, 20 cars and they’re all in perfect shape.

Sometimes they do. I mean, there are some athletes with, literally, 20 or 30 cars.

Some of them do, but I think some of them don’t. They try and keep up with everybody else.

They’re very competitive, some of the athletes are. We were interviewing Michael Strahan a couple days ago and Keyshawn Johnson pulled up because he lives down the street. They were talking smack to one another. I love to hear how competitive athletes can be against one another. Such energy!

I think that’s definitely a boy thing. I’m very competi­tive, but I also get really attached to my cars. I have a hard time letting them go.

Obviously…you have had your Navigator for years.

I know. I got it and I put a stereo system in it and I put TVs in it. I made it really nice on the inside, but I didn’t do much on the outside of it. I don’t know why, but I just never did. Then I just became too attached to it. It has tons of miles on it and I just can’t let go. I think that’s a girl thing. Although I want tons of other cars, I just can’t seem to let go.

You’re attached to it I have a really good saying. It’s, There’s a butt for every seat.’ You found yours and you’re attached to it Why change? Why get some­thing else when it’s right?

It’s perfect.

What do you think about hybrids and would you ever own one?

Oh, definitely. We drive out to L.A. a lot. You know that drive that you and your photographer just did from LA. to Phoenix, it’s a boring drive. It just seems longer than it really is. It would be perfect to have a car like that to drive in. You just put miles on it, save some money with some gas and go.

Hybrids do get pretty good gas mileage.

Exactly. My SUVs are real expensive. But gas has gone down, so it’s nice.

How do you like living in the Tuscon area?

Yeah, it’s fine, it’s nice. I’ve had this house for a couple years and it’s home to me. I grew up in Orange County, California, and have spent quite a bit of time living in Venice, CA, so this is a huge change.

Yeah, from Venice CA, it is.

Yeah, definitely. I went to school at the University of Arizona, so I was living out there for a while. I like it. We still have an apartment in Santa Monica. I go back there to work, so I’m not here that often. I just got back home last night. I’m here for, like, a couple days because I have to do laundry and kind of hang out with the dogs. And then I leave again.

What all do you have going on right now?

Well, I just got engaged, so that’s kind of been a big life change.

Congratulations. How did you meet each other?

He’s a photographer. We met on a photo shoot, actu­ally. He was assisting at the time-assisting a photog­rapher that was shooting me for Speedo, for catalogs and stuff. That’s how we met. Kind of cliche and lame, but it’s just how it happened. Now, actually, we’re try­ing to start our first photography business together. That’s kind of been consuming a lot of our time – put­ting our Web site together and trying to send out busi­ness cards. I don’t know that world very well. He does, and I’m just kind of going along with him. I’ve been try­ing to help and learn.

That sounds fun, though. You obviously found something that is passionate to you.

I love taking photos. We travel a lot, so we like to take pho­tos. We figure, if we can do photography together, then we get to travel together, work together and obviously spend a lot of time together.

Do you have plans to compete again?

I don’t know. I haven’t officially retired. I haven’t signed my paperwork saying that I’m done swimming, so I’m not done. I wouldn’t completely rule it out. Like, the year before the Olympics, I may jump back in the pool and try to go for it again. But I’m definitely taking this year off.

I would suppose that you really need that.

I get really sick of swimming. It’s just kind of a boring lifestyle and life because that’s all you do. You go to the pool in the morning for a couple of hours. Then you’re exhausted so you come home and eat breakfast, you take a nap, then go back to the pool, work out for a couple of hours and go to the gym.

What kind of music do you listen to when you drive?

It’s usually, like, kinda classic rock. I listen to a lot of Grateful Dead and things like that. Probably a lot different than a lot of the other athletes.

Well, yes and no. A lot of the athletes like to listen to T.I., some of them love country music while they’re driving. The El Camino was your dream car when you were a kid. Is it still your dream car?

It’s still the El Camino. I got to shoot a cover for Auto Week and they had an El Camino in the shot with me. I was, like, ‘Can I take this home with me?’ It was such a nice car.

Do you get a lot of traffic tickets?

Not too many. Actually, I used to get a lot more, but now I like to go out on the track more and be fast and aggressive out there rather than on the street. In Tucson, people are awful drivers.

It’s a different demographic out here. We stopped at the Starbucks in Albertsons and found it very interesting.

Yeah, it’s different, I know. It’s very different.

What’s your favorite color combination on cars? What color is your Navigator?

My Navigator is white with a gray interior. I seem to like white cars with black rims. I like black cars, but they get so freaking dirty too fast and I’m too lazy to clean my car that often. That’s something that I can be lazy with.

What’s the most interesting thing that you’ve done in a car?

I don’t know. I guess just doing stuff on tracks – like on skid pads – like forward and reverse.

Tell me about your time on the track. Have you ever entered into a race of any sort?

Yeah. I used to watch NASCAR a bunch. Then I did the Long Beach Grand Prix Celebrity Race, which was so much fun because we got to be out on the track. I think we had four track days where we were just learning how to do everything. Then we had a couple days on the actual course and then we had our race day. My whole thing was Karl Malone, the basketball player. I just had to beat him. He kept being so cocky, and the whole time he was in my rearview mirror. I was just driving and I was, like, darn it. He was on my butt the whole time.

Did you cut him off?

I beat him. Then I got my motorcycle and started going out on the track with motorcycles instead of cars. It was completely different, and a little scarier.

How fast have you driven your motorcycle?

Not too fast. Probably 70 or 75. Unlike my fiancee-he goes really fast on his. He borrows his friend’s and goes, like, 160 on them. I think he hit a bird or some­thing onetime.

Oh no. Really?

And that’s the thing that’s so different than being in a car. You’re so exposed. You lane split in California, and you hit people’s mirrors and stuff like that. It’s a whole different ball game, and you have to be so aware. You can’t just sit on a bike and cruise.

Especially on the 405! Have you ever had any car accidents, to speak of?

No, actually. I mean, I’ve wrecked cars on the track. It’s kinda fun that way. I’ve never wrecked my own cars, so that’s been good.

That’s good. How old were you when you got your driver’s license?

I was 16. My birthday’s on October 29 and I got it on Halloween.

All right. How’d you learn how to drive?

From my dad. He had a little Jeep that was a stick, and we would go out in the community when I was about

  • used to drive around there. And then, I remember,

I used to steal his car all the time when he wasn’t home. Driving stick when you’re, like, 14,1 stalled a lot.

What has been your favorite car that you have had from the get-go?

I really love my Tahoe, just because it’s so huge. When I was starting off in college out here, we’d have flash floods. The car’s so big. It has huge tires on it, and I could drive through anything and it would be fine.

And how big of a lift kit did you have on it?

A seven-inch lift.

Wow, that’s a pretty big lift kit. Where is the Tahoe now?

I actually gave it to my sister, just because I wanted the Navigator. She had it for a while, but she was liv­ing up in San Fransisco. It is not very practical trying to park that, and there’s nowhere to park. Everywhere is, like, parking garages and it doesn’t fit into parking garages. So, we ended up selling it and she got a new car. I almost bought it back from her, but, being in Venice, CA with two huge SUVs just doesn’t work.

Everything is compact car parking.

Exactly. We had a driveway on our house and stuff, but it was too tiny – like it was meant for little cars. I was already pushing it with that car.

What does your family think about your Ducati?

I don’t think that they actually think that I ride it.

Do they know that you have it?

Yeah. I had to show them. When I said I got a motorcy­cle, everyone thought that I got a cruiser or something – like a Harley. I’m, like, no, it’s a crotch rocket. Nobody believes me, so I have to get pictures for proof. They’ve seen it, they just haven’t seen me riding it.

Have you ever leased a car, or do you prefer to own it?

I prefer to own. We’ve thought about leasing, but I just have weird issues with that.

I was moved to see how interested Amanda and her fiancee are in each other’s lives. Now they’re business partners. They even shoot underwater photography together, and you could see Amanda’s passion for his business. It’s a fitting relationship for the all-American girl.

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