Take Five with Cristina Teuscher ’00

C Teuscher

Sam Rubin, Yale Athletics

Cristina Teuscher ’00 is an Olympic gold medalist and six-time National Championship-winning swimmer. She swam on the United States National Team for eight years (1994–2001), representing the U.S. in two Olympic Games. Teuscher won the gold medal in 1996 and bronze in 2000 for freestyle and medley, respectively; she was the team captain from 1999 to 2001. She never lost an individual race during her collegiate career, collecting four NCAA titles. Teuscher is an executive coach with more than 25 years of experience in both the athletics and business worlds. She and her husband are the co-founders of Sweet Blue Swim Academy near their home in Greenwich, Conn.

What were you like when you arrived at Columbia?

I was like a bag of emotional jelly caught in a hurricane, both nervous and bursting at the seams with excitement. After the high of winning Olympic gold only a few weeks before, I was eager to meet my classmates and blend in. On my first day of classes, when a peer in my Lit Hum class asked me if I’d “met the Olympian yet,” I realized meeting people might be easier than expected. Blending in, not so much.

What do you remember about your first-year living situation?

John Jay, 10th floor! The rooming gods were kind to me. I was in a quiet nook in the corner of the long corridor. I was training once a day off campus, so I knew I would need my own space to decompress and nap when I could.

What class do you most remember and why?

“Intro to African-American Studies,” with Gina Dent GSAS’97. After using my quiet nook in the corner to read Souls of Black Folk and understand the idea of double consciousness, I started realizing how little I understood about the African-American experience in this country. That feeling of the more you know, the less you know.

Did you have a favorite spot on campus, and what did you like about it?

Although sadly not technically a sport (yet), I loved sitting on the steps at Low Library watching people walk by. Also, the cafe in the bottom of the Architecture School building. It was always quiet and calm; it had great lemon cake and amazing people watching. I was never quite sure which I was more in danger of being labeled a stalker by, the passersby or the cake.

What, if anything, about your College experience would you do over?

I would have taken more classes with Carol Dweck, the author of Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. I fondly remember her sharing her research in social psychology and the importance of how you frame questions and feedback for children (and even for adults). She genuinely enjoyed the work she was doing, and it showed. Plus if I had taken more of her classes I would have done a better job of answering these questions.

I enjoyed the two classes I took with her so much, but remember thinking, ‘Well, I don’t plan on being a psychologist so I should focus on other things.’ I now see the illogic in my thinking. It’s always been the winding bends on my path that have been the saving graces in my career and relationships. A bit like algebra — it doesn’t make sense in the moment but makes all the sense later on. I never felt like I was in class when she was teaching because of the rich material she was sharing, which happens to be relevant to the work I’m doing now, 20 years later — when I’m not reminiscing about lemon cake.