Because of the success I had in my athletic career as a child and young adult, many people ask why or how I got involved in sport. I grew up in Texas, Virginia, Heidelberg and Berlin, Germany, Maryland, and Gainesville, Florida (army “brat”). My childhood revolved around academics, sport, and art. I got involved in sport because my parents required that my brothers and I played a sport seriously at some point to instill a focus on maintaining physical health. At around the same time I was introduced to organized sport, I was also “tormenting” the kids in the neighborhood by challenging anyone who walked by the street corner I was stationed on to a race. So, I think it was best for everyone for me to find an outlet! At the age of 7, there were three options to choose from: softball, soccer, and swimming. After finding my position in soccer boring and being horrible at catching balls in the outfield of the softball field, it was clear that swimming was the best choice. After a few years, I started winning races more regularly as a part of the European Forces Swim League representing the Heidelberg Sea Lions and the Berlin Barracudas, the UMBC Retrievers (Maryland), and the Florida Aquatics Swim Team (Gainesville, Florida). At the age of 14 at the 1992 U.S. Olympic Trials, I jumped from being tied for 71st place in the country in the 200 meter breastroke to placing 5th in the final race of the competition. At that point, I realized that the Olympic dream may actually be possible (the top two finishers in the final race of each event in a a U.S. Olympic Trials competition typically get the chance to be an Olympian). I devoted as much time as possible to the sport while also being enrolled in the demanding curriculum of the International Baccalaureate educational program. By the time I retired, I was known in the swimming world for strong finishes to races and winning by "touching people out," my work ethic, setting a world-record that stood unbroken for 14 years by winning a race in one of the final races in a world championship competition plagued by doping female athletes, winning 13 national titles, winning a silver medal at the Atlanta Olympic Games, and for pioneering the use of a new back-to-breast transition medley turn that is still used today. More about my athletic career here.
I'm a founding member of Art of the Olympians - an organization promoting the Olympic ideals of integrity, respect, honor, and dedication in the pursuit of excellence through educational programs, a member of Champion Women's Committee to Restore Integrity in Sport - focusing on the prevention of child abuse in sport, a member of the Global Gene Corp team - aiming to diversify the world's bank of genetic data for more precisely-targeted healthcare solutions, and a former member of Team Darfur which raised awareness about genocide in Sudan. I'm also passionate about Olympic anti-doping reform, the betterment of healthcare and education, carbon dioxide reduction efforts, the preservation of wildlife and natural environments, and security and privacy-focused technologies.
I raced against multiple doping athletes during my career as one of the world’s best athletes, some from systemic doping regimes and some not. If you’re interested in these experiences and what I have to say about Olympic anti-doping reform, you can check out an article by Ben Jervey in GOOD magazine in which I talked about clean athletes competing against steroids, an article by Michael Moynihan of the Irish Examiner talking about the Rio Games, or an interview by David Reider of Swimming World about the role of athletes in anti-doping efforts. Swimming is one of the “cleaner” (i.e. not as much doping) sports as compared to some others, but it definitely has a storied past. Check out this article written by Karen Crouse in the New York Times about Shirley Babashoff, American Olympic swimmer of the Montreal Games who won four silver medals to doping East German athletes.
I live and work in San Francisco, CA. Feel free to reach out. 👋🏼
Image credits starting with me on the Atlanta 1996 Olympic podium: Doug Mills/Associated Press. On stage talking about anti-doping reform: Stephen McCarthy/Web Summit via Sportsfile. Black and white, warming up for a competition: USA Swimming. Founding members of Art of the Olympians: my own. Swimming the breastroke leg of an individual medley event at the 1996 Olympic Games: Doug Mills/Associated Press.