Jenny Thompson is a former swimmer, and
one of the most decorated Olympians in history, winning twelve medals, including
eight golds, while representing the United States of America in the 1992, 1996,
2000, and 2004 Summer Olympics.
Thompson first appeared on the international scene as a 14-year-old in 1987,
when she won the 50m freestyle and placed third in the 100m freestyle at
the Pan American Games. She won her first world championship in 1991, as part of
the USA's winning 4x100m freestyle relay team, and held the world record in the 50m and
100m freestyle when she participated in the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona, Spain.
Thought to be at the height of her competitive career at the time, Thompson was
expected to win up to five gold medals at those Olympics. However, she failed to
qualify for the final in the 50 free, and finished second in the 100, where she
was beaten by a Chinese swimmer. Although Thompson won two gold medals as part
of the 4x100 free and 4x100 medley teams, she was angry about being beaten by
the Chinese, whom she suspected of steroid use, and her comments on the issue
raised considerable controversy.
Thompson continued her career as a part of the U.S. team and a member of the
Stanford University team, and continued to rank among the world's best swimmers
for the next four years. However, a poor performance at the 1996 Olympic Trials
kept her from competing in any individual event at that year's Games in Atlanta.
She redeemed herself there with three more relay golds, in the 4x100m freestyle and
medley and the 4x200m freestyle.
Between 1997 and 1999, Thompson won eight more world championship titles,
including three in a row in the 100m freestyle, and went to the 2000 Olympics in
Sydney, Australia hoping to finally win that elusive individual gold medal. It
wasn't meant to be; she won a bronze in the 100m free and was fifth in the 100m
butterfly. But in the relay events, she was super as usual - swimming the anchor
leg in helping the USA defend its titles in the 4x100m free and medley and the
Thompson seemingly retired from competition after the 2000 season with 10
Olympic medals, eight gold, one silver and one bronze, and 12 gold medals at
World Championships. However, she returned to competition the summer of 2002 at
the Pan Pacific Swimming Championships in Yokohama, Japan. Thompson won five
medals in two days, setting a career-best time in winning the 50m freestyle. At
the 2003 World Championships, she would win five medals, including two gold.
At the 2004 Olympics at age 31, she was the anchor member of the 400m freestyle relay, she helped set a national record of 3:36.39. However she lost
the lead her teammates had built and finished with a silver medal. She gained
another silver medal as a member of the 400m medley relay, as she would
lose another lead that her teammates would give her during the butterfly leg.
She would end her Olympic career with twelve medals, the most for any U.S.
Olympian in history.