SwimSwam Podcast: How did Jenny Thompson win 12 Olympic Medals?

On SwimSwam Podcast, we’re giving you an in-depth listen at all things swimming. Host Coleman Hodges welcomes guests and guest co-hosts alike to get perspective on our ever-changing swimming universe and break down the past, present, and future of aquatic sports.

We sat down with Jenny Thompson, the most decorated female Olympic swimmer in history with 8 golds, 3 silver, and 1 bronze for a total of 12. Jenny was kind enough to sit down with us and talk through her career, the high and low points, and give us some insight on how her 12 medals were earned.

Jenny walks us through all of her Olympic games and everything in between. Attending Stanford and swimming for Richard Quick after the ’92 Games. Going pro after the ’96 Games. Thinking that she was retiring and going to medical school after the ’00 Games, only to come back to it after her mother died. And finally ending it with the ’04 Games, where she earned #11 and 12.

Music: Otis McDonald


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He Said What?
6 months ago

I can tell you how she won her medals. Her mental strength was stronger than steel. A great person to learn from if you have goals and dreams.

Dual Meet
Reply to  He Said What?
6 months ago

Mental strength and competitive drive, yes for sure. But too simplistic to overlook the elements of physicality and nutrition that admittedly played a role for both Thompson and Torres. Would refer you to August 2000 article by journalist Amy Shipley entitled “U.S. Swimmers Discuss Use of Diet Supplements” in which Thompson and Torres and others are interviewed and openly discuss the extensive program of creatine and 25 daily supplements used by Thompson and Torres leading into Olympics.

Reply to  Dual Meet
6 months ago

Glad someone said it.

Most elite athletes are doping. Through TUEs and supplements and the arbitrary lines of the World Anti-Doping Code, some are doping within the rules and others are doping beyond the rules, but most elite athletes are doping.

Smooth Panic Breaststroke
Reply to  Dual Meet
6 months ago

We forget how innovative just proper nutrition and even cross training was back then. We’re not to far removed from weight training being frowned upon because people thought weights would reduce flexibility. What I’m having trouble saying is there’s a big difference between Creatine and crossing the line. The article shows they were trying to achieve peak performance and had nothing to hide in a time where being strong, let alone a strong woman was unusual and, for some reason, article worthy.

6 months ago

Zhuang Yong wasn’t exactly unknown when she beat Jenny in 1992 – she had won the silver medal in the 100 free in 1988 – but she was definitely the product of a doping system engineered by East German sports scientists at the behest of China. They were absolutely nowhere in world swimming rankings in 1984, started getting assistance from the East Germans sometime around 85-86, didn’t have a single finalist or consol finalist at 1986 Worlds and somehow by the end of 1988, they had three Olympic silvers and a bronze in women’s swimming. In 1992, three of those 1988 swimmers won individual gold medals (Zhuang Yong, Yang Wenyi, and Qian Hong), plus another individual gold in world record… Read more »

Too Bad
Reply to  Aquajosh
6 months ago

I actually agree with the #62 ranking of Thompson from the now-defunct 1999 poll about which she awkwardly complains, but she would actually be lower now. You can asterisk all day long about 1992 but the fact remains that both J. Thompson and D. Torres had multiple opportunities across multiple Olympics other than 1992 to win individual event gold(s), and they did not.

And what
Reply to  Too Bad
6 months ago

Looking forward to the story of your individual Olympic gold.

“Most decorated female Olympic swimmer in history”

And you what to take knocks at her?

6 months ago

Mike Parratto has been a world class coach for decades.

About Coleman Hodges

Coleman Hodges

Coleman started his journey in the water at age 1, and although he actually has no memory of that, something must have stuck. A Missouri native, he joined the Columbia Swim Club at age 9, where he is still remembered for his stylish dragon swim trunks. After giving up on …

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