Olympic gold medalist and former world record holder Kathleen Baker announced via Instagram her engagement to now-fiancé Sean Dowling.
Baker swam for the USA at the 2016 Olympics and picked up a silver medal in the women’s 100 backstroke as well as a gold medal in the women’s 4×100 medley relay. In the years after her Olympic debut, Baker was one of the USA’s top swimmers as she collected 3 long course World Championships, 4 short course World Championships medals, and 4 Pan Pacific Championships medals.
Prior to 2018, Pan Pacs Baker lowered the world record in the 100 backstroke with a 58.00 at the 2018 U.S National Championships. Baker took the record from Canada’s Kylie Masse who set it a year before at the 2017 World Championships of 58.10. The record stood for roughly a year until Regan Smith delivered a world record-breaking swim of 57.57 at the 2019 World Championships.
Baker’s most recent international meet was the 2019 World Championships where she raced to a 6th place finish in the 50 (27.69) and 100 (59.56) backstrokes along with a 9th place finish in the 200 back (2:09.68). Baker competed at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Trials but was well off her best, having broken her foot mere weeks before the meet. Baker finished 5th overall in the 200 backstroke with a 2:08.78, 11th overall in the 100 backstroke with a 1:00.51, and 11th in the 200 IM 2:12.95.
Baker competed collegiately for the University of California and pulled off a triple gold medal performance at the 2017 NCAA Championships, winning the women’s 100 and 200 backstroke, and 200 IM. The next year she collected another 3 medals at NCAAs, taking gold in the 200 back, silver in the 200 IM, and bronze in the 100 back. Baker also took part in season 1 of the International Swimming League as a member of LA Current and tied with Emily Seebohm for 34th overall in MVP points at the Law Vegas Grand Final and finished 39th overall season wide with 86 points.
Baker’s fiance Sean Dowling also has a history as a collegiate athlete, having played football for Vanderbilt from 2013 until 2016. According to his bio, Dowling earned a spot on the 2013-2014 SEC First-Year Academic Honour Roll, the 2014 Fall SEC Academic Honor Roll, and the 2015 Fall SEC Academic Honor Roll. In his last season at Vanderbilt Dowling “enjoyed the most significant role of his Commodore career, playing in every game as the team’s top blocking tight end.”
Following his graduation from Vanderbilt, Dowling began his career as a United States Marine Corps officer. Dowling’s decision to pursue a career in the Marine Corps made him the 4th to do so in his family, following both of his parents as well as his paternal grandfather. Baker shared a photo of the 2 on May 5, 2021, with the caption “Happiest homecoming to my favorite Marine!! 7 months too long.”