“Swimmers, know thy swimming history.”
Before Michael Phelps, Matt Biondi was USA Swimming’s superstar. Competing at the 1984, 1988 and 1992 Olympic Games, Matt won 11 Olympic medals.
The 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul, South Korea was the sweet-spot of his career. Matt competed in 7 events, winning 5 gold medals, one bronze and one silver, inviting comparisons with the 1972 Olympic star Mark Spitz, who won 7 gold medals.
Matt’s work behind the scenes often goes unreported. Matt, along with Olympic sprinting champion Tom Jager, was instrumental in the development of financial support for elite swimmers. Back in the 1980s, swimming leadership felt swimmers should remain amateur, compete through college, then retire and start their post swimming careers. Matt and Tom argued elites should have much longer careers, receive financial support from the national governing body (USA Swimming), and be free to seek financial support in the form endorsements (against USOC rules at the time).
Matt was a low-key athlete, humble, very much a team player. Without his work behind the scenes, many of the star swimmers today would not have the lifestyle they enjoy.
Whenever I watch Phelps, Ryan Lochte, Natalie Coughlin, Missy Franklin (and many, many others), I think of Matt Biondi and all he did for them, for us (swim fans) and for future swimming stars.
Many thanks to the International Swimming Hall of Fame (ISHOF) for this video and keeping Matt Biondi’s legacy alive.
Matt Biondi Photo Vault