Between 1992 and 2004, Jenny Thompson won more Olympic medals than any other female swimmer in history, including eight golds, every one of which came in the relay events.
Trading swim cap for scalpelAfter graduating from medical school in 2006, Dr Jenny Thompson went on to become a respected anaesthesiologist and surgeon, who currently works at the Maine Medical Center in the US city of Portland. She is also an Olympic swimming legend. Before focusing on medicine, she was a long-serving member of the US Olympic swimming team, competing in four editions of the Games and winning a total of 12 medals. In fact, no female swimmer in history has enjoyed more podium finishes at the Games.
Doyenne of the Olympic relayHer swimming career started when she was at college, where she won a record 19 titles in the NCAA competing in the colours of Stanford University. She then graduated to the ranks of the US senior team, going on to enjoy huge success at both the World Swimming Championships and the Olympic Games for over a decade. In the Worlds she amassed a total of 31 medals, including 16 golds. She enjoyed similar success at the Olympic Games, but her eight gold medals came exclusively in the relay events – the 4x100m freestyle (1992, 1996, 2000), the 4x200 freestyle (1996, 2000) and the 4x100m medley (1992, 1996, 2000). She also took an individual silver in the 100m freestyle in 1992, and a bronze over the same distance in 2000, before a final flourish at Athens 2004, where she won two silvers in the 4x400m freestyle and 4x100m medley.
Gold and world recordsWhile Thompson’s Olympic titles were exclusively collective efforts, in the World Championships it was a different story. In Perth (AUS) in 1998, she won individual golds in both the 100m freestyle and 100m butterfly. She repeated her success in the butterfly at the 2003 Worlds in Barcelona. In fact, in her two favoured 100m events, together with the 50m, she won no less than eight individual golds at the Worlds between 1997 and 2004. In 1992, she also set a new world record of 54.48 in the 100m freestyle, which stood for two years; and on four occasions she established new world record times in the 100m butterfly, with the fastest of those, 56.56, coming in Athens in 2000.
Diehard Olympic fanThompson remains intensely proud of her accomplishments in the pool, and attributes her success to perseverance, dedication and the support of family and friends. Though no longer swimming competitively, she continues to volunteer regularly as a celebrity swimmer for the charity Swim Across America, which raises money for cancer research. She also remains fully committed to the Olympic cause, and in July 2012, despite being 30 weeks pregnant, she travelled to the UK with her husband to cheer on Team USA at the London Games. “I'd love to be able to go to the Olympics forever, because it was such an important part of my life,” she explained.