Thompson, Jenny (1973—)

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Thompson, Jenny (1973—)

American Olympic swimmer. Born on February 26, 1973, in Georgetown, Massachusetts; graduated from Stanford University, 1995.

Trained at the Seacoast Swimming Association, Dover, New Hampshire; won a gold medal at the Pan American Games (1987); won 19 NCAA titles and 4 team titles in 4 years of college; set a world record in the 100-meter freestyle at the U.S. Olympic Trials (1992); earned two gold medals and one silver medal, Olympic Summer Games, Barcelona (1992); won six gold medals, Pan Pacific Games (1993); won five U.S. national titles (1993); named "U.S. Swimmer of the Year" (1993); won two gold medals, U.S. National championships (1994); won three individual and two relay events, NCAA championships (1995); contributed to three gold relay medals, Olympic Summer Games, Atlanta (1996); won two individual and two relay gold medals, World championships, Perth (1998); won three gold medals and one silver medal and set a world record, World Short Course championships (1999); won two gold medals and one silver medal and set one world record, World Short Course championships (2000); won three gold medals and one bronze, Olympic Games, Sydney (2000).

Olympic swimmer Jenny Thompson was born in Georgetown, Massachusetts, in 1973. Her parents separated when she was an infant, and Thompson was raised by her mother in Dover, New Hampshire. Drawn to athletics as a child, Thompson was encouraged to pursue competitive swimming despite her family's limited resources, and was soon recognized for her speed and agility. Before she was 13, she had already achieved world ranking in the 50-meter freestyle event. This was the beginning of a remarkable athletic career.

In addition to her many wins at high-school competitions, Thompson earned a gold medal at the 1987 Pan American Games at age 14, the youngest American swimmer to do so. She was an excellent student as well, and after graduating from high school in 1991 was admitted to Stanford University on an athletic scholarship. She led the Stanford women's swim team to national championships all four years she was in college, and won 19 NCAA individual titles, a record. As a sophomore, Thompson set a world record for the 100-meter freestyle event at the Olympic trials, and in the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona she took home two gold medals in the 400-meter team relay events and a silver medal in the 100-meter individual freestyle competition. The following year, she won six Pan Pacific gold medals, five national titles, and five NCAA titles, and was named "1993 U.S. Swimmer of the Year."

In 1995, Thompson graduated from Stanford with a degree in human biology, planning to attend medical school and become a doctor. This goal did not prevent her from continuing to compete internationally. That year, she won three medals at the World championships, and went on to qualify for the 1996 Olympic team. In Atlanta at the Summer Games, she again helped the U.S. women's team to win gold medals in team relays for the 400-meter medley and freestyle events and the 800-meter freestyle. She competed in the World championships in Perth, Australia, in 1998, winning two individual gold medals in the 100-meter freestyle and 100-meter butterfly, and two gold medals for team relay events. Again she was named "U.S. Swimmer of the Year." The next year Thompson set a world record for the 100-meter individual medley event at the World Short Course championships.

Although she did not win an individual gold medal at the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, Thompson did take home three gold medals for team relay events: the 100-meter freestyle, the 100-meter medley, and the 200-meter freestyle. She also won a bronze medal for the 100-meter freestyle. Though thwarted again in her goal to win a gold medal in a non-team event, Thompson currently holds the most gold medals won by any Olympic athlete and is the most decorated American swimmer. As of 2000, she ranked among the ten best swimmers in four events. In 2001, Thompson put her swimming career on hold to begin graduate work at Columbia University's medical program in New York City.


Johnson, Anne Janette. Great Women in Sports. Detroit, MI: Visible Ink, 1998.

Laura York , M.A. in History, University of California, Riverside, California

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Thompson, Jenny (1973—)

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