Jenny Thompson is well-decorated. With 12 Olympic medals, including a record eight gold, the 31-year-old from Dover, N.H., is the most decorated female Olympian of all time.
Collecting her medals over four Olympics since 1992, Thompson is also the third female swimmer to ever qualify for four Olympic Games. She broke the long-standing 100-meter butterfly record in 1999, a record unbroken since 1981.
Born in Danvers, Mass., Thompson started swimming as a child at the local YMCA and turned serious by the age of 12 when she joined Seacoast Swimming in Dover. Her first international gold was at the 1987 Pan American Games when she was 14 years old. Since then she’s collected numerous accolades and awards.
While studying at Stanford, she won 19 NCAA titles, the most in women’s collegiate swimming history. She also holds 26 U.S. national titles, the highest of any active swimmer, and a total of 85 medals from international competition, including 14 from the World Championships.
Currently a medical student at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York City, Thompson volunteers with Swim Across America, an organization that raises money for cancer research. She retired from the sport shortly after the Athens Olympics, where she won silver in the 400-meter freestyle relay and another silver in the 400-meter medley relay.