AUSTIN, Texas, November 6. THE last time former UT swimmer Kim Linehan set foot on the Forty Acres was 25 years ago, but she returns this November to be inducted into The University of Texas Women's Athletics Hall of Honor.
"I'm really excited," Linehan said of her Hall of Honor induction. "I didn't realize how cool it was and what it meant until Jill [Sterkel] explained it to me."
The two-time U.S. Olympian and former world record holder began her swimming career when she was 10 years old at a local YMCA in Sarasota, Fla.
"The real story is my brothers were swimmers and my parents dragged me around to all of their swim practices and events," Linehan said. "Since we were in the hot sun of Florida, I thought that if I had to be there, at least I could get in the pool and cool off."
By the time Linehan arrived at The University of Texas in 1980, she had already established herself as one of the world's premier distance freestylers. At the 1978 World Championship trials, Linehan set a world record in the 400-meter freestyle with a time of 4:07.66 seconds. One year later, at the age of 16, she set another world record in the 1500-meter freestyle, a record that stood for eight years.
In her senior year of high school, Linehan came to Austin to train with Coach Paul Bergen.
"Coach Bergen had a fabulous reputation," Linehan said. "He had turned out many great swimmers. I felt that he was the one who could expand my career to what I wanted to reach."
During her college career, Linehan claimed 21 All-America honors and helped Texas to AIAW National Championships in 1981 and 1982. She earned three NCAA individual titles each year that the Longhorns won a NCAA Championship. As a sophomore and junior, she won back-to-back individual titles in the 200 butterfly, 500 freestyle and 1,650 freestyle.
"Winning national championships was very memorable," Linehan said of her time as a Longhorn swimmer. "Also, the Texas swimming facility was one of the best at that time, and being able to train in it every day was a phenomenal experience."
In 1980, Linehan earned a spot on the U.S. Olympic Team ,but she was denied the chance to win a gold medal when President Jimmy Carter elected to boycott the Moscow Games.
"1980 was a difficult time and things just didn't work out," Linehan said. "There were many wonderful guys and girls who didn't get their chance to go. You just have to deal with it and move on."
After three years swimming at UT, Linehan followed Coach Bergen to Canada in 1983 where she trained for the next year. At age 21, she once again made the U.S. Olympic Team in 1984. Although she missed out on a medal, finishing fourth in the 400-meter freestyle, Linehan was still pleased with her accomplishment.
"After 1980 and even though I was considered one of the old ladies, I felt fortune enough to have the opportunity to make the team in 1984," Linehan said. "Of course, any athlete would have Olympic aspirations. I was just very fortunate to be able to achieve it."
Linehan credits her success in both her athletic career and life to the simple task of setting goals.
"When I was young and first started swimming, my dad would make me set goals," Linehan said. "Set small goals first, and when you reach them, reset your goals. Setting goals is very important and it's something I pass on to my own kids. Without goals, you're just floundering around."
After the 1984 Olympics and 12 years in the water, Linehan left Canada and the world of competitive swimming. She moved home to Florida, where she worked and attended the University of South Florida.
Outside of the pool, Linehan found a new calling in social work. Currently, she works as a health care administrator in Peoria, Ill., and doesn't spend much time in the pool these days.
"I'm actually a runner now," Linehan said. "I run every day for three miles after work, mainly as a stress reliever. I tried swimming but I wanted to do more than swim back and forth, looking at the black line. With running, I can see the outdoors, people, cars and the animals at the nearby zoo."
In her first return to Texas, Linehan looks forward to driving around and seeing all the changes. Many things have changed around the Forty Acres and in Linehan's life, but she'll never forget the people who changed her life.
"I had the great experience of meeting so many wonderful people at Texas, like Jill (Sterkel), Eddie Reese and Coach Bergen," Linehan said. "There's a long list of people who helped make me who I was and who I am."
Special thanks to Texas for contributing this report.