#30MostSwimfluential: Matt Biondi

Photo Courtesy: Griffin Scott

Who is Matt Biondi?

  • An 11-time Olympic medalist who competed in the 1984, 1988, and 1992 Games, winning eight gold, two silver, and one bronze medal in total.
  • Did not start swimming year-round until he entered Campolindo High School. By his senior year, he had achieved a national high school record in the 50-yard freestyle with a time of 20.40.
  • After high school, he enrolled in the University of California, Berkeley in 1983 on scholarship to play water polo and to swim. He had a successful first year competing in the NCAA championships as a member of the water polo team and was a NCAA consolation finalist in swimming.
  • At the 1984 Olympic Trials, Biondi was one of the surprises of the meet when he qualified for a spot on the 400×100 free relay. The team went on to win the event at the L.A.Olympics.
  • The 1988 Games were Biondi’s most successful Olympics. He came away with five golds, one silver and one bronze. While he lost the 100-meter butterfly by a single one-hundredth of a second. He was the only man under 49 seconds in the 100 freestyle final, setting an Olympic Record.
  • At the 1992 Olympics, Biondi added two more gold medals and a silver to his medal collection.
  • During his entire career, Biondi set three individual world records in the 50 free and four in the 100 free.
  • Following the 1992 Olympics, Biondi retired, which he has attributed to a multiple of factors including lack of financial assistance.
  • Biondi married Kirsten Metzger in 1995. He now resides with her and their three children in his home state of California, where he teaches middle school math at Sierra Canyon School. He’s also taken over the school’s swim programs at the middle and high school levels.
  • Biondi is still an active member of the swimming community. He is an successful Masters swimmer and continues to break world records.

How did he influence the swimming community?

Matt Biondi will forever be known as one of the great Olympic Champions. He is remembered as the man who attempted to challenge Mark Spitz’s record of seven Olympic gold medals before Michael Phelps came along. While he did not quite reach that goal, his haul of five gold, one silver and one bronze in 1988 was a huge feat. Biondi was also one of the swimmers to usher in the era of true professional swimming. He has attributed his retirement after the 1992 Games partially to a lack of financial assistance. His fight to make professional swimming possible has led to many lucrative opportunities which allow elite swimmers to prolong their careers today.

*USA Swimming and Speedo invited the swimming community to help celebrate their 30 years of partnership by voting for the “30 Most Influential People in Swimming Over the Past 30 Years.” Votes were cast through social media with the hashtag #30MostSwimfluential and the final vote came from a panel of 10 judges selected by USA Swimming and Speedo. All 30 nominees have had a powerful impact on the swimming community. Many are recognizable names, but some have remained unsung heroes of the sport. Swimming World will profile each swimfluential person over the course of the week.

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Bill Bell
7 years ago

The GOAT before the current version had even learned how to swim!

Bet that loss to Nesty still rankles but life goes on.

A fitting tribute to a great champion — and STILL only swimmer of either sex to win freestyle Triple Crown @ same NCAAs, i.e., 50/100/200 frees.

7 years ago

Didn’t realize Biondi had moved back to Hawaii!! He’d been in L.A. since 2012 and I thought he liked it here.

7 years ago

Bill Bell, I am pretty sure Gustavo Borges won the triple crown at the 95 NCAA’s!

7 years ago

I was a child in 1988 when I watched the Olympics for the first time. I had joined a swim club at that time so naturally my attention was fully drawn to swimming races in Seoul. Kristin Otto and Matt Biondi were the first great swimming figures that I got to know from TV and newspapers (no internet).
So yes, Matt Biondi is way up there for me personally in the influential list.

7 years ago

Mi stra piace. Come non ricordarlo! Patrizia