Down from the High: Maya DiRado Adjusts to Life After Olympics

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Photo Courtesy: Erich Schlegel-USA TODAY Sports

By Peter Baugh, Swimming World Contributor

Maya DiRado sat in a coffeeshop in Atlanta. The four-time Olympic medalist was in her new home city, preparing for a new job and a new chapter of her life.

A man approached her and introduced himself. He recognized her from the Olympics.

Though DiRado does not get recognized in public very often, she said it’s startling every time she does.

“That’s just mind boggling to me…that’s crazy,” she said. “But it’s so nice that everyone’s just so excited and so sweet. I love that. I think that’s so cool.”

The Stanford graduate has been busy since returning from Rio. She visited family and friends in her hometown of Santa Rosa, California and also spent a week in New York. On top of that, she packed up her life and moved across the country to Atlanta.

DiRado’s trip to New York was eventful and fun. She rang the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange with fellow Olympian Conor Dwyer and also saw the Broadway musical “Hamilton,” which she said she is “obsessed” with.

“It completely lives up to the hype,” she said. “We’ve just been listening to the soundtrack basically, and it was incredible.”

Though only a 23-year-old, DiRado insists that she is retiring from swimming. She is set to start working as a business analyst for McKinsey and Company in January.

At McKinsey, DiRado will problem solve and help clients find deficiencies in their businesses.

“It’s really just whatever the clients come to us with and what they’re trying to fix within the company,” she said. “We kind of help them frame the problem and then also use all of the resources in McKinsey to deliver them solutions that they then act upon and get results on.”

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Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

Greg Meehan coached DiRado at Stanford. He feels that her experiences both in and out of the water will help her in her work.

“Maya is a very bright young woman, and she took advantage of the educational opportunities at Stanford,” he said. “But it’s more than that. Maya is able to combine her educational experience with her swimming and life experience. She is well prepared for the beginning of her professional career.”

DiRado is excited to get to work after two years of professional swimming. She said she loved her classes at Stanford, and she has missed using her brain since she graduated.

After years of swimming at an elite level, DiRado is back to being a beginner. She knows her new job will be a challenge, but she’s ready to embrace it.

“I know I’m starting from the bottom and that I’m not world class and that I won’t be the best in the room for a very, very long time, if ever,” she said. “But I think that’s such a big part of growth. And growing up and working on yourself, learning new things, admitting that you don’t know everything and being willing to start from the ground up and work hard again I think is something that I’m really looking forward to.”

So far, DiRado’s transition into retirement has been fairly seamless. Sure, it was strange for her to see pictures of Stanford’s first swim practice and not be there. Sometimes all the conversations are draining. It can be stressful finding time for all her loved ones. But overall, she has been enjoying herself.

For many, life after the Olympics is hard to adjust to. DiRado realizes this.

“The Olympics is this incredibly huge high, and a really special moment in everybody’s lives,” she said. “And I think we kind of just have to recognize that and realize that it’s not going to be like that all the time, or maybe even ever again.”