Fish Out of Water: Elite Swimmers with TV Appearances

Photo Courtesy: YouTube, Saturday Night Live

By Sarah Berman, Swimming World College Intern.

The only thing that beats watching swimming on television is seeing our favorite athletes on various television programs. Swim fans only see who athletes are when they’re underwater or during a winded, post-win press conference. What do these athletes look like without the caps and goggles on?

On a few occasions, our favorite elite swimmers have been featured on some of America’s top television programs and turned into fish out of water. Here are six of the most recent notable swim stars as TV stars:

1. Michael Phelps Hosts Saturday Night Live

After the iconic eight gold medals in 2008, Michael Phelps took a break from the pool for a media tour, which included hosting the season 34 premiere of Saturday Night Live. Hosts of the show are typically pop culture icons, which Phelps quickly became after breaking countless records in Beijing. His opening monologue poked fun at the amount of companies interested in sponsoring him and how his mother, Debbie Phelps, is truly his biggest fan in the stands. Hosting the season opener of one of the most celebrated shows in American history is a huge honor. Swim fans across the globe geeked out when seeing the premiere swimming icon on late night television.

2. Elizabeth Beisel Becomes Survivor Contestant

This one hasn’t occurred yet, since Elizabeth Beisel will be on the show’s 39th season airing in the fall. Howeer, swim fans and Survivor-lovers will for sure be tuning in for this one. Beisel, a three-time Olympian and silver medalist in the 400 IM, is no stranger to a tough competition. In addition to being a fierce competitor, she is also a great teammate and served as co-captain for the 2016 Olympic team. So, she will be a superstar when it comes to making alliances with other competitors. If she can survive years of 400 IM training, there is no doubt she can last on a deserted island for 39 days.

3. Natalie Coughlin Trades Swim Cap for Swing Dancing

In addition to being among the greatest female swimmers of all time, Natalie Coughlin showed that she is more than a one-dimensional figure. She also has the dance moves as a contestant on Dancing with the Stars’ ninth season. Unfortunately, Coughlin did not bring home the gold on the dance floor and was eliminated in the fifth episode. Coughlin is no stranger to the camera outside of the pool deck. As a cooking enthusiast, she has also appeared as a judge on Iron Chef America and a contestant on Chopped, where she lost in the final round.

4. Ryan Lochte Loves the Camera

As all swim fans know, Ryan Lochte is no stranger to media attention and is one of the sport’s biggest personalities. Lochte’s list of entertainment appearances is longer than some actors who win Golden Globes. He appeared as himself in the 30 Rock episode “A Stride of Pride,” which originally aired on October 18, 2012. In that same year, Lochte also made a guest appearance on 90210. Most swimmers will remember when Lochte landed his own reality TV show called What Would Ryan Lochte Do? which aired in 2013 on E! Unfortunately, the show was cancelled after just one season. Episodes of the show can still be found online for those who want to reminisce. Shortly after the “Lochtegate” scandal, he appeared on season 23 of Dancing with the Stars and finished seventh place overall. Most recently, Lochte was a contestant on Celebrity Big Brother’s second season. He spent ten days in the Big Brother house and finished in thirteenth place.

5. Missy Franklin Guest Stars on Pretty Little Liars

After becoming the darling of the 2012 London Olympics and winning four gold medals, Missy Franklin was back on the television in Pretty Little Liars as herself. In the episode, Franklin meets one of the characters, also a competitive swimmer, at a coffee shop to discuss swimming. Seems very fitting and the ideal role for her when she was just a senior in high school.

6. Haley Anderson goes to Hell’s Kitchen

To most pool swimmers, open water swimming sounds like hell. But for Olympic silver medalist and open water swimmer Haley Anedrson, nothing seems to phase her. She entered Hell’s Kitchen alongside chef Gordon Ramsay on an episode that aired April 1, 2016. Anderson is an avid at-home cook and enjoys watching cooking shows in her free time. In an interview after the episode aired, she admits that watching Ramsay yell at people made her giggle, and it was hard to hold that in while the cameras rolled.

Have you seen any of these episodes? Let us know your thoughts on elite athletes on television outside of the pool!

If we missed any top episodes, also let us know that too! Swim fans across the country would love to see their top athletes as fish out of water.

-All commentaries are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Swimming World Magazine nor its staff.


  1. avatar

    Fave writer for this magazine!

  2. Laura M Wanco

    Can’t wait to see Elizabeth Beisel on survivor!

  3. avatar
    Proteeti Sinha

    This is such a cool compilation!

  4. avatar
    Daniela Navarrete

    Omg I didn’t know Missy appeared on Pretty Little Liars!!!!!