Listen To The Ultimate Swimmer Podcast Featuring 1976 Olympian Jill Sterkel


By: Noah Yanchulis

Josh Davis, Host of the Ultimate Swimmer Podcast, had the honor and privilege to interview the great Jill Sterkel about her life in and around swimming. She was able to provide so much insight and so many captivating stories about what it really takes to become the best at whatever it is you do. Below are a few of the highlights from the episode, we hope you enjoy!

You can find the full episode of the Ultimate Swimmer Podcast on Apple, Spotify, Google Podcasts

1. At age 15 in 1976, Jill Sterkel qualified for her first Olympic Team in the 100 and 200 Freestyle. Trials were held in Long Beach, California and her coach found her playing in the sand just minutes before her finals swim.

2. At the Montreal Games in ’76 Jill Sterkel along with Kim Peyton, Wendy Boglioli, and Shirley Babashoff completed one of the most unpredictable wins in Olympic history by defeating the East German’s in the 4 x 100 Freestyle Relay. Jill split a lifetime best 55.78 after swimming 57.1, just two days prior to secure the win for the American’s.

3. Jill attended the University of Texas where she quickly became one of the premier swimmers in the country and was recognized as the Most Outstanding College Female Swimmer in 1980 and 1981.

4. On Jill’s first day of practice at Texas, Head Coach Paul Bergen made the team run nearly five miles to and from the local golf course. Jill says that Coach Bergen was known for his crazy dryland routines were challenging, but made the team tough both mentally and physically.

5. When highlighting a down-to-the-wire meet against Stanford during her college career, Jill remembers her teammates and the crowd willing her to another incredible relay swim. Anchoring next to the great Stanford swimmer, Kim Carlisle, Jill was more than two body lengths behind going into the final leg before setting off a blistering anchor split to touch first for Texas. In her words, “a relay like that sums up collegiate swimming; It is all about great camaraderie and truly is a team sport.”

6. After missing the 1980 Olympic Games because of the boycott, Jill headed into 1984 Olympic Trials at the top of her game. At trials Jill was too comfortable and too cocky and ended up only making the Olympic team as an alternate, but knew that she could not let her bad swims affect her ability to support and cheer on her teammates.

7. After retiring from swimming in 1984, Jill suffered a knee injury some time later and was forced to get back into the water as part of her rehab from her surgery. Being back in the water re-inspired her and she began progressing quickly as she began to swim more. During this time she was coaching at the University of Texas and knew in order to make the ’88 Olympic Team she would have to train and coach simultaneously. So, she did and she went on to qualify and place 3rd in both the 50 Freestyle and 4 x 100 Freestyle Relay.

8. Stories like the ones highlighted above and many more can be found in the full episode of our interview with Jill Sterkel; including a recounting of her coaching career where she worked alongside the likes of Richard Quick, Mark Schubert, Jack Roach, Paul Bergen, and Eddie Reese.

You don’t become better than someone else just by being better in a sport. There is more to an athlete than their athletic ability. We sell ourselves short as athletes when we want to transition to a traditional career after retirement.” – Jill Sterkel

To hear Jill’s entire journey to becoming an ultimate swimmer you can find the full episode of the Ultimate Swimmer Podcast on Apple, Spotify, Google Podcasts, or anywhere you listen!

Hosted by 3x Olympic gold Medalist and captain of the 2000 USA Team, Josh Davis, Ultimate Swimmer is a holistic approach to the sport of swimming; building strong hearts, minds, and bodies. This podcast is geared primarily for those of us in the aquatic disciplines of age-group swimming, college swimming, para-swimming, open water swimming, and masters swimming but we welcome all who are interested in peak performance, pursuing excellence and swimming with purpose.

The Ultimate Swimmer Podcast includes interviews with the biggest names in the sport of swimming past and present and we can’t wait for you to join us on the journey to BECOMING an ULTIMATE SWIMMER!

Past Ultimate Swimmer Guests:

Missy Franklin
Nathan Adrian
Hali Flickinger
The Foster Siblings
Cody Miller
Jason Lezak
Cullen Jones
Dana Vollmer
Ella Eastin
Lily King
Caeleb Dressel
Rebecca Soni
Kim Vandenberg
Amanda Beard
Kelsi Dahlia
Rowdy Gaines, Matt Grevers, Allison Schmitt
Will Licon
Michael Andrew
Kristy Kowal
Eddie Reese
Anthony Ervin
Brendan Hansen
Lenny Krayzelburg
Bruno Fratus
Kyle Chalmers
Roque Santos
Elizabeth Beisel
Mary Wayte Bradburne
David Plummer
Gary Hall Jr.