Listen to the Ultimate Swimmer Podcast With Hall of Famer John Naber

Matthes & Naber
John Naber - Photo Courtesy: Bob Ingram

Listen to the Ultimate Swimmer Podcast With Hall of Famer John Naber

By Noah Yanchulis.

John Naber has quite the resume in the world of swimming. From swimmer, to ambassador, to writer, to motivational speaker, to broadcaster, to President of USOPA, John has done it all. In 1976 at the Summer Olympics in Montreal, John won 5 medals (4 gold, 1 silver) to become the most decorated Olympian from those games. Within those 5 medal-winning swims, John also came away with multiple world records that would stand for nearly 8 years! Below are some of the top highlights from our interview with the man himself, Hall of Famer John Naber!

  1. Growing Up Everywhere: Naber was born just outside of Chicago, Illinois, but moved around an awful lot during his early years. During the first 12 years of his life, John lived in 6 different houses which made it difficult to maintain a strong peer group. As a result, he was very close with his siblings and parents who were his support group. During those early years John lived in the US, Italy, and finally England before moving back to the states at age 12.
  2. Predicting His Olympic Future: When John was 10 years old living in Europe, his parents took the family on a tour. The tour guide explained to the group that the ancient olympics were held to honor the God’s and that they were a movement about character and fairness. It was then that John looked to his mother and said, “Mom, I’m going to be an Olympian someday.” John didn’t even know what sport he would compete in, he just knew he would one day be at the Olympics.
  3. Getting Injured In High School: As a junior in high school, typically the most important year for athletes looking to continue their careers in college, John broke his collarbone in a diving accident and his entire junior season was lost.
  4. Choosing USC: After battling back from his injury, John Naber went on to have a prolific senior year, breaking the American Record in the 200 backstroke and becoming a blue-chip recruit. John was heavily recruited by all three big California schools (UCLA, USC, and Stanford), but ultimately took his talents to USC as part of the best recruiting class in the country.
  5. Not Marching in the Opening Ceremony in 1976 Olympics: In what he describes as the “biggest regret of his athletic career,” John decided not to walk in the opening ceremony of the Olympics because swimming was on day one and he wanted to make sure he was ready to race. While this may have been a disappointment, John went on to have one of the most dominating Olympic swimming performances in history winning 5 medals including 4 gold.
  6. Getting a Job At Disneyland and Shaving His Mustache: John knew that his swimming career would not continue after he graduated from college in 1977, so he decided to get a job at Disneyland. While John enjoyed working at Disneyland, he was forced to shave his mustache because of their “no facial hair policy” which was a true tragedy.
  7. Advice for a Post-Competitive Career: When asked advice on life after swimming (or sport), John reminds athletes to, “dig your well before you’re thirsty.” Begin thinking about next steps before your career is over or you will find yourself stuck when that time does come around.
  8. Olympians Helping Olympians: John has worked extensively over the years to support the Olympic community and served as President of the United States Olympians and Paralympians Association (USOPA) for 8 years. USOPA aims to recognize the contributions of all Olympic and Paralympic athletes and what they can do for future generations of USA athletes. Additionally, John has worked with the Olympians for Olympians Relief Fund in which Olympians can donate to help other Olympians who need support for an unexpected financial burden.

To hear John Naber’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


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.
  • Jill Sterkel
  • Jack Roach