Swimming Community Helps Jenny Thompson Raise Money for Fight Against Coronavirus

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Jenny Thompson, at 2016 Olympic Trials. Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

In a swimming career that took her to four Olympic Games, Jenny Thompson was known as one of the world’s best relay swimmers. In her second career, it’s former teammates that are helping her.

Thompson works as an anesthesiologist at a hospital in Charleston, S.C. When she grew concerned about a shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) for healthcare workers during the coronavirus pandemic, former swimming teammates Gabrielle Rose and Lea Maurer stepped up to help.

Through a GoFundMe page titled, “Go Jenny Go,” the group was able to raise more than $9,000, enough to secure PPE for Thompson and her staff and make a $1,000 donation to New York City healthcare workers battling one of the biggest COVID-19 outbreaks in the country.

Though the fundraiser is closed, the page redirects to other campaigns and organizations that people can give to.

“People were responding and donating from all chapters of my life,” Thompson told NBC Sports’ Nick Zaccardi. “People I didn’t even know. Family from USA Swimming and international swimming. It’s really touched me to know that so many people care and are able to donate, help share the message.”

Thompson swam in four Olympics – 1992, 1996, 2000 and 2004. The Stanford University graduate won 12 Olympic medals, including eight gold (all in relays), one of the most decorated female Olympians in history and an International Swimming Hall of Fame inductee. After retiring, she finished her medical degree from Columbia University, starting her studies just weeks before September 11 and swimming in her last Olympics while in med school. Her internship was at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, one of the hospitals now dealing with the most severe influx of patients and shortages of supplies.

When Thompson told her friends – Rose, a Stanford grad who represented Brazil at the 1996 and 2000 games, and Maurer, who won bronze in the 100 back and relay gold at the Barcelona Games before returning to Stanford to coach – about the shortages, they turned to the internet to help.

With Thompson assured that her team in South Carolina, where the outbreak hasn’t peaked yet, were adequately equipped, she turned the team’s fundraising muscle toward other areas more hard hit.

“We’ve been fortunate [in South Carolina]. I feel lucky,” Thompson said. “We’ll definitely be in a place where we’re taking care of a lot of Covid patients, but we’re not there yet.

“I’ve heard people say, people in healthcare knew what they were signing up for. I never signed up to get sick and potentially die from this job. I always assumed that I would have the protection or the supplies needed to help me do my job, and that’s been a real struggle nationwide.”

Read the NBC Sports story on Jenny Thompson here.

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