Where Do Olympians Go After Swimming?

Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

By Ashleigh Shanley, Swimming World College Intern

Every four years, people come together to watch the world’s best athletes compete.  And each time the Olympics rolls around, there are familiar faces among the athletes from each country.  People expect to see certain athletes returning, like Michael Phelps and Natalie Coughlin, but there are always new faces as well.

As swimmers retire, new ones come to the stage and compete for and represent their countries.  Yet, as our favorite swimmers finish their careers, we never seem to keep up with what they have gone on to do.  After dedicating numerous years to swimming, what does life look like when you are done?  A few of our favorite Olympians have shown that after swimming, the opportunities are endless.

Peter Vanderkaay

Photo Courtesy: Peter H.Bick

Photo Courtesy: Peter H.Bick

Vanderkaay was a familiar face for Team USA, appearing in the 2004 Athens Games, the 2008 Beijing Games, and the 2012 London Games.  He won gold in the 4×200 free relay in 2004 and 2008, and won bronze in the 200 free in 2008 and the 400 free in 2012.  In 2013, Vanderkaay retired from being a member of the US National team, and joined the business world.  He worked as the Director of Partnerships and Business Development for Dandelion in the Greater Detroit area and is now a sales associate for Signature Associates Commercial Real Estate.

Jenny Thompson


Photo Courtesy: Jenny Thompson Fan Page

Thompson’s Olympic debut was at the 1992 Barcelona Games where she won two gold medals in the 4×100 free relay and 4×100 medley relay, and a silver in the 100 free.  She then appeared in 1996 Atlanta Games where she won 3 gold medals in the 4×100 free relay, 4×100 medley relay and 4×200 free relay; and the 2000 Sydney Games where she won gold in the 4×100 free relay, 4×100 medley relay, and 4×200 free relay and bronze in the 100 free. Then in 2004, Thompson made her last Olympic appearance in Athens where she won two silver medals in the 4×100 and 4×200 free relays.  After Athens, Thompson hung up the goggles and decided to pursue medicine, and in 2006 she began medical school.  She is now working as an anesthesiologist at Spectrum Medical Group.

Ian Crocker

Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

Crocker was part of the 2000, 2004 and 2008 US Olympic teams.  He won gold in the 4×100 medley relay at all three games, won silver in the 100 fly and bronze in the 4×100 free relay in 2004.  After Beijing, Crocker took a break from swimming and opened a swim school with his former University of Texas teammate Neil Walker.  Then in 2012, Crocker announced his retirement from swimming and found his passion for coaching when he started volunteer coaching for the Texas women’s swim team.

Amanda Beard

Photo Courtesy: © Peter H. B ick

Photo Courtesy: © Peter H. Bick

Beard was a familiar face for more than a few Olympic Games.  Her first appearance was in Atlanta in 1996 where she won gold in the 4×100 medley relay and silver in both the 100 and 200 breast.  Then in 2000 she won bronze in the 200 breast stroke, and in 2004 won gold in the 200 breast, silver in the 200 IM and silver in the 4×100 medley relay.  She returned again in 2008, qualifying for the Olympics in the 200 breast, but failed to make the final.  Throughout her swim career, Beard also took on various modeling jobs, appearing on the cover of Sports Illustrated.  Then in 2015, Beard started her own company in Washington, Beard Swim Co., where she has been working at since its founding.  The company focuses on teaching children to swim, and helps them to be more comfortable in the water.

Brendan Hansen

Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

Hansen first represented the United States at the 2004 Athens Games where he won a gold in the 4×100 medley relay, a silver in the 100 breaststroke and a bronze in the 200 breast.  Then in 2008, he won a gold in the 4×100 medley relay.  And in 2012 the medley relay won gold once again, and he won bronze in the 100 breast.  Similar to Crocker, Hansen found a love for coaching once he retired from swimming.  He is now living in Austin where he is the head coach of Austin Swim Club.

It can be hard to face the fact that your swim career will end at some point, but by following the familiar faces that once graced the US Olympic team it is clear that you can take your life in any direction.  Whether it is coaching, marketing, modeling or medicine, the paths are endless for swimmers when they finish their athletic career, and these Olympic swimmers are proof that anything is possible.  Although we lose some of those familiar faces each year at the Olympics, they go on to be the champions of other fields.  But never forget the remarkable accomplishments of some of the best swimmers the world has ever seen.

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Malcolm Neely
8 years ago

Gig Harbor WA

Eddie Levine
8 years ago

Yes, Eric Wunderlich. Where?

Bill V.
Bill V.
8 years ago

There’s relatively little opportunity in the sport of swimming. The jobs don’t pay well, they lack stability, and they don’t offer many benefits.
Been there, done that, bought the T-shirt.
The person who got it right is Jenny Thompson.

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