Matt Biondi was somewhat of a late bloomer. As a 5-year-old in his first-ever race, Biondi had two false starts and then lost his swimsuit upon diving in the pool. Biondi did not swim year-round until he reached high school.
However, by his senior year at Campolindo High in Moraga, California, Biondi was making his mark. He set a national high school record in the 50-meter freestyle (20.4 seconds) and earned a scholarship to the University of California, Berkeley to swim and play water polo. As a freshman, Biondi played on the Golden Bears’ NCAA championship water polo team and advanced to three consolation finals at the NCAA swimming championships.
The following year, in 1984, Biondi was a surprise qualifier for the U.S. 4×100-meter freestyle relay team and captured his first gold at the Los Angeles 1984 Olympic Games.
But even with an NCAA championship and an Olympic gold medal, Biondi was only scratching the surface for what would come next.
Biondi’s final three years at Cal brought eight NCAA individual teams and he swam on six NCAA-winning relay teams, as well as two more NCAA championship water polo teams. He was named the NCAA Swimmer of the Year three times and to the All-American College Water Polo teams in each of his four seasons of competition.
Still, that just laid the groundwork for what was to come at the Seoul 1988 Olympic Games.
Biondi started slow, taking bronze in the 200-meter freestyle. Then he finished second in the 100-meter butterfly (when he was out-touched by one one-hundredth of a second) before helping the Americans win gold in the 4×100-meter medley relay and 4×200-meter freestyle relay. The next three days also were gold medal days for Biondi: in the 100-meter freestyle, the 4×100-meter freestyle relay and finally the 50-meter freestyle.
It was an amazing eight days that saw Biondi capture five gold medals, one silver and one bronze, with one individual world record (50m freestyle) and all three relays and an Olympic record in the 100-meter freestyle.
Biondi returned to The Olympics at the Barcelona 1992 Olympic Games, helping the Americans win gold in the 4×100-meter medley relay and 4×100 freestyle relays and taking silver in the 50-meter freestyle.
Following the Barcelona 1992 Olympic Games, Biondi retired from international swimming and became a motivational speaker. He now works as a teacher and swim coach.