While resting on a pool noodle in the deep end of a community pool with his son Nate, a lifeguard once told Matt Biondi that if he could not swim, he needed to go to the shallow end. But, this was not the case for the already eight-time Olympic Gold Medalist and as of Feb. 9, Pac-12 Swimmer of the Century.
In his first year competing at age five, Biondi set a record in the 25 yard freestyle that stood for 25 years at his recreational league in San Francisco. He first began swimming because of influences from his siblings and the time they spent together in the pool.
“Ironically, [my sister] hated [swimming]. She didn’t like to compete, and so she quit after a few years. My younger brother and I continued to swim competitively,” Biondi said.
Fast forward 14 years and at the age of 19, while still in college, Biondi won a gold medal for the men’s 4 × 100 meter freestyle relay in the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games.
“As a relay member, you have three other teammates that are counting on you… I still keep in touch with Rowdy Gaines who was on my team… I see him at USA swimming events,” Biondi said.
Over the next two Olympic Games, in South Korea and Barcelona, Biondi won seven gold medals, two silver medals, and two bronze medals.
“It felt good to win. It was a huge relief and the pressure was off ‘cause we had done well. I swam well. We were behind when I went in and I pulled our team up to the front,” Biondi said.
Biondi set 14 world records throughout his career including the 100 meter race which he held from 1985 to 1994. He is also a member of the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame and the International Swimming Hall of Fame.
“[During my college career] I trained six hours a day and if I wasn’t training, I was either in school, studying, eating, or sleeping,” Biondi said.
After years of public speaking, Biondi discovered his interest in teaching when a friend was getting his Masters degree in teaching at Lewis and Clark College. He has been teaching for 14 years, four of which have been at Sierra. Currently, he teaches middle and high school math.
“I liked working with kids when I was doing public speaking and teaching seemed like something I wanted to try…..I love classes where kids are learning but also having fun and learning cooperatively with each other. The best learning environments are ones that balance curriculum with stories and jokes,” Biondi said.
He also coaches the middle school and high school swim teams and has two sons that attend Sierra Canyon, Luke, who won the swim league meet for the 25 yard freestyle, and Nate, who swims on a club team at Conejo Simi.
“Watching swimmers improve, smile, and have the best time is the best part about coaching,” Biondi said.