Jenny Thompson will be in London.
Thompson, one of the most decorated swimmers in American history, considers the Olympics such an important part of her life -- she racked up 12 medals across four Games -- that she plans to attend whenever she can. And considering that this year she's making the trek to England despite being more than 30 weeks pregnant, it seems Thompson is serious about the pledge. "We already have our eyes set on Rio 2016, too," said Thompson, laughing, the "we" being her and husband Dan Cumpelik, whom she married in 2010 in Gloucester, Mass.
"I went to Beijing in 2008 and loved every minute of cheering for Team USA," she said. "Experiencing it in the flesh and cheering for the home country is what I love. It's a wonderful cultural event and the best show on earth. It's definitely awesome to watch on TV, but it's just that much more personal over there."
When it comes to the Olympics, the New Hampshire native knows what she's talking about. Thompson made her Olympic debut in 1992, winning silver in the 100-meter freestyle and two relay golds, in the 4x100 free and 4x100 medley. By the time Thompson retired in 2004, at the age of 31, she had accumulated eight gold medals (all in relay events), three silvers and a bronze. At the time, that haul was a record for an American swimmer.
Thompson and Cumpelik live in Kennebunkport, a small town outside of Portland, Maine. The baby is the couple's first together (they don't know the gender, preferring to be surprised), although Cumpelik also has a 9-year-old daughter from a previous marriage.
Thompson still swims at the local Y, mostly for fun and fitness. She's also tested the open water, racing a few triathlons in the past couple of years. But mostly, Thompson has stayed busy pursuing other endeavors -- most notably her career as an anesthesiologist. Thompson received her undergraduate degree from Stanford, where she was an All-America swimmer, and her medical degree from Columbia. She practices with the Spectrum Medical Group, which is based in Portland.
When Thompson began pursuing medicine, she had no idea she would choose anesthesiology. But she says the discipline has been perfect for her personality. "The job keeps me on my toes and sometimes it's similar to racing because there are times when there is a lot of adrenaline," Thompson said. She says she maintains a degree of anonymity when she's walking around the hospital, but sometimes when she introduces herself to patients, they say, "Huh, you look familiar." It's only then that she mentions the whole "Olympics thing."
Thompson says her favorite Olympic moment came at the 1992 Barcelona Games, when she won gold in the 4x100 medley relay with Stanford teammate Lea Loveless. "It's really hard to pick, because there are so many great memories, but I'd have to say that's the one," Thompson said. "I loved being able to share that moment with my teammate."
And now she loves being able to share the Olympics with her husband. The couple has rented an apartment in London and plans to support Team USA, sitting in the family section at the swimming events. "I'd love to be able to go to the Olympics forever, because it was such an important part of my life," she said. But as for competitive swimming itself, she's glad to have that in her rearview mirror.
"I still love the water and I still love swimming, but it's nice to not worry so much about it anymore," Thompson said.