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Legendary Former Olympian Janet Evans Shares Her ‘Gold Medal’ Secrets to Success, Motivation and Self-Care (EXCLUSIVE)

Find out the simple ways she grounds herself in the moment — and looks ahead to her goals


A wunderkind in the pool, Janet Evans, took the swimming world by storm (or by splash!), breaking world records in the 400m, 800m and 1500m freestyle events at the tender age of 15. Her petite frame belied a fierce competitive drive that saw her earning four golds and one silver in the 1988 and 1992 Olympics.

Today, the 52-year-old mother of two applies the same grit and resilience she showed as a decorated distance swimmer, to her daily life. FIRST sat down with Evans to find out her “gold medal” secrets to success, when it comes to family, self-care and finding that all-too-elusive work-life balance.

FIRST for Women (FFW): What gets you up in the morning and keeps you motivated?

Janet Evans: Working as Chief Athlete Officer at LA28 [the 2028 Olympic and Paralympic Games in Los Angeles], is a daily reminder that athletes are the heart of the Games, and we’re planning an event for the most important day of their lives. I try to remind myself every day that some athletes train their entire career for just 15 seconds. And as a former Olympian, I know exactly how that feels.

So my task is to be my best self on behalf of these hopefuls as a steward of their future performance. And while we’re serving thousands and thousands of athletes, I know that each one is an individual, and I’m here for every single athlete — that keeps me focused and motivated… and so inspired!   

Planning and delivering an Olympic and Paralympic Games for the best athletes on the planet is a significant undertaking, but also an incredible opportunity and privilege. I lean on some of the lessons I learned as an athlete every day — in and out of the office. Sport taught me so much about myself: to be steadfast and determined, but also patient in all my pursuits. I walk into any room with this perspective, and especially with my family.

Related: The Summer 2024 Paris Olympics Are Coming Up! What Simone Biles Has to Say, Who Will Be There and More

Janet Evans runs with the Olympic torch
Janet Evans runs during the torch relay in 2004 at LA’s Dodger Stadium Getty

FFW: How do you relax and calm your nerves when you’re stressed?

Janet Evans: Outside of my job, I find great peace in my family — just being together grounds me. This life is cluttered for all of us, so my husband and I carve out intentional time for family meetings and simply being together. Even on our busiest days, my family brings me peace and laughter… I also love a bubble bath and a really great jigsaw puzzle!

As women, I think the question we all have to ask ourselves when we put our head down on our pillow at night is, ‘What have I done for myself today?’

Related: Olympian, Mom, and Lifestyle Creator Shawn Johnson Shares What She’s Learned

Janet Evans swims competitively, showing the determination that won her four gold medals
Janet Evans competes in the 400 meter Individual Medley swimming event in 1988Getty

FFW: What inspires you most when you look back on your Olympic journey?

Janet Evans: When you watch the Games, everything looks so easy. But the perfection of a single moment is accompanied by sweat, blood, tears, heartache, trials and tribulations — and some victories.

Recognizing not every moment is going to turn out exactly as you envision it and that it’s about being present along the journey and playing the long game toward reaching your end result, is the biggest lesson. The most important thing is to show up, be present, be yourself and do your best.

For more inspiring stories of sports heroes:

As Mary Lou Retton’s Condition Takes a Turn For the Better, A Look Back at the Champion’s Amazing Will To Overcome

Simone Biles’ Mom Reacts to Her Flawless Vault Performance! See the Viral Video of Her Response

Olympic Hopeful Has Near-Death Experience That Teaches Her “God Has A Plan For Us All”

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