Fifty years ago, a Rio alumni swimmer, Debbie Meyer, became the first female to win three gold medals at the age of 16 in the same meet in the 200, 400 and 800m freestyle at the Mexico City Olympics in 1968. Since then, it has not been repeated. After making an indelible mark on swimming as a teen, she retired…as a teenager.
“I learned to swim when I was three,” said Meyer. “I started competitively when I saw kids racing and asked if I could do that.”
Her competitive spirit pushed her throughout her career as she set several records and continuously trained. Her training consisted of swimming around seven-ten miles a day with four hour practices in the morning and the afternoon.
Practicing at 6 a.m. daily, balancing school and sports was difficult. She would not finish practice until around 10 a.m. (she didn’t have a first period). Training for the Olympics junior year, she missed the first two months of school.
Meyer also swam before title nine (having both a boy and girls team). She was the only girl on the boy’s team, but her competitiveness and grit didn’t hinder her success. She qualified for the Olympics and represented Sacramento.
“Of course I represented the United States, but representing Sacramento was more important than anything,” said Meyer.
Meyer has inspired several swimmers to challenge themselves as she did.
“Being on an all guys team when she was younger inspired me because she taught me how to persevere and challenge myself,” said swimmer junior Amanda McGoldrick.
Meyer broke 24 national records, 20 world records and won 19 national championships, all before 19 years old. Additionally, she held five freestyle world records at the same time.
“It’s inspiring to have a role model that not only competes against men, but beats them by a large margin,” said swimmer junior Ezra Silverberg.
Her advice for future swimmers is: “Have fun, work hard, swim fast, and enjoy it.”
Meyers never stopped loving the water and her passion lead to the start of “Debbie Meyer Swim School” including one location in Carmichael. There she teaches what she feels is most important: water safety.
“If you want swim lessons, it’s the most inexpensive insurance to help save your child’s life,” said Meyers.
After fifty years, she continues to inspire young swimmers across the globe Her record of winning three medals in one olympic meet has never been broken.