Matt Biondi

Matthew Nicholas Biondi (born October 8, 1965) is an American former competition swimmer, eleven-time Olympic medalist, and former world record-holder in five events. Biondi competed in the Summer Olympic Games in 1984, 1988 and 1992, winning a total of eleven medals (eight gold, two silver and one bronze). During his career, he set three individual world records in the 50-meter freestyle and four in the 100-meter freestyle.

Matt Biondi
Personal information
Full nameMatthew Nicholas Biondi
Nickname(s)"Matt," "The California Condor"
National teamUnited States
Born (1965-10-08) October 8, 1965
Moraga, California
Height6 ft 7 in (2.01 m)
Weight209 lb (95 kg)
StrokesFreestyle, butterfly
College teamUniversity of California, Berkeley

At the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul, Biondi won five gold medals, setting world records in the 50-meter freestyle and three relay events.

Biondi is a member of the International Swimming Hall of Fame and the United States Olympic Hall of Fame.

Early life and athletics

Biondi started his aquatics career as a swimmer and water polo player in his hometown of Moraga, California.[1] As he moved into his teens, his incredible abilities as a sprint swimmer began to emerge. Though he did not start swimming year-round until he started at Campolindo High School, by his senior year Biondi was the top schoolboy sprinter in America with a national high school record of 20.40 seconds in the 50-yard freestyle.[2]

College and international career

1983-84 freshman year

Biondi accepted a scholarship to attend the University of California, Berkeley, to swim and play water polo, and enrolled in 1983. In his first year, he played on Berkeley's NCAA championship water polo team, and made the consolation finals at the 1984 NCAA Swimming Championships, finishing in ninth place in the 50-yard freestyle and 7th place in both the 100 and 200-year freestyle events (until 1985 only the top six swimmers advanced to the championship finals) along with a fourth place finish as part of the 400-yard freestyle relay and a second place in the 800 free relay.[3]

1984 Olympics

In the summer of 1984, Biondi surprised the swimming community by qualifying for a spot on the U.S. 4×100-meter freestyle relay at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics with his fourth-place finish in the 100-meter freestyle at the Olympic Trials held in Indianapolis. He also finished 18th in the preliminaries of the 200-meter freestyle, failing to advance to the finals.[4] At the Los Angeles Olympics, Biondi swam the third leg of the relay, entering the water in second place, just barely behind the team from Australia. Thanks to his 49.67 second split time, the U.S. had taken a four-tenths of a second lead by the time that Biondi turned over the race to anchor swimmer Rowdy Gaines. The United States won the gold medal in Olympic and World Record time.[5]

Post-Olympics NCAA swimming and water polo

In 1985, fresh off of his 1984 Olympics success, Biondi won the 100 and 200-yard freestyle events at the NCAA Championships, setting NCAA and American Records in each event, and contributed relay legs on Cal's victorious 400 and 800-yard freestyle relays, with the 400 free relay team also setting NCAA and American records. He finished second to Tom Jager of UCLA in the 50-yard freestyle and was part of Cal's second place 400-yard medley relay team. Thanks in large part to Biondi's efforts, the Cal team finished fourth overall in the team standings.[6]

The next season, 1986, Biondi swept the sprint freestyles, repeating his 1985 victories in the 100 and 200, and adding a win in the 50 with new NCAA and American records in the event. Cal once again finished first in the 400 and 800 free relays with Biondi anchoring both, but once again fell short in the 400 medley relay finishing third. By virtue of his three individual victories, Biondi tied with Stanford's Pablo Morales for high-point scorer in the meet in which Cal finished runner-up to Stanford for the team title.[7]

In his final collegiate season, 1987, Biondi repeated as winner in the 50, 100, and 200-yard freestyle events, breaking his own NCAA and American records in all three. Having broken the 50 free record in both his preliminary heat and again in the final, he became the first swimmer to break four individual NCAA and American records in the same meet. Once again Cal repeated as champions in the 400 and 800 freestyle relays, yet again they finished third in the 400 medley relay, and for the second straight year Biondi shared the high-point individual title with Morales. The Bears finished fifth in the team standings.[8] For his career, Biondi won eight individual NCAA titles and swam on six winning relays. He broke individual NCAA and American records seven times, and was named the NCAA Swimmer of the Year in 1985, 1986, and 1987.

In his other sport, Biondi was named to an All-American College Water Polo team four times: a third-team selection in 1983, 1985, and 1987, and a second-team selection in 1984.[9] Biondi's Cal Water Polo teams won NCAA Championships in 1983, 1984, and 1987, and Biondi was voted the team's most valuable player in 1985.[10]

International swimming, 1985-88

Biondi set the first of his twelve individual swimming world records in 1985. He was the first man to swim the 100-meter freestyle faster than 49 seconds, and by 1988 he owned the ten fastest times swum in that event and held the world record for nearly nine years. He won a total 24 U.S. Championships in the 50, 100, and 200-meter freestyle events, as well as the 100 butterfly. In two World Championships (1986 and 1991), Biondi won 11 medals including six gold. During his career, he was a finalist for the James E. Sullivan Award, the UPI Sportsman of the Year, the U.S. Olympic Committee Sportsman of the Year, and selected twice as the Swimming World magazine Male Swimmer of the World, in 1986 and 1988.

1988 Olympics

Biondi was involved in one of the closest defeats of any competitor at the 1988 Seoul Olympics. In the 100-meter butterfly final race, he was caught between strokes as he approached the finishing wall. He chose to glide rather than take another stroke, and Biondi was edged out by Anthony Nesty of Suriname by just one one-hundredth (0.01) of a second.

Biondi still won five gold medals, one silver medal, and one bronze medal in the 1988 Olympics, breaking the world records in four of those victories: three in relay races, and one in the 50-meter freestyle, taking just 22.14 seconds for this swim. This was the third time that he had broken or equalled the existing 50-meter freestyle world record.[11][12]

Biondi's time in the 100-meter freestyle final was the only swim of the competition below 49.00 seconds, and he set a new Olympic record of 48.63 seconds, the second fastest swim at this distance at that time.[13]

1992 Olympics

At the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona, Biondi won two more gold medals in relays and a silver in the 50-meter freestyle. Following the 1992 Olympics, Biondi retired, which he attributed to multiple factors including lack of financial assistance.[14]

World Championships

Biondi competed at the World Championships in 1986 and 1991, winning six gold medals.[1]

In 1986, he won three gold medals, one silver and three bronzes to set a record of seven medals at one World Championship meet.[1] (This record has since been matched by Michael Phelps.)

Life outside competitive swimming

Biondi graduated from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1988 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Economy of Industrialized Societies (PEIS).

Biondi married Kirsten Metzger in her home state of Hawaii in 1995. They have three children: their sons Nathaniel (Nate), born in 1998, and Lucas, born in 2002; and their daughter Makena, born in 2007.

Kirsten Biondi persuaded her husband to continue his education, and he earned his master's degree in education in 2000 at Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Oregon.[15]

In recent years, Biondi has worked as a school teacher and swimming coach in Hawaii. As of 2012, he teaches math and coaches at Sierra Canyon School in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Chatsworth.[16]

Biondi has become active within the masters swimming community, launching an annual masters competition that bears his name. The Matt Biondi Masters Classic was held for the first time on March 23, 2014, in Simi Valley, California. The competition is a one-day, short course yards meet held in conjunction with Biondi's masters club, the Conejo Valley Multisport Masters.[17]

See also


  1. "Matt Biondi (USA): 1997 Honor Swimmer". International Swimming Hall of Fame. Retrieved November 20, 2016.
  2. Dell, Bill. “Nobody’s Better Than Mission or Mercersburg (August 1983),‘’Swimming World’’, p. 42.
  3. “For the Record” (May 1984). ‘’Swimming World’’, p. 105.
  4. “Triumph and Tragedy (July 1984)." ‘’Swimming World’’, pp, 44-67.
  5. “Georges, Chris. "Men's 400 Free Relay (September 1984)." ‘’Swimming World’’, p. 57.
  6. Muckenfuss, Mark. “The Fastest NCAAs Ever - Biondi Doubt (May 1985)." ‘’Swimming World’’, pp, 20-9.
  7. Crouse, Karen. “United They Stood (May 1986)." ‘’Swimming World’’, pp, 34-43.
  8. Muckenfuss, Mark. “A Year of Records (May 1987)." ‘’Swimming World’’, pp, 24-39.
  9. "Men's Varsity All-America". College Water Polo Association. Retrieved March 26, 2018.
  10. "2018 Men's Water Polo Record Book" (PDF). Retrieved March 26, 2019.
  11. Husar, John (September 25, 1988). "Biondi, Evans Stay on Gold Standard". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved August 19, 2013.
  12. Dodds, Tracy (September 24, 1988). "The Seoul Games / Day 9 : Biondi, the Underdog, Ends Up Top Dog Again". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved August 19, 2013.
  13. Robb, Sharon (September 23, 1988). "Evans Sets Record, Wins 2nd Gold". Sun-Sentinel. Retrieved August 19, 2013.
  14. "#30 Most Swimfluential: Matt Biondi". Swimming World Magazine. July 28, 2015. Retrieved August 3, 2016.
  15. "Sachin Shenolikar: Catching up with Matt Biondi - 2008 Olympics -". CNN. July 29, 2008. Archived from the original on August 5, 2012.
  16. Erik Boal, "Chatter: Sierra Canyon hires Biondi as swim coach," Los Angeles Daily News (April 25, 2012). Retrieved October 10, 2012.
  17. "Masters swimmers turn fast times in inaugural Matt Biondi Classic". Ventura County Star. March 25, 2014. Retrieved June 12, 2016.

Preceded by

Tom Jager
Tom Jager
Men's 50-meter freestyle
world record-holder (long course)

June 26, 1986 – August 13, 1987
September 24, 1988 – August 20, 1989
Succeeded by

Tom Jager
Tom Jager
Preceded by
Rowdy Gaines
Men's 100-meter freestyle
world record-holder (long course)

August 6, 1985 – June 18, 1994
Succeeded by
Alexander Popov
Awards and achievements
Preceded by

Michael Gross
Tamás Darnyi
Swimming World
World Swimmer of the Year

Succeeded by

Tamás Darnyi
Mike Barrowman
Preceded by
Ben Johnson
United Press International
Athlete of the Year

Succeeded by
Boris Becker
Olympic Games
Preceded by
Carl Osburn
Most career Olympic medals
by an American

Succeeded by
Jenny Thompson
Preceded by
Mark Spitz
Preceded by
Carl Osburn
Most career Olympic medals
by an American man

Succeeded by
Michael Phelps
Preceded by
Mark Spitz

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