Janet Elizabeth Evans (born August 28, 1971) is a former American competitive swimmer who specialized in distance freestyle.
Born in Fullerton, California, Evans grew up in neighboring Placentia, where she started swimming competitively as a child. By the age of 11, she was setting National Age Group records in distance events. After graduating from El Dorado High School, she attended Stanford University and the University of Texas before graduating from the University of Southern California in 1994 with a degree in communication.
Evans was distinctive for her unorthodox "windmill" stroke and her apparently inexhaustible cardiorespiratory reserves. Slight of build and short of stature, she more than once found herself competing and winning against bigger and stronger athletes, some of whom were subsequently found to have been using performance-enhancing drugs.
Janet Evans was the 1989 recipient of the James E. Sullivan Award as the top amateur athlete in the United States.
She was named the Female World Swimmer of the Year by Swimming World Magazine in 1987, 1989, and 1990.
Since her retirement from competitive swimming, Evans has been a motivational speaker and corporate spokesperson for companies such as AT&T, Speedo, Campbell's, PowerBar, John Hancock, Cadillac, and Xerox. In 2008, Evans competed on the NBC show Celebrity Circus.
In 2010, Evans returned to competitive swimming in Masters swimming.
In 1987, she broke the world records in the 400-, 800-, and 1,500-meter freestyle events. At the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul, she won three gold medals and earned the nickname "Miss Perpetual Motion". In the games, she set a new world record in the 400-meter freestyle event; this record would hold for 18 years until Laure Manaudou broke it in May 2006. Until June 2007, Evans held the 1,500-meter freestyle record (set in March 1988) when it was broken by Kate Ziegler with a time of 15:42.54. Evans' world record of 8:16.22 in the 800-meter freestyle, set in August 1989, was broken in August 2008 at the Beijing Olympics by Rebecca Adlington of Great Britain with a time of 8:14.10. The 800-meter freestyle record was one of the longest standing ever in the sport of swimming, lasting through four Olympic Games. Only the 100-meter freestyle record of the Dutch swimmer Willy den Ouden stood longer (1936–1956).
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