Jenny Thompson is a former competition swimmer and anesthesiologist. She first appeared on the international scene as a 14-year-old in 1987, when she won the 50-meter freestyle and placed third in the 100-meter freestyle at the Pan American Games.
She won her first world championship in 1991, as part of the USA's winning 4×100-meter freestyle relay team, and held the world record in the 50-meter and 100-meter freestyle when she participated in the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona, Spain. Thompson attended Stanford University, and swam for the Stanford Cardinal swimming and diving team in National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) and Pacific-10 Conference competition. She was the recipient of the 1994–95 Honda Sports Award for Swimming and Diving, recognizing her as the outstanding college female swimmer of the year. She is one of the most decorated Olympians in history: twelve medals, including eight gold medals, in the 1992, 1996, 2000, and 2004 Summer Olympics.
In 2006, Thompson received a medical degree from the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, completed a residency in anesthesiology at the Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts, and then a fellowship in pediatric anesthesiology at Children's Hospital of Boston. Thompson has volunteered as a celebrity swimmer for Swim Across America, a charitable organization that raises money for cancer research, since 1995.