Born Janet Elizabeth Evans on August 28, 1971 in Placentia, California, Janet Evans has won a total of four Olympic gold medals in swimming, three of which she won in the 1988 Seoul Olympics for the 400-meter freestyle, 800-meter freestyle, and 400-meter medley. She started swimming competitively as a child, setting her first age record by the age of 11. After attending El Dorado High School and emerging a virtual legend, she broke three world records in 1987 for the 400-, 800, and 1,500-meter freestyle events. In the 1988 Olympics, she again set a world record for the 400-meter freestyle, which would not be broken for another 18 years in 2006. The following year, she set another world record, this time for the 1,500-meter freestyle, which would stand for the next nine years. Currently, she holds the world record for the 800-meter freestyle, the second-longest standing record in the history of the sport.
Outside the Olympics, Evans has three World Championship and seven Pan Pacific Championship gold medals under her belt. She won both the 400- and 800-meter events at the US National Championships a record 12 times. In her final appearance during the 1996 Atlanta games, she did not haul any medals but she carried the Olympic Torch at the opening ceremony, having to hand it to Muhammad Ali to light the cauldron. Since 16, Evans has been doing motivational talks to some major companies, such as McDonald’s, John Han!@#!@, HSBC, AT&T, and Bank of America.
Evans is one of the contestants in the NBC reality show Celebrity Circus, which features six celebrities who will learn the ropes of circus life, including mastering death-defying stunts with high wires, flying trapezes, and fire dancing. The contestants will then face a panel of judges for critique. Talking about her experience, she says she feels like a fish out of the water since she is used to perform in the water and it was a hard transition for her to perform out of it. Being an athlete does not make the challenge easier, she says.