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Swimmer Amanda Beard competed in four Olympic Games, the first in 1996 when she was just 14 years old. She appeared on the cover of Playboy in 2007.
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Born in Newport Beach, California, on October 29, 1981, Amanda Beard went to her first Olympics in 1996, where she won two silver medals and one gold. Later, she had to fight to maintain her status as a competitive swimmer while also struggling with a negative body image. Beard went to three more Olympic Games (in 2000, 2004 and 2008), winning a total of seven Olympic medals.
"Swimming was like my escape, but it was also like this huge prison because I felt like I had to swim up to people's standards."
Amanda Ray Beard was born in Newport Beach, California, on October 29, 1981. The youngest of three daughters, she enjoyed watching her two sisters practice for the local swim team. She joined the team herself in 1986 and excelled at the sport, so much so that she joined the Irvine Novaquatics, a more competitive team, in 1994.
When she joined the Novaquatics, Beard's preferred stroke was the butterly. But an assistant coach, seeing that Beard wasn't using proper breaststroke techniques, had Beard relearn that stroke. As she perfected her breaststroke, Beard started clocking faster and faster times, and began winning races at higher levels of competition.
At 14 years old, Amanda Beard's breaststroke abilities took her to the Olympic trials, where she carried her teddy bear, "Harold," with her. She made the 1996 Olympic team and went on to win three medals in Atlanta: silvers in the 100- and 200-meter breaststrokes, and gold for a relay race. Beard was the second-youngest U.S. medalist in swimming at the time.
When Beard went through puberty after the Games, a six-inch growth spurt and its accompanying extra pounds made her struggle to reach the same speeds that she had attained previously. Beard briefly stopped swimming, but returned to the sport after a few months. Still a powerful swimmer, she received a scholarship to the University of Arizona. After training at college, she made the 2000 Olympic team. Beard won a bronze medal in the 200-meter breaststroke at the Games in Sydney.
Beard made the Olympic swimming team once more in 2004. She went on to win an individual gold medal while setting an Olympic record in the 200m breaststroke. She also won two silver medals in Athens. In 2008, Beard made her fourth Olympic team, and was selected as a co-captain. Unfortunately, Beard did not make it past the preliminaries and ended up finishing 18th in Beijing. After giving birth to a son in 2009, Beard began training again, but failed to make the 2012 Olympic team.
With all the changes that puberty had brought, Amanda Beard began to struggle with feelings of dislike for her body, taking to heart negative comments people made when she didn't do well in competition. In her 2012 memoir, In the Water They Can't See You Cry, Beard wrote about these feelings and how they contributed to her abusing alcohol while she was in high school. While away at college, Beard also developed bulimia and began to cut herself.
After two failed relationships (with fellow swimmer Ryk Neethling and NASCAR driver Carl Edwards), Beard began seeing her future husband, photographer Sacha Brown, whom she had met in 2005. With Brown's support, Beard entered therapy and began taking antidepressants, ultimately learning to cope with her negative feelings.
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