Summer Sanders dominated swimming at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona, Spain, bringing home two gold medals, a silver, and a bronze. Though she retired from her sport after the Games, Sanders never slowed down. She's served as a correspondent for NBC Olympics and The Today Show, hung out with basketball players as host of NBA Inside Stuff, and dumped green slime on celebrities on the Nickelodeon game show Figure It Out. Now, Sanders, 39, is getting ready to attend the 2012 London Games as a member of Team Kellogg's while also leading a busy life as a mom of two. With Mother's Day coming up this weekend, Fitbie caught up with Sanders to learn how her own parents influenced her rise to stardom, how she balances motherhood with her busy career, and more. (Related: Sign Up for a Mother's Day 5-K)
As we approach the London Games, do your kids realize their mom was an Olympic champion?
They have no idea. My son, who's 4, is convinced that I won my medals in a running race because he saw me training for the Chicago Marathon. (Search: Marathon training tips) It's great—he likes to go outside and get sweaty because he sees me do it. I try to lead by example.
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How did your own parents influence your swimming as you were growing up?
They led by example, too. My mom started swimming at age 30. She belonged to a club in San Francisco where they'd swim in the Bay without wetsuits. She had the nerve to call people who used wetsuits wimpy! I think that's very important: Do as I do, not do as I say.
What advice do you have for moms whose kids play sports?
I think parents need to know their role. You are not the coach. For instance, my kids take swim lessons, but I don't stand next to the coach telling him what to do. Remember that this is your kid's fun and independent time. Your time to step in between you and the coach is when you see something with your kid's health, mentally or physically. My parents did that. My dad said to my coach, "I'm taking my daughter on vacation." Coach said, "You cant do that. It'll ruin her season." Dad said, "I'm her father and I'm telling you now I'm taking her on vacation." He knew I needed some time off to be a kid. He made that call as a parent. Funny thing, I went on vacation and then had the best season of my life. My dad just knew me.
How do you juggle being a mom with everything else you have going on?
What I try to do most importantly is be present when I'm with them. I make sure that when I'm with my family, I give them all my love and attention. When I'm with my girlfriends, I'm with my girlfriends. And I still make time for myself. It's the glue that holds me together. The time for yourself is what you give up to please everyone else, but you need to do things for yourself to stay healthy and happy for everyone else. That word, "juggle," makes me chuckle. I try my best. It's so tough. I've been traveling a lot, and I have the mommy guilt of leaving them behind. Luckily, my husband, son, and 6-year-old daughter will be coming to London with me for the Olympics. We'll enjoy the Games as a family.
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What do you hope your children will get out of the experience?
I want them to learn what Team USA is all about! When we were in Whistler, British Columbia for the 2010 Winter Olympics, my daughter would chant, "USA, USA!" And then she'd turn to me and say, "What's a USA?" I want them to catch the Olympic fever and fall in love with everything the Olympics stands for—hard work, dedication, and that you can do anything you put your mind to.