Summer Sanders: Life After the Gold Medal

By Caitlin Ultimo
Former Olympian Summer Sanders has lead a successful life in and out of the pool. Twenty years ago she

Summer Sanders with her two kids!

brought homefour medals from the games in Barcelona, two of them gold. Since then, she has gone on to become a sports broadcaster, TV host, Kellogg spokesperson and mother to six-year-old Skye Bella and four-year-old Robert Charles Spider. She took some time out to talk to us about how she's encouraging her own kids to be active, and what they think of her Olympic past.

Do your kids like to swim too, or do they have a favorite sport of their own?

My kids love all sports. My husband was an Olympic skier and I was an Olympic swimmer. Everyone thinks our kids are going to be Olympic skiers or swimmers too, but it's my job to introduce them to new sports. My son, who's four, loves ice hockey and my six-year-old daughter loves gymnastics, and they both love soccer.

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How do you get your kids to be active?

My kids love to be active, but it's because my husband and I lead by example with our own fitness and nutrition. They know Mommy goes for a run or Daddy goes for a bike ride and they see us come back all sweaty. Now, my son will come back from riding his bike and say, "Look how sweaty I am!" He feels good and knows that getting exercise is important. I want to help them fall in love with that feeling of accomplishment.

What's important in how you feed your kids?

I always try to instill in my kids the importance of a healthy breakfast. You can't get to the glory of the finish line without a great start, which is why I chose to take part in Team Kellogg's and "From Great Starts Come Great Things" campaign. Athletes were able to share how they got their start, mine at age four, and what it took to get them to the top.

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How do you know when it's OK to let them quit a sport?

I make them finish out what they start. My kids are young so seasons are usually pretty short, usually only 8 weeks. Ultimately the decision to sign up for the sport again is their decision; I put that ball in their court. However, they can't give up on their team. I try to teach them that they are accountable to others.

What have you taken from the way your parents raised you? Are you raising future champions?

I had natural talent and my mom recognized that. When you see you have a kid who is competitive and gets it, it puts a lot of pressure on the parents to do what is right. With my own kids I look to make sure they are smiling and that they are the best teammates they could possibly be.

What do your Olympic medals mean to your kids? Do they just see you as Mommy or do they understand your accomplishments?

They don't get it! My daughter just started school and is beginning to realize the meaning, because her friends come over they ask to see my medals. However, my son has no clue. When he first saw our Olympic medals he had just started swimming and was receiving a lot of those little ribbons they typically give out. He put one around his neck and said. "What do I have to do to get one of these?" I told him how with a lot of hard work and dedication he could earn a medal like mine one day, but he only replied with, "What swim meet gives medals out like these?" He simply thought some meets give out ribbons and some medals!

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What's life been like post-Olympics?

This year is my 20 th anniversary of my Olympic gold medal wins. Since that time I have been given so many amazing opportunities, from interviewing one of my heroes, Michael Jordan, to hosting on Nickelodeon, and getting married and having my kids. I'm so grateful for everything and cherish every moment that I have with the people that make me happy.

Have your kids ever seen any clips or episodes from your Nickelodeon days on Figure it Out?

My time on Nickelodeon was a treasure and a treat, so when I ran into my old producer a few weeks ago I begged her for some copies to share with my kids. It was a big moment for me! When I walked in with the tapes they were watching SpongeBob. There was a bit of an uproar when I went to change their show, but eventually they gave in. I sat and watched them look at the screen and look at me, look at the screen and look at me. Finally, they came out with "That's you!" And then, "Why they'd do that to your hair?" (They had styled it very big the show). Then in a very nice grown-up attempt to not crush my spirit my daughter looked at me and asked, "Mom, any way we can put SpongeBob back on?"

Any Mother's Day plans this year?

I found growing up my mom was always slightly disappointed on Mother's Day, because she left it up to us and we didn't quite come through. Sorry, Mom! So I specifically ask for something. This year I told my husband I wanted a foot rub--my daughter gives amazing ones--and that I don't want to make a single meal or clean any dishes!