The 1996 Olympic Summer Games were notable for many reasons. First, the Summer Games has returned to the U.S. for the first time since Los Angeles in 1984. Second, it was the Centennial, celebrating the 100th anniversary of the modern Olympiad. Third, there were some notable accomplishments, including runner Michael Johnson winning dual gold medals in the 200m and 400m races and the U.S. Women’s Gymnastics team winning the all around team Gold Medal for the first time in the event’s history. Finally, we were introduced to a variety of endearing new personalities, including swimmer Amanda Beard.
Amanda, who was just 14 years old when she competed in the Atlanta Games, quickly wowed fans by securing a Gold Medal in the 4x100m medley relay and winning individual Silver Medals in the 100m and 200m breaststroke events. She then proceeded to win the hearts of all spectators by her adorable antics on the medal platform, including clutching her ubiquitous teddy bear, Harold (strangely, as famous as that image is, I have been completely unsuccessful in finding it anywhere).
1996 was not a ‘flash in the pan’ moment for the young California swimmer. It served notice that she would be a force for years to come on the international stage and in the Olympic Games. True to form, Amanda competed again in Sydney in 2000, Athens in 2004 and Beijing in 2008. 1 Gold, 2 more Silvers a 1 Bronze joined her collection at those competitions. She gained more medals (including 3 Golds) in international competition.
Outside of her competitive endeavors, Amanda embraced a modeling career. Magazines such as FHM and Sports Illustrated, which are well known for featuring the athletic female form, sought out Amanda to pose in their pages. In 2006, Amanda posed in the annual ‘Swimsuit Edition’ of Sports Illustrated. One year later, she showed her comfort in showing off her body with a provocative nude spread in Playboy.
In addition to modeling, Amanda chose to stay close to the sporting arena when she joined Fox Sports’ “The Best Damn Sports Show Period” to cover major events, such as the Olympics. More recently, she embarked on her greatest endeavor when she became a mother for the first time after giving birth to her son, Blaise Ray Brown, in 2009.
Despite her successes athletically, life has been anything but a leisurely swim in the pool for Amanda. As a student in school, she struggled with a mild form of dyslexia. However, it was when she became a big name that she endured her biggest battles. While a collegiate swimmer at the University of Arizona, she dealt with bulimia nervosa, brought about by pressures to adhere to a body image and was not realistic. This was due, in part, to some of her modeling photos being airbrushed in a such a way that is she felt compelled to match this artificial image in real life. She ended up also fighting depression, self-mutilation and substance abuse.
Amanda became a life success story, one worthy of imitating, because she faced down these problems and came out healthy on the other side. More importantly, she didn’t face this struggle silently. She knew her own experiences were ones that many other women have had to contend with, and she sought to help them by chronicling her life, highs and lows and, in her autobiography, “In the Water, They Can’t See You Cry”.
One thing that has been readily apparent over the years is Amanda’s love of body art. She has quite a few tattoos, some with family meaning, others to signify important memories in her life. One of her most notable tattoos is a set of three stars on her lower back. Inside each star is an initial. The initials are L, A, and T. They represent Amanda and her sisters, Leah and Taryn.
On the back of her left calf, she has another star design (can you tell she has a thing for stars?). Then, on her right calf, she shows her most elaborate tattoo, a stunning, and detailed, wintry snowflake design she got while appearing on the hit reality series “L.A. Ink” (this would be Kat Von D’s tattoo show).
Of course, Amanda can also be found on Twitter at: https://twitter.com/AmandaRayBeard
You can also see her revealing interview with fellow Olympic veteran, Amy Van Dyken, here:
And see her feature in Inked Magazine at this location: http://www.inkedmag.com/articles/amanda-beard/