Name: Dan Jorgensen, 53
Team: Multnomah Athletic Club Masters
Profession: VP of Sales, S.R. Smith LLC (Swim Pool Deck Equipment Manufacturer)
The Oregon Masters swim community has been fortunate to have several Olympians return to pool competition after years away – Dan Jorgensen being the most recent, returning in 2019 to swim in the OMS Championships. Dan represented the United States in the 1988 and 1992 Olympic Games, earning medals in the 800 free relays: Gold in Seoul & Bronze in Barcelona, and was a finalist in the 400M Freestyle in both Olympics as well.
Dan says there were a few factors that pulled him back into the pool. “It really was a couple of things. First, Scot Sullivan (a fellow MAC swimmer) wanted to recruit a team for a world record relay attempt, and he needed competitors that averaged 50 years and over and I was coming up on my 50th birthday. I had not swum in 25 years, but he challenged me to join him for a couple practices. I was hesitant at first but did participate in a few late Sunday night swims with Scot. I did not like how out of shape I’d become. Second, my doctor recommended I start swimming again to help with some knee pain issues.” Though the Masters relay hasn’t come together yet, he has continued to swim through the pandemic when lake temperatures permitted, and now fortunately, MAC pools are open again.
Camaraderie during practices was the best part of swimming again, explains Dan. “To be with a group sharing a common love for the ‘greatest sport’ is a real pleasure. I have found the challenges in workouts to be both invigorating and they help me stay youthful.”
Dan’s love of the water started at a young age. He grew up in Waterford, CT, near the ocean. To be ocean safe, he started swim lessons as a young child, and was coached by his father Niels until he was 15. By 10 years old he was #1 in the country in IM, backstroke and free events. He established national records in every age group category except 13 & 14. His last National Age group record (400 LCM free) was broken by Michael Phelps more than 15 years after Dan set it.
Dan set the American Record on June 25th, 1986 at the World Championship Trials in Orlando, FL, (3:49.41) in the 400M Free, and later won the Bronze medal a few weeks later at the World Championships in that event.
At 15, Dan moved to Southern California and boarded with a family to train with the Mission Viejo Nadadores to reach his swimming goals. “It was an unbelievable experience walking into a program that had American and World record holders training in one location. I can remember when I first started, I was not ready for the workload and yardage an elite program like this completed during a week. I started being the slowest swimmer in the girl’s distance lane and just getting my butt whipped for many months. I was sleeping every chance I could to recover. Over time and many more months of heavy training, I ended up being the leader of the Animal Lane as it was called. The Animal Lane included the best and hardest working distance swimmers in the country and produced multiple Olympic Champions including Brain Goodell, Mike O’Brien, Tiffany Cohen and many other Olympic finalists. The Animal Lane was legendary back in the 1980’s and much has been written about it.”
Dan’s most memorable swims have been ones where the goals were years out and then achieving them. The preparation includes months of training, both in and out of the water plus managing other factors like diet, sleep, school, work and family. “The focus on daily preparation is key to hitting long-term goals and when you execute on these objectives, there is no greater personal satisfaction,” says Dan.
Highlights of Dan’s Swimming Accomplishments
- Represented U.S. in World Championships & Pan Pacific Champs 1986 to 1992 – earning multiple medals in individual events and relays. Most notable: American record in 400 LCM in 1986
- Triple Bronze medalist at the 1986 World Championships (50M) in Madrid, Spain
- Silver medalist at the 1991 World Championships (50M) in Perth, Australia
- Finished 3rd at the 1984 Olympics trial (first time they only took 2 per event)
- 1988 Olympics – gold in 4 x 200 free relay
- 1992 Olympics – bronze in 4 x 200 free relay
- NCAA Champion in 500 free and 1650 free (USC Trojan). Team finished 2nd place 3 out of 4 years. (Dan’s note: “Still burns inside not having won a team title.”
- Younger brother Lars was also a 1988 U.S. Olympian – currently University of Kentucky head swim coach
- Coached by three Swimming Hall of Fame coaches: Mark Schubert, Flipp Darr, Peter Daland