Beard quietly battled persistent pain while earning 7 Olympic medals

Amanda Beard (WTHR photo)

INDIANAPOLIS (WTHR) — For athletes, the chances are slim and the hurdles are high to become an Olympian.

To earn a medal at multiple games is even more rare. Now imagine doing all of that in an environment that triggers pain.

Amanda Beard is now 37. At 14, she won her first Olympic medal swimming for Team USA. She went on to become a four-time Olympian with seven Olympic medals, and through it all, her struggles were a secret.

"I remember, goggles on, just crying pretty hard in the pool," Beard said.

Outside, the picture of health, but inside, hurting. To her, silence was part of the winning formula.

"I felt that it would affect my competition and how I performed. They would see weakness in me and feel like they could beat me," she said. "I wanted to come off as a strong, nothing-is-wrong-with-me kind of person in that world."

Now retired, Beard is taking a different approach.

"So this is definitely a first for me," she said.

Looking back, Beard says she now understands why she avoided light by always using dark goggles, and that the noise in a natatorium was also a trigger.

"I'm very sensitive to noise, so during those moments I would always try to find different ways to rationalize what was going — 'I'm just stressed out, I'm overwhelmed, I'm exhausted, all of these things.' But then all of these things are contributing to me getting a migraine," Beard said.

Migraine days are dark days, but she's learned dark days, weeks and seasons eventually end.

"I went through lots of bouts of depression and anxiety and all different sorts of things, but I still had success along the way," she said.

Now she's a mother, and she aims to be a role model of resiliency, authenticity and overcoming obstacles.

"If you have these big goals and dreams, you've got to fight for them, no matter what's going on around you," said Beard.

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