To say that Dan Jorgensen loves swimming is putting it mildly. He and his brother, Lars, competed in the 1988 Summer Games — just the second time a pair of brothers had participated in the same Olympics. Their father, Niels, was their coach. Dan returned from South Korea with a gold medal in the men’s 4x200-meter free-style relay. Later, he won a bronze in the same event at the 1992 Games. Prior to the Olympics, he attained medals at Pan Pacific and World Championships, set an American record, and also won two individual NCAA titles.
Nowadays the former Olympic swimmer is vice president of sales at S.R. Smith, maker of pool deck equipment in Canby, Ore. It seems fitting, for Jorgensen remembers using the company’s starting blocks during his swim days.
His love of water was almost inevitable. Growing up in a little Connecticut town, Jorgensen could walk out his front door and the ocean was right there. Niels thought his sons should learn to swim, and Dan said he started at age 5 in summer swim programs. Eventually the family moved to California, and Dan swam competitively during and after college, then joined the U.S. Swim Teams at the Olympics in ’88 and ’92. After all that, it was time to enter the job market.
From working at a steel mill to selling medical equipment, he dabbled in some different trades before accepting the position in Oregon.
He and wife Barbra have a home in Beaverton, Ore., with young daughters Alexandra and Anna. Perhaps not surprisingly, Alexandra is in a weekly swim class; her big sister is on a swim team, as well as being in ballet and soccer. Jorgensen said he swims at local pools with the kids weekly, and the entire family loves to go snow skiing.
In fact, Jorgensen also once was an award-winning competitive skier. “At age 12, I had to pick one sport — skiing or swimming,” he said. He remembers his father taking him and Lars to the Lake Placid Winter Olympics and the Montreal Summer Olympics. “Having us see how cool it was, he was planting a seed.” A seed that clearly took root.
Recalling his most memorable Olympic moments, Jorgensen said they weren’t sports-related, but more about the friendships forged. All the athletes stayed in a central village, and it was fun sharing meals in the cafeteria with people from around the world. “And I really enjoyed the opening ceremonies — the spectacle that it is, [and being there with] all the other athletes,” he said. “The closing ceremony is actually one big party.”