Top Moments in Sacramento Women’s History: Summer Sanders

It must be something in the water in Sacramento.
by Jonathan Bradley

Summer Sanders has a long list of accomplishments, ranging from Olympian to television personality to actress. But before she reached that level of success, Sanders was making a name for herself as a teen swimmer here in Sacramento. 

Sanders was born and raised in Roseville, CA, a suburb of Sacramento, and made her first splash as a member of the Roseville Sugarbears, which, at the time, was the city’s only recreational swim team.  

From there, she went on to attend Oakmont High School, where she began to gain notoriety as a swimmer and eventually became a member of the school’s inaugural Hall of Fame class.

And for good reason.  

At only 15 years old, Sanders fell just short of qualifying for the 1988 Olympic team as she finished third in the 200-meter individual medley. In her first international meet two years later as a high school Junior, she finished second in the same 200-meter event at the 1989 Pan Pacific Championships. 

She would go on to win the 400-meter individual medley the 1991 Pan Pacific Championships, beating the woman who defeated her two years earlier, en route to collecting three gold medals during the games. 

Sanders took her talents from Sacramento to Stanford later that year, and in her two years as a collegiate swimmer won eight National Championships and back-to-back NCAA Swimmer of the Year awards. 

She made her Olympic debut during the 1992 games and by then was well on her way to becoming an international superstar. Sanders not only began her career as a TV personality during that time – working as a swimming commentator while also hosting “NBA Inside Stuff” – but she also earned four medals (two gold, one silver and one bronze) during the games. 

Sanders remains one of the most accomplished and recognizable swimmers in the history of the sport and her roots in Roseville is something all Sacramentans should be proud of. 

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