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Catching up with Summer Sanders


It's a good thing Summer Sanders didn't let her first experience in a swimming pool dictate her future in the sport.

"I cried the whole time," she said of her first dip at 18 months. "The best thing my mom did was let me go at my own pace [after that]."

Not only did Sanders conquer her fear of the water, but she went on to win four Olympic medals, including gold medals in the 200-meter butterfly and 4x100-meter medley relay at the 1992 Games in Barcelona.

Now 35 and the mother of a 2-year-old daughter, Skye, and a five-month old son, Spider, Sanders says she'd be thrilled if her children wanted to swim competitively but, because of her own experience, won't be pushy. Skye occasionally likes to jump off the side of the pool, but she won't take chances in the water. "She's not a daredevil," Sanders said.

That title is reserved for dad -- Sanders' husband Erik Schlopy, 35, a World Cup alpine skier and three-time Olympian -- and could soon describe Spider, who was named for former U.S. ski racer Spider Sabich.

"He's pretty active," Schlopy said. "If he's anything like me, in a couple years, he'll be jumping off the roof and scaring the heck out of us."

A mutual friend introduced Schlopy and Sanders in 2003, just before Schlopy was scheduled to head to Colorado to train for upcoming Cup races. Schlopy tore his left ACL during the second giant slalom race of the season and required surgery -- skiing was out.

"It was bad luck for his career but great luck for me," said Sanders, who settled with Schlopy in Park City, Utah. Added Schlopy, "It ended up being the best thing that ever happened to me."

Sanders grew up in Roseville, Calif., only an hour-and-a-half's drive from Lake Tahoe, where she learned to ski. That doesn't mean she and Schlopy hit the slopes together. "I ski if it's a beautifully sunny day," said Sanders, who tried winter sports luge and skeleton while filming stories when she worked for The Today Show from 2000-03. "I really love the blues. Moguls? I don't need to do them."

Fitness has always been an important part of Sanders' life, and upon urging from Schlopy, Sanders and her sister-in-law Keri Crockett, a personal trainer who also lives in Park City, created a workout DVD for mothers-to-be. "I was just itching to do something and be creative," Sanders said. She was seven months pregnant with Spider when she and Crockett filmed the three-part series, in which they illustrate workouts for women in each trimester of pregnancy. Sanders expects the DVD set, entitled Growing Bellies, to be released in January.

When Schlopy isn't training with the U.S. Ski Team, he works as a real estate agent in Park City and as a photographer on the side. He hopes to sell his photographs to benefit a non-profit organization he and fellow skier Bryon Friedman recently founded, Schlopy, Friedman International (SFI), which provides financial assistance to athletes who do not receive funding. "We're going to help people out because it's not cheap to pursue your dreams as an athlete," says Schlopy.

Sanders hopes to continue her television career and goes everywhere with Skye and Spider, whether she's doing a promotional appearance at the new pool at the Qwest Center in Omaha, filming a commercial in Los Angeles or vacationing in Mexico. "I'm thinking this kid is destined to be a world traveler," she says of Spider, whose full name is Charles Robert Spider Schlopy.

One place Spider hasn't been yet is Nicaragua, where his parents bought land during a visit in 2005. "We dream about it," said Sanders. "We dream about a spa and a surfing camp and combining the two. One day it will happen."