By Mike Watkins//Contributor | Thursday, April 25, 2019
It’s no secret that Kaitlin Sandeno lives a busy, fulfilled life.
Along with her work as the national spokesperson for the Jessie Rees Foundation NEGU (Never Ever Give Up), she carves out time to be a regular host of USA Swimming’s online Deck Pass Live presented by Xfinity show, is part owner of Laguna Fin and makes time to be wife and partner to husband, Pete Hogan.
More recently, she’s expanded her entrepreneurial enterprises by signing on to be a General Manager for the International Swimming League (ISL) USA, which starts competition this fall.
And then there’s her book – yes, she found time among her many travels for NEGU, USA Swimming and other appearances and responsibilities to write a book about her life. It will be available in July.
On top of that, once a week she works a shift at her favorite fashion and fitness boutique in her neighborhood.
“This year has been absolutely incredible!” she said. “I am full of gratitude and thrilled for everything coming together. A lot of it has been in the works for a while and some came unexpectedly.”
So how does she juggle it all, you might wonder?
Sandeno credits the time management skills she perfected as one of the top swimmers in the world as the way she’s been able to successfully pursue all of these endeavors.
And even though her life is often hectic and crazy, she said she wouldn’t have it any other way.
In her mind, this is exactly where she’s supposed to be and occupied with what she’s supposed to be doing.
“I for sure didn’t foresee this, but I did know I am not cut out for a ‘desk job,’” said Sandeno, who won 10 medals at the international level, including four (one gold) at the 2000 and 2004 Olympic Games. “There’s no way I can sit still for that long anyway.”
While she’s been active with NEGU since 2012 – traveling to more than 160 hospitals throughout the country to visit, encourage and inspire children with cancer – the first new door that opened in 2018 was becoming a part owner of Laguna Fin.
Then, this past February, fellow Olympic gold medalist Lenny Krayzelburg invited her to become the general manager of the D.C. Trident team with the ISL.
Earlier this week, Sandeno officially announced after roughly 3 years of work that her passion project/bucket list item of releasing a book was happening this summer.
“Never did I think I would wear the ‘business owner hat’ for a swim fin company, but being able to bring something innovative to the swim world is so exciting,” she said. “The feedback we get on our amazing fin really drives me.
“It’s a learning curve, like everything, but my business partners are so cool and laid back but also very motivated. We are in this together and have a real sense of ‘team.’ They are so supportive with all my ventures and luckily these other avenues only help spread the word about our new fin.”
Sandeno’s introduction to the ISL USA came from Krayzelburg, who approached her about the league as one of the GMs.
After a “great conversation,” she had a meeting with members of ISL USA. Upon hearing more, she said she knew she wanted to get involved because it is “revolutionizing” the sport.
“As GM, I recruit athletes to my team, select a support staff, am a liaison between ISL USA and ISL Global, attend meets and, of course, bring in sponsors,” she said. “This season will be condensed, as it’s the first year and the year before the Olympics.”
The league is currently set up with four American and four European teams. Each team will compete in three meets, and the top two American teams and top two European teams will then advance to compete in the finals at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas at the end of December.
Sandeno said she’s expecting the meets to be unlike anything the sport of swimming has seen before.
“(There will be) lots of prize money and electric-type swim meets, and the athletes truly will put on a show production-wise,” she said. “Then you will obviously have the world’s fastest swimmers competing. It’s so exciting!”
Sandeno hit the ground running when she accepted her role in the middle of February, and quickly realized there’s a lot to be done.
She will work remotely with a busy travel schedule, and said she is most excited to provide financial opportunities for these swimmers who work so extremely hard for their goals while also helping them build their brand.
Like any start-up, she said she is well aware there will be a learning curve. But everyone in the league is eager to work together.
“It is a sport that gets so much attention every 4 years but is in the backseat in between,” said Sandeno, who won four gold medals at the 1999 Pan American and 2007 World University Games. “Now, there’s this amazing opportunity to change that with getting them more visibility – thus more opportunities for sponsors, endorsements, appearances, etc. When that builds for the athletes, that ultimately builds our sport. It’s truly so exciting.
“We will only succeed as a league if we do this as a unit, and we have all agreed on that since day one.”
Sandeno said she takes great pride in that honor and has experienced substantial support and acceptance.
“The overwhelming support I received after the press conference was so humbling and also so inspiring,” she said. “As always, I have taken having a platform very seriously and will continue to do so. I hope I can inspire more women and girls to just go for it!”
Even with her new endeavors, she intends to stay involved with NEGU in some fashion as everyone involved with the foundation are like family.
While handling these new responsibilities, Sandeno said she plans to be hosting at every TYR Pro Swim Series meet remaining this season along with Phillips 66 Nationals, Golden Goggles and Toyota U.S. Open because she loves being part of USA Swimming.
In the coming months, she’ll also be focusing on promoting her new book, Golden Glow: How Kaitlin Sandeno Achieved Gold in the Pool and in Life, which is available for pre-order on Amazon.com and will be released July 15.
Writing a book has been on her bucket list for quite some time, but she didn’t know where to start. During 2016 Olympic Trials, author Dan D’Adonna approached her about writing her story, and that put things in motion.
“It was as if he was reading my mind,” said Sandeno, who said she finds a calming foundation in her life from her husband, who encourages her to chase her dreams. “I had wanted to do this badly, but needed help!
“During this time, I put a lot of my gigs on hold as my mom was battling with cancer. Writing this book with Dan during this time was so therapeutic. This was a true labor of love for me, and I’m so excited to share my story with everyone. Those who know me as well as those who don’t will learn new things about me, and I love that.”