Despite her small size and unorthodox windmill stroke, she was a natural-born swimmer, completing laps by the age of two. In 1987, when she was 15 years old, Janet burst onto the international swimming scene, breaking world records in the 400m, 800m and the 1500m freestyle. A year later at the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul, Janet won Gold Medals in all three of her races: the 400m freestyle, 800m freestyle, and 400m individual medley, beating the powerful East German swimmers in the process.
In 1992 in Barcelona, Janet defended her gold in the 800m freestyle and added a silver in the 400m freestyle. At the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games, Janet swam in both the 400m and 800m freestyle but failed to medal.
Janet broke a total of seven world records in three events (400m, 800m, and 1500m freestyle) during her career. Her 1500 meter world record stood for 20 years, her 800m world record stood for 21 years, and her 400m world record stood for 19 years, making them some of the longest standing records in swimming. Janet was inducted into the US Olympic Hall of Fame in 2004 and the International Swimming Hall of Fame in 2001. In 1989, she was awarded the prestigious Sullivan Award as the United States’ top amateur athlete.
In 2010, Janet mounted a comeback in the sport with the goal of competing at the Olympic Trials in 2012 in the 400m and 800m freestyle. She successfully qualified for the Trials, and, at the age 40, had the honor of trying out for the Olympic Team in both events in July of 2012. Once again a retired athlete, Janet lives in Southern California with her husband Billy and their two young children, Sydney (8) and Jake (5).