AUSTIN (KXAN) — An Olympic swimmer and former world record holder was honored by the City of Austin with a proclamation Friday morning, declaring Sept. 9 “Sandy Neilson-Bell Day.”
Sandy Neilson-Bell is a triple gold medalist and Hall of Fame swimmer. When she was 16, she won gold in the Women’s 100 Meter Freestyle, the 4×100 Freestyle Relay and the 4×100 Medley Relay at the 1972 Munich Olympics.
Neilson-Bell has lived in Austin for 37 years, according to the City. During that time, she’s become a respected coach to thousands of swimmers across all ages, as well as a community volunteer.
“I couldn’t have done it of course without support …. my mom would have called it ‘stick-to-it-ness,'” Neilson-Bell said Friday.
“Sandy is a role model, both in and out of the pool,” council member Paige Ellis said in a statement. Ellis presented the proclamation to the accomplished athlete. “She’s being recognized for both her stellar athletic achievements and a long record of giving back to the Austin community.”
Neilson-Bell became the only swimmer to rank internationally in three decades and placed in the 1988 and 1992 Olympic Trials. Recently, the City said she founded five master’s swim programs in the Austin area and helped organize local races, including the Deep Eddy Mile and the Cap 2K Open Water Swim.
She and her husband have also raised money for Austin parks, community swim lessons and the construction of the Deep Eddy Bath-House, according to the City.
“Everything else that Paige mentioned, the accomplishments here, the things we’ve done — it takes a village. It took my husband all along the way, all the fundraising, all the teams,” Neilson-Bell explained.
People from the Austin swim community attended the ceremony Friday to support Neilson-Bell.
“Each one of you reminds me of a stage of our, you know, stage of our lives here and swimming,” she said.
The event at Deep Eddy Pool comes on the 50th Anniversary of the Munich Games.