Back to Alumni News

Four alumni Olympians reflect on the Summer Games

A Q&A with Bengt Baron, Derek Bouchard-Hall, Maya Andrews, and Yvette Kong.
We strive to provide individuals with disabilities equal access to our website. If you would like information about this content we will be happy to work with you. Please email us at:
From left: Bengt Baron, Yvette Kong, Maya Andrews, Derek Bouchard-Hall

The Tokyo Olympics kicked off last week, with nearly 12,000 athletes converging in Japan to compete in 33 sports.

And where there is excellence, there are often McKinsey alumni. A number of alums have competed in previous Summer Games (a list follows the Q&A), including Bengt Baron (STO 88–91), Derek Bouchard-Hall (LON 06-11), Maya Andrews (DiRado) (SVO 17–18), and Yvette Kong (HKO 17-19), who joined us to answer a few questions.

Read on to find out about their experiences at the Games, the lessons they’ve learned, and the surprises they faced while competing.

* * *

Bengt Baron in the swimming pool realizing he won the gold medal in the 1980 Moscow Summer Olympics
We strive to provide individuals with disabilities equal access to our website. If you would like information about this content we will be happy to work with you. Please email us at:

Bengt Baron (swimming) represented Sweden in 1980 in Moscow, taking home the gold in the 100-meter backstroke event, and in Los Angeles in 1984, winning the bronze in the 4 x 100-meter Freestyle Relay.

Derek Bouchard-Hall poses in his racing uniform with his bike on the Olympic racing track
We strive to provide individuals with disabilities equal access to our website. If you would like information about this content we will be happy to work with you. Please email us at:

Derek Bouchard-Hall (cycling) represented the U.S. in the 2000 Olympics in Sydney.

Maya DiRado in the swimming pool realizing she won a medal at the 2016 Rio Summer Olympics
We strive to provide individuals with disabilities equal access to our website. If you would like information about this content we will be happy to work with you. Please email us at:

Maya Andrews (DiRado) (swimming) won two gold medals, along with a silver and a bronze, in the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

Yvette Kong in the swimming pool at the 2016 Rio Olympics
We strive to provide individuals with disabilities equal access to our website. If you would like information about this content we will be happy to work with you. Please email us at:

Yvette Kong (swimming) represented Hong Kong, China, also in Rio.

What sport are you most looking forward to watching this summer and why?

Bengt: Naturally, swimming will forever be my favorite. But I am also a huge fan of track and field!

Derek: Cycling, of course. I'm still very passionate about the sport and know personally many of the athletes and coaches involved, so will be really interested in the outcome of all the cycling events.

Maya: Swimming, of course, but there are a few reasons why this isn’t just bias! The women will be swimming the 1500 meters for the first time at the Olympics, which means we have more time to watch [U.S. women’s swimming team member] Katie Ledecky dominate [Editor’s note: At time of publication, Katie had won the gold in the 1500 meter event, as well a silver medal in the 400 meter freestyle]. They’ve also added the mixed medley relay, where each country fields two men and two women. There will be lots of lead changes, and the swimmers really enjoy doing this one. Finally, the U.S. team is quite young this year, so it’ll be fun to watch these teens and 20-somethings on swimming’s biggest stage.

Yvette: Definitely swimming. Despite the pandemic, the Hong Kong swimming team collectively has been in extraordinary shape this year – it's safe to forecast a huge breakthrough at the Games. Watching performances of my international friends/former teammates will be delightful after a year of little to no international competitions.

Despite not being able to witness their successes in Tokyo, I'm cheering them on whilst commentating for Hong Kong's TV broadcaster, which is a new and exciting challenge for me. Thankfully, in my McKinsey days I acquired skills to not only to present with presence, but also with impact in a succinct manner.

What's something that might surprise readers about being in the Olympics?

Bengt: How difficult it is for athletes to get tickets to venues and sports besides their own event. I always thought that an Olympian could get into any event, but that is definitely not the case. It’s almost impossible!

Derek: When you walk around the athletes’ village, you see so many extreme physiologies.  Very tall people. Very short people. The muscle bound. The extremely skinny. Huge torsos.  Very long limbs. Oversized legs. Oversized arms. So many of the athletes are unusual in shape or size. I think this is a wonderful statement on how being different can be powerful.

Maya: Just because it’s the biggest swim meet of your life doesn't mean that everything runs smoothly or is glamorous behind the scenes! We’d get done with finals between 1:30-2 a.m. each night, and a trainer would shove a plate of pasta at us to eat on the bus back to the Olympic Village. The athletes don’t have a lot of control over where they’re going and when, what food they eat, or their surroundings (i.e., noise levels) in the Village. But in the end none of that really matters because it’s the Olympics!

Yvette: At the Olympics, no surprise is surprising. Anything could happen.

What do you remember most about your time in the Olympics?

Bengt: Besides competing against the world’s greatest swimmers, walking around in the Olympic Village was unforgettable. I got to see and meet outstanding athletes of all sizes, shapes, and nationalities; towering basketball players, tiny gymnasts, heavy-built weightlifters, featherlight long distance runners... All united by a common dream and respect for one another. It was inspiring to be among so many people representing different nationalities, talents, and backgrounds, all united in this experience.

Derek: The countdown to the start of my event. After preparing for over 4 years, those last 5 seconds before our race started surprised me in how powerful they felt. That transition from what had been a future theoretical for years to a present reality was really intense.

Yvette: The Olympics went by in a blur – as if my memories collapsed into a big magical ball of joy. My Olympic dream started when I was 7 whilst watching the Sydney Games on TV. I was mesmerized by swimming and still am. Narrowly missing the Beijing Games in 2008, and then the London Games in 2012 by 0.1 second, broke me. When I finally found my way to Rio de Janeiro, I was immensely thankful and relieved. When I was in the Olympic village and venues I was looking around as if I had my polarized "Instagram filter" on.

What do you miss about that time? What do you not miss at all?

Derek: I miss the singular focus and drama of being a professional athlete. It's so clear what your objectives are and whether you meet them or not – you win or you lose. There is little ambiguity. That creates real drama in your life because one way or another you are going to have a powerful emotional reaction to the battle you are entering. What I don't miss is the drudgery of training. Being a professional cyclist is 90% training, 10% competition. That 90% can at times feel extremely tedious.

What did you learn from participating in the Olympics that helps you in your professional life?

Bengt: I started out as a skinny kid in the Swedish countryside and eventually got to participate in and win the Olympics! This was an amazing, but obviously somewhat unusual learning experience. However, it has taught me to set ambitious goals, focus on perseverance, build a tight team, and prioritize having fun—lessons that are applicable in all aspects of life. Also, a bit of competitiveness doesn’t hurt.

Derek: When facing high-stakes and stressful moments, to just focus on getting the job done and let the chips fall where they may.

Maya: The Olympic Creed states, “the most important thing in the Olympics Games is not to win, but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph, but the struggle,” and I think that’s the most important lesson from my entire swimming career. The Olympics were but a wonderful cherry on top of 17 years of swimming, and the experience was meaningful only because of the incredible work it took to get there and the wonderful people who supported me along the way.

In my professional life now I focus on enjoying the process and relishing the learning, and I try to avoid putting any single position or achievement on too high of a pedestal.

Yvette: My favorite kind of R & R is Resilience and Recovery. Sometimes it's easy to confuse mental toughness with mental wellness, which led me to taking a break because of burnout in 2013. As I progressed to higher levels of competitive swimming, I realized recovery was a component just as crucial as work in the context of optimal performance. A lack of recovery time not only causes health risks physiologically but also psychologically and emotionally. Developing self-awareness to recognize signs of fatigue, having self-regulation to create work-life boundaries, and being mindful of how to recover became instrumental to my comeback. This experience became a constant reminder as I exchanged my swimsuits for business suits.

Is there a specific lesson you took away from the Games?

Yvette: The Olympics is more about the intangibles: the passion, the hope and possibilities, the humanity and sensitivity, the falling and learning, the peace and competition. I remember Nikki Hamblin and Abbey D’Agostino, who showed the world the Olympic spirit as they helped each other to finish the race after falling. The comeback story of Anthony Ervin. And the Syrian refugee Yusra Mardini, who swam to push her sinking boat to Greece and still fought her way to Rio. Some won medals; others did not even come close. Yet they all won.

If you were to choose any Summer Olympics sport other than swimming to compete in, what would you choose?

Derek: Basketball. That was the first sport I really loved, and if I had the talent for that sport that I had for cycling, I would have pursued basketball as far as I could.

Maya: I would love to be coordinated enough to play beach volleyball with any semblance of skill—their venue was amazing in Rio, right on Copacabana Beach, and the sport is so exciting to watch.

Can you describe a specific moment from the Olympics that you will never forget?

Bengt: At my second Olympic Games [Los Angeles, 1984], I participated in the opening ceremony, which was an amazing experience. However, when we were bussed to the Colosseum at USC for the ceremony, they had closed the freeway for all other traffic. Riding a bus through L.A. on a completely deserted freeway was surreal, and a reminder of how big the Olympic Games are.

Maya: I remember very little about the time leading up to the 200-meter backstroke, my final race on day seven, but the 20 minutes after the race were so joyous and special. Michael Phelps finished his last individual event while I was still going through the media zone after my race, and he came and gave me a big hug. It was absolutely surreal to celebrate with him as a peer when I’d grown up watching him transform our sport.

When I made it back to the team area to celebrate with my coach, teammates, and all the USA Swimming support staff, it was pure joy combined with disbelief. And then Matthew McConaughey showed up in the team area with his wife to say hi to the swimmers, because the Olympics are absolutely wild like that.

* * *

Bengt, Derek, Maya and Yvette are only four of many alumni who have participated in the Summer Olympics; others are listed below. We're sure this list is incomplete – if you are aware of others, please let us know.

  • Matt Brittin (LON 97-04) represented Great Britain in rowing at the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul
  • Gerritjan Eggenkamp (AMS 04-13) represented the Netherlands in rowing in Sydney in 2000 and in Athens in 2004, taking home a silver medal in the Coxed Eights event in 2004
  • Austin Hack (SFO 17-19) is currently representing the U.S. on the men’s rowing team in Tokyo. Austin also competed in the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro
  • Mark Pinger (PIT 99-03) represented Germany in swimming in Barcelona in 1992 and Atlanta in 1996, winning silver in the 4 x 100-meter Freestyle Relay at both Games
  • Aleksa Saponjic (BEL 17-19) represented Serbia on the men’s water polo team in London in 2012, earning a bronze medal
  • Mark Weldon (NYO 99-02) represented New Zealand in swimming in Barcelona in 1992
  • Kieran West (LON 09-17) earned a gold medal representing the UK in rowing in Sydney in 2000

Related materials

Alumni News

14 alumni changing the face of sports

– We all know that our community of 38,000 alumni worldwide is diverse and multi-talented. But we continue to be surprised by how alumni are forging paths in unexpected areas. In this first in a new series, we share some alumni who are changing the face of athletics.