Maya DiRado will make first Olympics her last
Most people, when achieving the ultimate success at a particular skill, want more and more and more. They don’t even consider stopping.
Not Maya DiRado.
The 23-year-old Santa Rosa swimmer will compete in her first Olympics next month in Rio de Janeiro and then promptly hang up her Speedo.
Yes, she’s retiring — at the peak of her success, after years of record-setting performances with the Santa Rosa Neptunes, Maria Carrillo High School and Stanford University.
And possibly a medal or two. Or three.
DiRado will represent her country in three events: the 400-meter individual medley, the 200 IM and the 200 backstroke.
Then, just a few weeks after the pomp and circumstance of the Olympics subside, she will leave it behind and enter the real world. She has a job lined up at McKinsey & Co., an elite management consulting firm.
Even though swimmers can compete successfully into their late 20s and beyond — through several Olympic cycles — DiRado and her husband, Rob Andrews, whom she met on the Stanford swim team, will put competitive swimming in a box on the mantle.
On Sept. 9, DiRado embarks on her career as a business analyst in Atlanta, a job she was offered more than a year ago, before the Olympics were guaranteed. She follows in the footsteps of her father, Ruben, who is also a business analyst; her mother, Marit, is a nurse.
Having made the decision that this will be her one and only Olympics, DiRado said she will be able to rest easy in Brazil and just soak in the atmosphere, not get too wrapped up in the intensity of it.
“I think it’s really freeing,” DiRado, who graduated from Carrillo in 2010, told the San Jose Mercury News. “It’s not like I have to win medals to be able to make a career out of it and keep going and get sponsorships.”
From early on in her swimming life, DiRado brought a centered mentality. She started in the pool at age 5, on a synchronized swim team. But she said she “enjoyed the process of swimming,” so she began swimming competitively.
“It’s very peaceful, very calming to me,” she said.
One of her early mentors, Dan Greaves of the Neptunes swim club, described DiRado as grounded, much like her parents.
That is the mentality of the club, too, he said.
“With all of our athletes, we just try to stress that this is just a sport we try to do,” he said. “I don’t think anybody is living and dying with it, including Maya. I don’t think we taught her how to do it. I think she is wired that way and so are we.”
Jill McCormick, the swim coach at Santa Rosa Junior College and another DiRado mentor, said Maya has the rare ability to remain calm during the disappointments as well as the successes.
“When you make a commitment, it’s hard not to make it feel more important than it is, where it becomes your sole focus, where your self-worth is so wrapped up in your performance. It’s natural, which is why most people do it,” she said.