Her success came so quickly, her rise in the sport so meteoric. “Sippy” began her swimming career as a youth in Riverside’s public pools, competing in a summer recreation league. She decided to focus on competitive swimming at age 12 for the Riverside Aquatics Association. The next year, 1978, she stunned the swimming world by winning three gold medals and two silver medals at the World Championships.
In 1979, she won five gold medals at the Pan American Games and four gold medals at the World Cup.
Though she was denied a chance to be a star of the 1980 Olympics by a political boycott, her place was secure as one of the finest swimmers ever.
As a 15-year-old in the 1980 Olympic Trials, held after the Moscow Games, she won the 100- and 200-meter freestyle events, finished second in the 400 and 800 and also qualified in two relays. For her career she set seven world records and 18 American records. She retired from competitive swimming after winning a silver medal in the 200 freestyle in the 1984 Olympics. Her U.S. record in the 200-meter freestyle stood from 1978 until 1992.
Sippy _ a nickname given to her as an infant from her 2-year-old sister _ attended Poly High School for two years before transferring to Mission Viejo. She was the first four-time California high school swimmer of the year. She was a three-time All-America at USC and is a member of the USC Hall of Fame. She was a runner-up for the Sullivan Award, given to the country’s finest amateur athlete. She was inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame in 1994. Sippy Woodhead Pool, a public pool in Riverside was re-named in her honor.
She graduated from USC with a degree in journalism and later earned a master’s degree in marriage, family and child counseling. She was an assistant swim coach at USC from 1989-97 and has done television commentary.
Cynthia lives with her husband in Playa Del Ray and is expecting twins.