NCAA Champion and former World Junior Record holder Amy Bilquist announced her retirement from competitive swimming on Sunday via Instagram. In the same post, Bilquist revealed that she struggled with a dislocated sternoclavicular joint which led her to have cardiothoracic surgery.
Per Bilquist’s post, the dislocated sternoclavicular joint caused her to develop thoracic outlet syndrome, which manifested in the form of nerve and blood vessel damage, affecting her left arm particularly.
Bilquist has had a tenuous career with injuries. In 2015, Bilquist withdrew from a Pro Swim Series meet in Charlotte due to stress fractures in her legs. In 2019, she underwent shoulder surgery and later that year won the U.S. National Championship in the 100 backstroke, despite having broken a finger earlier that season at the Clovis stop of the Pro Swim Series, as well as a broken hand following the conclusion of the 2019 NCAA season. Then, in January of 2020, Bilquist underwent knee surgery to remove her plica (a typically harmless membrane fold in the knee present in roughly half the population), address a torn meniscus, and do some additional tendon clean-up. She chose to delay the knee surgery from fall 2019 to January of 2020 in order to compete in the inaugural season of the International Swimming League (ISL).
Bilquist was a standout high school swimmer in Indiana, a four-time high school state champion in the 50 freestyle and a two-time state champion in the 100 freestyle, as well as a one-time state champion in the 100 backstroke. Bilquist helped the American team set the World Junior Record in the women’s 4 x 100 freestyle relay at the 2014 Junior Pan Pacs in Hawaii, where Bilquist also won individual gold in the 50 freestyle and 100 backstroke.
Bilquist rode that momentum through to the 2014 World Championships (25m) in Doha, Qatar, where she helped set an American Record in the 4 x 50m freestyle relay. Bilquist took home 2 silver medals and 1 gold medal for her relay contributions in Doha.
In the NCAA, Bilquist was both a Pac-12 and NCAA Champion, and still ranks as Cal’s 4th-fastest performer ever in the 50 freestyle (21.52) and 100 backstroke (50.05), the 5th-fastest in the 100 freestyle (47.01), and the 6th-fastest in the 200 backstroke (1:49.90). Bilquist was the 2019 Pac-12 champion in the 100 backstroke, and the 2016 Pac-12 Champion in the 200 backstroke. In 2017, Bilquist helped the Cal women win an NCAA title in the 200 freestyle relay. The Cal women finished 2nd overall in the team standings.
At the 2016 Olympic Trials, Bilquist placed 3rd in the 100 backstroke behind Cal teammate Kathleen Baker and Trials champion Olivia Smoliga. Bilquist also placed 4th in the 200 backstroke in Omaha in 2016. At the 2020 U.S. Olympic Trials Wave II meet, Bilquist placed 9th in the 100 backstroke. Though she did not make an Olympic Team, Bilquist was the 2019 U.S. National Champion in the 100 backstroke, having undergone shoulder surgery in January of 2019.
Bilquist competed in the first two seasons of the International Swimming League (ISL), first representing LA Current (2019) and then DC Trident (2020).