02/13/2009 AT 09:45 PM EST
Add one more piece of bling to Amanda Beard's seven Olympic swimming medals – an engagement ring.
Beard, 27, will marry her boyfriend of three years, photographer Sacha Brown, she tells PEOPLE.
"We are thrilled to be starting the next chapter in our lives together," says Beard. "We are completely in love and to top it off we are best friends. Sacha proposed on Christmas morning in the most perfect way I could imagine. He is truly the man of my dreams and every day I spend with him is a blessing."
"Basically," she adds, "it rocks!"
Beard, who met Brown on a photo shoot, competed in four straight Olympic Games, starting when she was just 14 years old in 1996 through last summer's Olympics in Beijing. She also has modeled, appearing in Playboy.