For world-class Olympians, their sport is their life. They eat, breathe, and sleep their craft in order to get a shot at being the best in the world at something – and having a gold medal to prove it!
Sadly, a majority of these Olympic athletes are forced to retire at a young age due to the physical stress their aggressive training puts on the body. Of course nothing lasts forever, but the post-Olympic lives of these athletes show just how different things are now…
1. Mark Spitz: This swimmer was all the aquatic hype before Phelps came along. Spitz won 11 Olympic medals, nine of them gold, and was named World Swimmer of the Year three times. He retired at the age of 22 and went on to be a motivational speaker.
2. Lance Armstrong: The 2000 Summer Olympic bronze medal winner has certainly had his ups and downs. Throughout his career, he won seven Tour de France races, but was stripped of all his titles in 2012 for steroid use. In 2013, he admitted to using performance-enhancing drugs during an interview with Oprah.
3. Michelle Kwan: The most decorated U.S. female figure skater in history has a much more positive life now than our previous athlete. In 2014, she joined Fox News as a sports analyst and has been covering Olympic figure skating for the network ever since.
4. Nadia Comăneci: This three-time Olympic gold medalist was the first gymnast to score a perfect 10 during the 1976 Olympics. In 2008, she was on The Celebrity Apprentice and stated, “I only did it…for charity. If I had to do that to apply for a job with Donald Trump, no, I would never do that.”
5. Greg Louganis: A two-time gold medal winner for springboard and platform diving, the openly gay athlete and LGBTQ activist was tested positive for HIV in 1988. Since then, he’s tried his hand at acting, dog agility competitions, and now coaches divers.
6. Steffi Graf: An unbeatable tennis player for her time, Graf was the first woman to achieve the coveted Golden Slam title by winning all four Grand Slam titles and the Olympic gold medal in the same year. She’s since retired and married Andre Agassi, the first male Golden Slam titlist.
7. Scott Hamilton: This 1984 Olympic gold medalist is still best known for his signature backflip. Hamilton left figure skating while he battled testicular cancer, but returned in 2010 in a documented special titled Scott Hamilton: Return to Ice. He now serves on the board for the Special Olympics.
8. Daley Thompson: Best known as the greatest decathlon Olympian of all time, Thompson won two consecutive gold medals in the ’80s for England and broke the event world record four different times. He now owns and operates his own gym, Daley Fitness.
9. Birgit Fischer: A German canoeist, Fischer holds the record for being both the youngest and oldest Olympic canoeing champion at ages 18 and 42. She has also won eight gold medals across six Olympic games. She’s since been involved with photography and the Art of the Olympians.
10. Kristi Yamaguchi: This athlete won a gold medal at the 1992 winter Olympics for ladies single skate, and was also inducted into the Olympic Hall of Fame in 2005. Since then, she’s gone on to be the season six champion of Dancing with the Stars and is the author of a children’s book.
11. Carl Lewis: This 10-time Olympic medalist in track-and-field, undoubtedly one of the greatest athletes ever, made a bid for New Jersey Senate in 2011. He was discounted due to his lack of state residency – a minimum of four years.
12. Steve Redgrave: The most decorated male rower in Olympic history. He won the gold for Britain at five consecutive Olympic games from 1984 – 2000. After his retirement, Queen Elizabeth knighted him, making his full name Sir Steven Geoffrey Redgrave.
13. Picabo Street: This talented alpine skier won a silver and gold medal in two consecutive Olympic games. Street is also the first American to win two consecutive Down Hill season titles. Since then, she has written an autobiography titled, Picabo: Nothing to Hide.
14. Michael Johnson: He was the only male athlete to win both the 200-meter and 400-meter dash in one Olympics in 1996. Johnson has a total of four Olympic gold medals and now dedicates his life to developing young athletes.
15. Katarina Witt: A German figure skater and gold medalist at the 1984 and 1988 Olympics, this athlete went on to star in a 2013 TV movie about a figure skater being stalked by an obsessive admirer. This role hit close to home as she too had a stalker some 20 years ago…
16. Bonnie Blair: This fast-moving athlete won four golds and one bronze over the course of four Olympic games as a speed skater. Blair later retired and married fellow speed skater Dave Cruikshank. They now have two children.
17. Tonya Harding: She was the first American woman to land a triple axel on ice, and the first in the world to nail two triple axels in a single competition. However, she’s best known for getting banned from the U.S. Figure Skating Association in 1994 for orchestrating the attack on Nancy Kerrigan.
18. Nancy Kerrigan: After going to win silver at the 1994 Olympics, Kerrigan too is best known for being the victim of the attack set by competitor Tonya Harding weeks before the games. Since then, she has appeared in several TV shows like Boy Meets World, SNL, and Dancing with the Stars.
19. Jackie Joyner-Kersee: This track-and-field Olympian has won three gold, one silver, and two bronze medals total throughout her career. Since then, Jackie was voted Sports Illustrated’s greatest female athlete of the 20th Century.
20. Lasse Virén: This long distance runner for Finland won four gold medals in the 1972 and 1976 Summer Olympics. Since his track-and-field days, Virén became a politician for Finland’s parliament from 1999-2007 and 2010-2011.
Who knew the Olympic universe was filled with so much talent, athleticism, and pure scandal?
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