The Olympic Games have been a showcase of athleticism, determination, competitive nature, and spirit for many years. The athletes that used the Games to springboard their careers have left us all with legendary memories of their feats. Let’s check up on some of the greatest athletes in Olympic history and see what they’ve been up to since they competed on the world’s grandest stage.
While Mary Lou Retton was famous for capturing the heart of a nation, Nadia Comaneci earned her fame for being the first woman to achieve perfection in the Olympic gymnastics competition. She was just 14 years old when she received a 10.0 score in the uneven bars. Incredibly, she would add three more perfect 10s in the uneven bars and another three in the balance beam that year. She would return in 1980 and get two more perfect scores. Comaneci has since defected from Romania and is now a naturalized citizen of the United States.
Ryan Lochte is a 12-time Olympic medalist who has won an incredible six gold medals. Although he has spent a lot of his international career in the shadow of Michael Phelps, he took the spotlight for all the wrong reasons during the 2016 Olympics when he fabricated some of the details of an alleged robbery in Brazil. Since then, he has participated in Dancing with the Stars, in which he was paired with Cheryl Burke and lasted until the 8th week of the competition.
Caitlyn (Bruce) Jenner
Caitlyn Jenner, of course, was originally known as Bruce Jenner. As Bruce, she won the gold medal for the decathlon at the 1976 Olympics. More recently, she has appeared on her reality show I Am Cait and received the Arthur Ashe Courage Award during the 2015 ESPY Awards. She has also been a finalist for The Advocate’s Person of the Year and appeared on the magazine’s cover in 2016. She has also had her own MAC Cosmetics lipstick color, Finally Free.
Greg Louganis made plenty of waves when he won gold medals in the springboard and platform diving events in both the 1984 and 1988 Olympic Games. Louganis has come out as a gay man and tested positive for HIV in 1988. Since then, he has been active in social issues, speaking out against the “Don’t ask, don’t tell” law and in favor of LGBT rights. Most recently, he made headlines by posing naked in ESPN The Magazine’s annual Body Issue at 56 years old.
Mary Lou Retton-Gymnastics
Mary Lou Retton helped define the Olympic Games for an entire generation when she won the gold medal in the 1984 women’s all-around gymnastics competition. She also won two silver medals and two bronze medals in the Olympics that year, which took place in Los Angeles. Her success made her a household name in the U.S., and she enjoyed the opportunity to be on the Wheaties box and became a pioneer in women’s athletics. She continues to mentor young gymnasts.
Jackie Joyner-Kersee is a true Olympic legend, having won three gold medals along with a silver and two bronze medals. She appeared in four separate Olympic Games, competing in the heptathlon and long jump. She achieved all of her feats even though she has always suffered from severe asthma. Since retiring from athletics, she has remained active in sports by joining the USA Track & Field Board of Directors. She’s also active in charity, having founded the Jackie Joyner-Kersee Foundation to assist underprivileged families.
Peggy Fleming-Figure Skating/post_page_title]
Peggy became the most famous American figure skater in Olympic history, thanks in large part to her performance in the 1968 Olympic Games in France. It was there that she captured the heart of American fans by winning the gold medal. Even after her skating career was over, she has been in and around the sport. She works as a figure skating commentator and was able to beat a breast cancer diagnosis, inspiring others to fight the disease as well.
[post_page_title]Janet Beth Evans-Swimming
Janet Beth Evans won a very impressive four gold medals between the 1988 and 1992 Olympic Games. Her best events were freestyle swimming and the backstroke. In 1989, she received the James E. Sullivan Award for being the best amateur athlete in the U.S., and she was recognized as Female World Swimmer of the Year in 1987, 1989, and 1990. She has since returned to swimming in the Master’s division and become a motivational speaker and corporate spokesperson for many firms.
Mike Eruzione-Hockey /post_page_title]
Although ice hockey is a true team effort, Mike Eruzione became a breakout star when he scored the game-winning goal in the “Miracle on Ice” in the 1980 Olympic Games. His goal allowed the U.S. team to defeat the Soviet Union, a team that had previously defeated the NHL All-Stars. The U.S. would go on to win the gold medal that year. Eruzione played for a time in the NHL and went on to become a motivational speaker and director of athletic development at Boston University.
[post_page_title]Shannon Lee Miller-Gymnastics
Shannon Lee Miller was remarkable during 1993 and 1994, when she was the World All-Around Champion in women’s gymnastics. However, it was in 1996 when she really made a name for herself, winning gold medals on the balance beam as an individual competitor, and in the team competition. She added those medals to her five medals from the 1992 Games, making her one of the most highly decorated gymnasts ever. She currently speaks out against childhood obesity and is married with two children.
Charles Barkley was one of the members of the original “Dream Team” and won two gold medals while playing for the U.S. basketball team. He appeared in the Olympics in 1992 and 1996. Although Barkley was one of the best basketball players of all-time, he failed to win an NBA championship, leaving his gold medals as his biggest team accomplishment. He continues to stay involved in basketball as an analyst and is also known for his extremely frank interviews and bold opinions.
Many people remember George Foreman as one of the best boxers of the 1970s and 80s. A lot of people remember Foreman’s improbable win over Michael Moorer to become a world champion again at the ripe age of 45, and many more remember him for being the spokesman for the George Foreman Grill. However, a lot of people forget that his Hall of Fame boxing career actually began when he won an Olympic gold medal in boxing way back in 1968.
Kristi Yamaguchi-Figure Skating
Kristi Yamaguchi had already accomplished a lot in her international figure skating career before she won her gold medal in the 1992 Olympic Games. Since then, she has been elected into the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame in 2005. She has also been the champion of the television show Dancing with the Stars. Since 2010, she has worked as an analyst for figure skating events, lending her expertise to many broadcasts. She married former NHL player Bret Hedican in 2000.
Mia Hamm continues to be perhaps the most famous women’s soccer player of all time, and certainly of American history. She won gold medals in both the 1996 and 2004 Olympics, as well as a silver medal in the 2000 Games. She also participated in four World Cup tournaments as an American soccer player, scoring 158 international goals during her career. Since her playing days, she has authored a book and founded The Mia Hamm Foundation to raise money to fight aplastic anemia.
Ian Thorpe- Swimming
Ian Thorpe represented Australia while winning five gold medals in the Olympic Games, more than any other Australian in history. Three of his gold medals came from the 2000 Olympics, where he also won two silver medals during an unforgettable run. He was the first swimmer to ever be named Swimmer of the Year on four separate occasions. He has spoken out in support of gay rights and is active in the fashion world as well as in charity endeavors.
Frankie Fredericks- Track
Frankie Fredericks is the only athlete from Namibia to ever win an Olympic medal. Fredericks’ silver medals came in the 1992 and 1996 Olympic Games, as he won two of them in each competition. His specialties were the 100-meter and 200-meter sprints, and he continues to hold the world record for the indoor 200-meter race at 19.92 seconds. Fredericks is now a member of the International Olympic Committee and also the Champions for Peace, a group of famous athletes that looks to promote peace throughout the world.
Sergey Bubka earned admiration from his fellow Ukrainians in 1988, when he won the gold medal in the pole vault in the Seoul Olympic Games. He also won six gold medals in the World Championships during his career as a pole vaulter, with three coming while representing the Soviet Union and another three coming while representing Ukraine. Bubka broke the men’s pole vault record 35 times during his career. He now holds the place of president of the National Olympic Committee of Ukraine.
Jean-Claude Killy- Skiing/post_page_title]
Jean-Claude Killy won an incredible three gold medals in skiing during the 1968 Olympic Games. Since retiring from active competition, he has stayed close to the sport, serving as co-president of the Winter Olympics in 1992. Killy has been no stranger to international competition in more recent years, as he has also been a member of the International Olympic Committee for 20-plus years. Killy was married to French actress Danielle Gaubert for 14 years and is known for being a personal friend with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
[post_page_title]Steven Geoffrey Redgrave-Rowing/post_page_title]
There are not many athletes in history with the type of staying power that Steven Geoffrey Redgrave has displayed throughout his rowing career. Redgrave won gold medals in an incredible five straight Olympic games spanning 16 years. He has also won 9 gold medals in the World Championships, all while representing England. In 1988, he married fellow-rower Ann Callaway, and had three children with her. He is the honorary president of British Rowing and was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in 1997.
Jan Zelezny not only won three Olympic gold medals, but he also owns the top five javelin throws of all-time, including the world record of 98.48 meters, or 323 feet. He won gold medals at the 1992, 1996, and 2000 Olympic Games, along with a silver medal at the 1988 Olympics. These days, Zelezny continues to stay active as a coach and member of the International Olympic Committee. He is considered to be the best javelin thrower in history.
Larisa Latynina- Gymnastics
Larisa Latynina was one of the most dominant female gymnasts of all-time. In the 1956, 1960, and 1964 Olympic Games, she won 14 individual medals and four team medals. In 1956 and 1960, she won the all-around gold medal and won the gold medal for floor exercise in all three competitions. After the 1966 World Championships, Larisa retired from the sport. She was inducted into the International Gymnastics Hall of Fame in 1998. She remains a citizen of Russia to this day.
Bjorn Daehlie- Cross Country Skiing
Bjorn Daehlie was a legendary cross country skier, winning eight gold medals and four silver medals in just three Olympic Games. The Norwegian last competed in the Olympics in the 1998 Nagano Games, where he took home three gold medals and a silver medal. Since retiring from competition, he has shown his acumen as a businessman, making a fortune in both real estate and fashion. He also hosted a television show and remains a hero to skiing fans everywhere.
Edwin Moses had a legendary track career, winning two gold medals and a silver medal as a 400-meter hurdles specialist. He took home gold medals at the 1976 and 1984 Olympic Games before settling for silver in his final Olympics in 1988. Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to compete in 1980 because the U.S. team boycotted the Olympics in Moscow that year. Moses did add another Olympic medal to his resume in 1990, when he won the bronze medal for two-man bobsled.
Bart Conner is an American gymnast most known for winning two gold medals at the 1984 Olympics. In 1976, he began his Olympic career as the youngest member of the team, and when he helped the team win gold in 1984, it was the first time they had done so in 80 years. Since he stopped competing, he has made headlines for his marriage with legendary gymnast Nadia Comaneci, with whom he pursues many charitable and philanthropic pursuits to this day.
You may remember Gail Devers as the girl with the extremely long fingernails at the 1992 Olympic Games. She also won three gold medals during her career, taking the 100-meter gold in 1992 and 1996 and the 4×100 meter relay gold in 1996. Her high school’s football and track stadium has been renamed after her and she has been inducted into the United States Olympic Hall of Fame. She also received the NCAA Silver Anniversary Award in 2013 to commemorate her college track and field career.
Usain Bolt is the fastest human being to ever be timed while sprinting and has won nine gold medals in the Olympic Games during his career. During his career, he incredibly never finished in any place other than first in an Olympic race. Most recently, he has been said to be considering a career in soccer, where his speed would certainly be an asset. Bolt says he hopes to rank among sporting greats such as Muhammad Ali and Pele eventually.
Dick Fosbury- Track
Many Olympic competitors have won more gold medals in their career than Dick Fosbury did, but not many can claim to have revolutionized their sport the way that Fosbury did with the high jump. Fosbury was the first competitor to ever jump over the bar back-first in what became known as the Fosbury Flop. The technique helped him win the gold medal in the 1968 Olympic Games. Since his competing days, Fosbury has become a successful politician, earning a seat in the Idaho House of Representatives.
Sawao Kato- Gymnastics
Sawao Kato won plenty of hardware during his gymnastics career, earning eight gold medals while competing for Japan. He also added three silver medals and a bronze medal, giving him a total of twelve medals in all. His competitive career spanned the 1968, 1972, and 1976 Olympics. Kato is in rare company as one of just ten Olympic athletes to have won at least eight gold medals. He serves as a professor emeritus at the University of Tsukuba in Japan.
Brandi Chastain- Soccer
Although Brandi Chastain is most known for the kick that sealed the 1999 FIFA Women’s World Cup and her ensuing celebration in which she tore her shirt off and slid on the grass, she also had a decorated Olympic career. She won gold medals in the 1996 and 2004 Olympic Games, while her team was able to take silver in the 2000 competition. She married her former college soccer coach and currently coaches the Bellarmine College Preparatory varsity boys soccer team.
Dominique Dawes was so good that she became known by her fellow gymnasts as “Awesome Dawesome.” She won a gold medal in the 1996 Olympic Games while adding three bronze medals, as she appeared in the 1992 and 2000 Olympics, as well. She was a part of the Magnificent Seven in 1996, which also included legendary gymnasts such as Shannon Miller and Dominique Moceanu. She has been a motivational speaker for the Girl Scouts and also served as the co-chair of the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition.
Oscar De La Hoya-Boxing
Oscar De La Hoya was a successful Olympic boxer, winning the gold medal for the U.S. in 1992. Following his amateur career, he continued to box professionally until 2009, racking up 39 professional victories while winning ten world titles. He competed across several different weight classes and defeated 20 fellow world champions during his illustrious career. De La Hoya has not exactly faded into the background since he stopped competing, as he founded Golden Boy Promotions and is one of the top promoters in all of boxing.
In 1996, Andre Agassi added a feather to his cap by winning a gold medal at the Olympic Games. During his professional career, he was known first for his flamboyant attitude and flowing locks, and then for his rivalry with Pete Sampras and ability to win consistently at the biggest tournaments in the world. He ultimately won 60 career titles and became known as one of the best tennis players ever and potentially the best service returner ever to play.
Summer Sanders only represented the United States in one Olympic Games, but she made the most of it. While swimming in the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, she won two gold medals, a silver medal, and a bronze medal. She has been active as a commentator for years, as she started commentating while still competing back in 1992. She has also reported on the NBA, WNBA, tennis, and other sports, making this multiple time gold medalist a real jack of all trades.
Muhammad Ali wasn’t just the greatest boxer of all-time, but also part of a grand tradition of great fighters whose careers started with an Olympic gold medal. Ali won the gold as Cassius Clay in 1960 and never turned back. As a pro, he amassed 56 wins and multiple heavyweight title victories. He became an important international ambassador after his fighting career ended and has is known as one of the greatest athletes that ever lived. He passed away in 2016.
Birgit Fischer- Kayaking
Birgit Fischer had quite an Olympic career for a number of reasons. For one, she participated in an amazing six Olympic Games over the span of 24 years. She was also the youngest and oldest Olympic champion ever in her sport of canoe racing. Finally, she had the honor of winning gold medals not only for East Germany, but the unified nation of Germany once the Berlin Wall came down. Only the 1984 Olympics, which were boycotted, kept her from winning even more than her eight gold medals. She is now a photographer and is married to fellow canoe racer Jorg Schmidt.
Jenny Thompson was an outstanding swimmer for the United States, winning eight gold medals and 12 total medals during the 1992, 1996, and 2000 Olympic Games. Since her swimming days, she has earned a medical degree from the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons. She then completed her residency in anesthesiology at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital. She now works in anesthesiology in Portland, Maine. She has also been active in charitable efforts, having often volunteered for Swim Across America.
Elisabeta Lipa was a rowing standout for a span of 20 years, winning five gold medals and eight total medals while representing Romania. Lipa also holds the record for having the most years between her gold medals, with 20 years between victories. Lipa has been just as impressive in her life outside of sports, serving as Minister of Youth and Sport and the President of the Romanian Rowing Federation throughout her retirement. She has also been president of the Dinamo Bucuresti Sports Club.
Anastasia Davydova- Synchronized Swimming
Anastasia Davydova is a five-time Olympic gold medalist in the sport of synchronized swimming. All five of her gold medals were earned during the 2004, 2008, and 2012 Olympic Games. During her career, she often competed as a duet with Anastasiya Yermakova, with whom she won two gold medals. Davydova ultimately decided to give up competing in the 2012 London Olympics. She has since announced that she would continue in athletics but as a coach instead of an active participant.
Canadian diver Alexandre Despatie won two silver medals during his career. Though he never won the gold medal during his two Olympic appearances, he did win three gold medals at the World Championships, making him one of the more legendary Canadian athletes in the sport’s history. Although is last Olympic appearance was in 2008, he didn’t retire officially until 2013. He started working as the co-host of the Canadian show Breakfast Television in 2013 and has also co-anchored Olympic coverage in recent years.
Mark Spitz was, in many ways, the predecessor to Michael Phelps. Spitz won nine gold medals and 11 overall medals in the Olympics while setting numerous world records in his career. Even more impressively, he did it all in just two separate Olympic Games: the 1968 Mexico City Olympics and the 1972 Munich Olympics. Spitz held the title of World Swimmer of the Year on three separate occasions and has frequently criticized international governing bodies in recent years for failing to keep drugs out of the sport.
Carl Lewis may have been the defining male Olympic athlete in the United States during the 1980s, winning nine gold medals between 1984 and 1996 while showing uncommon longevity for the sport of track and field. Sports Illustrated named him the Olympian of the Century. He also holds the title of World Athlete of the Century by the International Association of Athletics Federations for his feats. Lewis has considered a political career in retirement but has settled for a career as a successful businessman.
Sebastian Coe – Track & Field
Sebastian Coe won a gold medal in the 1500 meter run at the 1984 Summer Olympics. He is now a politician in Great Britain.
Allan Wells – Track & Field
Allan Wells was a British track and field sprinter who won the gold medal in the 100 meters at the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow, Russia. After retiring, Wells became a coach for the British bobsleigh team.
Roger Black – Track & Field
Roger Black won a silver medal in the 400 meter relay in the 1996 Olympic games. After retiring, he worked as a television presenter as well as a motivational speaker.
Daley Thompson – Track & Field
Daley Thompson won gold medals in the decathlon at the Olympic Games in 1980 and 1984. He broke four world records. After retiring from athletics, he worked as a motivational speaker and fitness trainer.
Zola Budd – Track & Field
Zola Budd competed in the 1984 and 1992 Olympic Games in the 3000 meters run. After a complicated personal history, she relocated to the U.S.
Kerri Strug never won an individual Olympic medal as a female gymnast, but remains one of the most famous athletes in recent decades because of how she typifies the philosophy of teamwork. Strug famously competed in the vault with an injured ankle and stuck her landing to ensure that her team could win the gold medal in 1996, and she was also a silver medalist in the team event in 1992. Since ending her gymnastics career, she run marathons and appeared in television commercials while having three children with her husband, Robert.
Michael Phelps is known the world over after accumulating a remarkable and unprecedented 28 Olympic medals. Included in that count are the 23 gold medals that he’s earned during his lifetime. His medals were earned over four separate Olympics from 2004 to 2016, as he took advantage of his lengthy arms, perfect technique, and amazing endurance to frustrate his competitors. Phelps married former Miss California Nicole Johnson in 2016 and the two had their first son the same year, so he’ll have plenty to do in retirement.
Apolo Ohno-Speed Skating
Apolo Ohno became a crossover star during the 2002 Olympic Games in Salt Lake City, Utah, for winning his first gold medal in the 1,500-meter speed skating event. He followed it up with a gold medal in the 2006 Olympic Games in the 500-meter event. He also added two silver medals and four bronze medals during his Olympic career. Aside from skating, he has been a motivational speaker and active in charity work. He also competed on Dancing with the Stars.
McKayla Maroney made quite an impression at the 2012 Olympic Games not only with her performance in the vault, which earned her a silver medal, but also for her infamous “not impressed” facial expression on the podium when receiving her medal. She also contributed to the team’s gold medal in the same year. Since then, she has retired from gymnastics and focused on capitalizing off of her looks. She is currently pursuing an acting and singing career while building a huge social media following.