12 Aug, 2016
Winning a gold medal can catapult an athlete into an international superstar. Huge endorsement deals, national tours and Hollywood fame can come from success at the Olympic Games. Ever wonder where the greatest Olympians are now? hhgregg gives you the update with our list of famous Olympic athletes.
Sport: Track and Field
Jesse Owens is arguably the most famous Olympian of all time. He competed in the 1936 Berlin Olympics during the rise of Nazi Germany. Owens won four gold medals in the 100m, 200m, the long jump and the 4x100m relay events. As an African-American man, Owens made political statements against Hitler’s Aryan regime and racism in the United States.
After the 1936 Olympics, Owens returned to the United States to pursue commercial success. In response, angry US officials withdrew his amateur status. This ended Owens’ running career, and he had to work odd jobs to survive. Eventually, the US Government appointed Owens to the position of Goodwill Ambassador. After years of heavy smoking, Owens died of lung cancer in 1980.
Sport: Track and Field
Carl Lewis won ten medals, nine golds and one silver, at four Olympic Games from 1984-1996. He won gold medals in the 100m, 200m, 4 x 100m relay and long jump events. He equaled Jesse Owens’ incredible feat of winning four gold track and field medals (in the same events!) at the 1984 Olympics. His incredible dominance of the sport led Sports Illustrated to declare him the “Olympian of the Century”.
Lewis did not secure as many endorsement deals as other superstar Olympians due to his controversial attitude. Fans were disappointed when he did not attempt to break the heavily hyped long jump world record at the 1984 Olympics. After he retired from track and field, Lewis appeared in multiple movies and tried to run for a senate seat in New Jersey. He has been a vegan since 1990 and now owns a marketing company.
Nadia Comaneci is known for scoring the first perfect 10 at the Olympics and for winning five gold medals at the Olympic Games in Montreal and Moscow. She won a total of nine medals in her Olympic career. She is one of the most famous gymnasts in the world, and her fame helped to popularize gymnastics internationally. She received national media coverage following her Olympic success.
Nadia is now an active member of many charities and gymnastics committees. She has remained a part of pop culture as a contestant on The Apprentice and as the subject of many biographies and documentaries. She also wrote a memoir called Letters to a Young Gymnast in 2003.
Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh Jennings
Sport: Beach Volleyball
The team of May-Treanor and Walsh Jennings won three gold medals at the Olympic Games from 2004-2012. They are widely considered the best beach volleyball team of all time, and their success has brought more attention to the sport.
May-Treanor retired from the sport and now has a master’s degree in coaching and athletic administration from Concordia University. She also wrote an autobiography and serves as a Sports Ambassador for Special Olympics Southern California. Walsh Jennings is still competing and will be teaming up with her new partner, April Ross, at the 2016 Rio Olympics. She also has a documentary premiering on NBC before Rio.
Country: Soviet Union
Latynina holds the record for the most individual Olympic medals with 14. Latynina won all-around medals, two golds and one silver, at three consecutive Olympic Games from 1956-1964. In addition to her all-around success, Latynina won individual medals on all apparatuses. Latynina spearheaded the Soviet Union’s dominance of women’s gymnastics at the Olympic Games.
Following her retirement, Latynina coached the Soviet gymnastics team until 1977. Her coaching years were a great success, with the Soviet women’s team winning gold at the Olympics from 1968-1976. She currently lives in Russia and has been inducted into the International Gymnastics Hall of Fame.
At age 41, Torres was the oldest swimmer to ever compete at the Olympics Games. She was also the first swimmer to compete in five Olympic Games from 1984 to 2008. With 12 total medals, four in each color, she ties Jenny Thompson and Natalie Coughlin with the most Olympic women’s swimming medals of all time. Torres also tried to qualify for the 2012 Games in London, but barely missed qualifying after finishing in fourth place at the Olympic Trials.
Torres now works with the charitable organization Swim Across America as a celebrity swimmer. She has written two books and worked as a sports reporter for NBC, ESPN and Fox News channel. Torres gave birth to a daughter named Tess Grace in 2006.
Sport: Track and Field
The Jamaican sprinting phenom has won six gold medals. He is the first person to win the 100m, 200m and 4x100m relays in back-to-back Olympics (2008 and 2012). He is currently the world record holder in the 100m and 200m events. Known at the “Lightning Bolt,” he is considered the greatest sprinter of all time. He is also the highest paid athlete of all time in track and field.
Usain Bolt will be competing at Rio in his signature sprinting events, the 100m, 200m and 4x100m relay. Can Bolt do the “triple-triple” and win all three events AGAIN? In his free time, Bolt enjoys dancing and playing cricket.
Phelps is the most decorated Olympian ever. He has won the most total medals (22), the most gold medals (18) and the most gold medals in individual events (11) of any athlete. Phelps currently holds world records in the 100m butterfly, 200m butterfly and the 400m individual medley.
Michael Phelps will be competing at Rio in the 100m and 200m butterfly events as well as the 200 individual medley. By qualifying for Rio, Phelps joins Dara Torres as the only other swimmer to qualify for five Olympic Games. He also has the opportunity to surpass Larisa Latynina’s record of 14 individual Olympic medals. Phelps is married to model Nicole Johnson and they have a son named Boomer.
Do you have a favorite famous Olympic athlete? Share in the comments below!