Your Favorite Olympic medalists

The Olympic Games bring together nations all over the world to establish peace and unity through sports. It is an international platform for promoting sportsmanship, and through time we have wondered at the greatness of participating Olympians. They are the cream of the crop, gazed upon with the highest respect and honor, for the sense of national pride they bring us, and for the sacrifices they go through in representing their respective countries.

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The Olympics are held every four years, but the names of its competitors are forever etched in our memory. From Carl Lewis, George Foreman, and Usain Bolt, each of them has inspired us to recognize greatness within ourselves. We identify with them through our positive traits, and the hope is that we are able to cultivate more on it. It’s a lifelong challenge that we’d like to follow through on, and through this article let us find out how the Olympians themselves have fared through the years beyond the playing fields and stadiums; a compilation of what was then and now. Read more.

Shawn Johnson

Little did Shawn Johnson’s parents didn’t know that enrolling her in gymnastics at the age of three would lead their daughter to international competitions. Like most parents, they just wanted their daughter to learn interesting skills while having fun, and it could have been in any sport. With her trainer’s encouragement and patience, Johnson developed her skills to reach a competitive level.

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In 2008, she competed in the Summer Olympics in Beijing. She won the gold medal for the Balance Beam category and earned 3 silvers for the women’s gymnastics team. She hurt her knee while skiing in 2010, prompting her to retire from the sport.

Carl Lewis

Carl Lewis was not only dominant as a track and field athlete, but he was untiringly consistent too. He competed in 100 m, 200 m, 400 x 100 m relay, and the long jump, and has set a number of world records in his career that almost spanned two decades. This dominance produced a total of 9 Olympic gold medals, a silver, and an astonishing 10 world titles.

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Carl Lewis was such an exceptional athlete in his prime that he was voted as the “World Athlete of the Century.” He now owns C.L.E.G., a marketing and branding company that also promotes his own products.

McKayla Maroney

McKayla Maroney is a retired artistic gymnast who was the first world champion (2011) to ever defend a vault title (2013). She also competed in the 2012 Olympics as a member of the Fierce Five, where she won a silver medal in the individual vault competition. She earned a gold as well, for the team event.

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Perhaps more popular than her record as an artistic gymnast is a photograph of her making a “not impressed” facial expression while awaiting her silver medal award at the Olympics. This image circulated the Internet- converted into memes, photoshopped for fun- but Maroney took it all with good humor. She was forced to retire due to a chronic injury and has transitioned into a career in entertainment.

Michael Phelps

While many athletes would be content to make it to the Olympics or winning a medal at the highest level of competition, Michael Phelps aspired for so much more. He is now regarded as the most successful Olympian in history, and definitely, the most decorated of all-time winning a total of 28 medals, with 23 of that being gold.

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He first retired from the sport in 2012, after the London Olympics. But sensing he still had so much more left in him, plus being constantly challenged by a rival, re-ignited his passion to compete in the 2016 Olympic games in Rio, where he won his last 5 gold medals and a silver. He is widely regarded as the best swimmer in history.

Allyson Felix

As a track and field sprinter, Allyson Felix seems to be making a statement each time she competes. She specializes in the 100 m, 200 m, and the 400m categories, but she’s also an advocate for an all-natural body enhancement approach. Having competed as an Olympian since the 2008 Olympics, she’s come to actually walk the talk by still competing up to this day. She plans to compete in the 2020 Olympics as well.

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No woman has ever won 6 gold medals in her sport, a feat she proudly holds at the age of 30. She often speaks about the necessity to keep the sport clean and promotes regular, random drug testing.

Natalie Coughlin

American competitive swimmer Natalie Coughlin must have a huge room to stow all her medals and certificates. While studying in the University of California, Berkeley, she set a record in the 100 m backstrokes by being the first woman to complete it in less than a minute. Six years after that, she won 6 Olympic gold medals during the 2008 Summer Olympics, the first American female to do so in a single Olympiad.

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Coughlin has won a grand total of 60 medals, all from international events. Thanks to her glitzy sports career, she’s become a brand ambassador. Her name is practically synonymous with victory. She’s also a business investor in a food corporation.

Kerri Walsh Jennings

During her college years in Stanford University, Kerri Walsh Jennings was considered to be among the best all-around players ever in collegiate volleyball. Her skills improved as she transitioned into beach volleyball, where she became a three-time Olympic gold medalist.

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Along with her partner, Misty-May Treanor, the duo is considered to be the “Greatest Beach Volleyball Team” in history. Kerri Walsh continues to compete, and she also makes appearances on film and television. She holds a record for women’s career earnings,  $2,561,635.

Mark Spitz

American retired competitive swimmer Mark Spitz would not only become an outstanding Olympian and gold medalist, but he would forge on to set world records in 7 of his events. He was a 9-time Olympic champion. Only Michael Phelps would break his record of winning 7 gold medals during the 1972 Summer Olympics.

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Perhaps Mark Spitz could have achieved more before he decided to retire after the Munich Olympics. He was only 22 years old at the time. He tried his hand at show business, worked as a commentator, and focused on his real estate business, and other entrepreneurial projects. He continues to travel around the world to give lectures based on his Olympic experiences.

Nancy Kerrigan

Nancy Kerrigan is a famous former figure skater who won a bronze medal in the 1992 Winter Olympics, and a silver medal in the 1994 Winter Olympics. She also placed third in the World Championships in 1991. But perhaps Nancy Kerrigan will always be mentioned alongside her US rival Tonya Harding, whose ex-husband had orchestrated an attack against her.

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The incident became highly publicized as a man hit her with a baton and hurt her knee. This was intentionally sabotaged and missed her chances of winning the figure skating competition. But Kerrigan would recover just in time to participate and earn a medal in 1994. In 2017, she took part in the Dancing with the Stars in Season 24. She also appears as a guest on various TV shows.

Nadia Comăneci

Retired Romanian gymnast Nadia Comăneci overcame many hardships but eventually became the first ever gymnast to be awarded a perfect score in the Olympics. She was credited for making gymnastics a more popular sport in the international scene, and she went on to become a five-time Olympic gold medalist, and a 4-time world champion.

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Nadia has lived in the US since 1989, and is married to Bart Conner, who was also an Olympic gold medalist gymnast. They own the Bart Conner Gymnastics Academy, several sports shops, and a production company.

Aly Raisman

It wouldn’t be far fetched to say that Aly Raisman is a legacy of the Magnificent Seven, for having inspired her to seriously take on gymnastics, although she had started learning the sport when she was only two years old. Her mother used to be a gymnast, too, in high school, but Aly Raisman would become the captain of both the “Fierce Five” and the “Final Five” US gymnastics team in the 2012 and 2016 Olympics respectively.

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She won 2 gold medals and a bronze in London, making her the most decorated athlete at the time. Aly Raisman appeared on a music video featuring Maroon 5, and she finished fourth in the Season 16 of Dancing with the Stars with her partner Mark Ballas.

Jacqueline Kersee

Sports Illustrated magazine ranked Jacqueline Kersee “The Greatest Female Athlete of All-Time” following her achievements in track and field. She specializes in heptathlon, where her world record still stands, and in the long jump.

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Despite her severe asthma, she has persevered as an elite athlete. In four Olympic games (Seoul, Barcelona, Los Angeles, Atlanta) she has earned 3 golds, 1 silver, and 2 bronze medals. She is now an active philanthropist and the founder of the Jackie Joyner-Kersee Foundation.

Shannon Lee Miller

Shannon Miller began his gymnastics lessons when she was 5 years old. During those times she would travel to Moscow to expand her learnings and experience. She was unofficially the leader of the Magnificent Seven that brought home the first-ever gold medal to the US. With a total of 7 gold medals, she is the most decorated gymnast to ever come from the US.

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Before Simone Biles broke her record, she was the most decorated gymnast in US history with a total of 16 medals from the Olympics and World Championships; 5 of it coming from the 1992 Olympics alone. She was diagnosed with cancer in 2011, but was cleared by her doctors after 7 months of treatment.

Matt Biondi

Larisa Latynina has devoted most of her strength and vigor to whittle her skills in gymnastics. Most of her life has been about keeping composure, balancing, keeping equilibrium while tumbling up in the air. She has won 14 gold medals in the individual all-around, plus 4 team medals, a medal tally that made her the record holder for most Olympic gold medals for decades until Michael Phelps superseded her.

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Even after she retired as a competitor, she dedicated her time coaching young gymnasts of the Soviet Union, guiding them through 1968, 1972, and the 1976 Olympic Games. She retired shortly after her last Olympics in 1977 and now lives in Semenovskoye, Russia.

Dara Torres

While other Olympians would make single, short appearances in the Olympic Games, Dara Torres would be the first competitive swimmer to represent the US in 5 Olympics (1984, 1988, 1992, 2000 and in 2008). Throughout her career she’s become a 12-time Olympic medalist, and the oldest member, at 41, of the US Olympic team.

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Dara Torres was forced to retire after she suffered knee problems. She would’ve wanted to be part of the Olympic team in 2012, but announced her retirement after the trials. She started a career in modelling, and has worked for various networks as a reporter.

Apolo Ohno

The US discovered its youngest champion in short track speed skating when Apolo Ohno clinched the US National Championship at the age of 14. He held the title from 2001 to 2009, and became an 8-time medalist in the Winter Olympics. In his prime, he became the face of the US short track, the most decorated American Olympian, too, at the Winter Olympic Games.

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After he retired in 2013, Apolo Ohno became a motivational speaker, and he started his own nutritional supplement business. He joined Dancing with the Stars competition in 2007 and won.

Cathy Freeman

At the age of 16, Cathy Freeman became the first Australian Indigenous person to win a gold medal in the Commonwealth Games. She was trained by her stepfather when she was only 5 years old, competing in various events like the 100 m, 200 m, and the long jump. But her main forte was in the 400 meter event.

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She won a gold medal in the 2000 Olympic Games, and a silver in Atlanta in 1996. Her 400 m record of 48.63 makes her the 6th fastest female of all-time. She decided to retire in 2003 to spend quality time with her family and founded the Cathy Freeman Foundation in 2007.

Nastia Liukin

Born to gymnast parents, Nastia Liukin didn’t have any problem growing into the sport her family loves. The Russian-American was born in Moscow but moved to America with her family when she was 2 years old. The following year she would start her first lessons since she was always in the gym with her parents anyway, and she first competed at junior level in 2002.

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She eventually tied with Shannon Miller for third place with the most world championship medals among US gymnasts. She was the all-around champion in the 2008 Olympics, where she also garnered 3 silver medals and a bronze. She attempted to make a comeback in 2010 but failed to make the cut after several falls.

Jan Zelezny

Jan Zelezny is a retired Czech track and field athlete, widely considered the best javelin thrower of modern times. As an Olympian, he won gold medals in the 1992, 1996, and 2000 Olympics, and he still holds the world record for throwing 98.48 meters in 1996.

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It is remarkable how he has kept himself above the competition by also being credited for the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th best performances. Now retired, he coaches in Prague and works for the IOC.

Dorothy Hamill

Dorothy Hamill’s father was very supportive of her ambition as a figure skater. She started taking weekly lessons at the age of 8, and would gradually increase her interest in the sport, so much so that her father would spend about $20,000 annually for its concomitant expenses.

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Dorothy Hamill became an Olympic gold medal champion in the 1976 Olympics. That same year she also became a world champion, both in ladies singles category. Surprisingly, Hamill would retire the same year she had been performing really well. Reports say she is suffering from chronic depression, and in 2008 she announced that she was being treated for breast cancer.

Gregory Louganis

Greg Louganis remains the only Olympic diver in history to have swept the diving events in two consecutive Olympic Games. He competed dominantly both in the springboard and the platform in the 1984 and 1988 Summer Olympics, and his excellent performances have prompted him to be called the “greatest American diver,” and arguably the “greatest diver” ever.

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Greg Louganis is now an LGBTQ+ activist. His head injury that caused his blood to spill in the pool during his Seoul Olympics became a major controversy after he was found out to have H.I.V. in 1995. He now serves as a mentor to the US Diving team.

Alicia Sacramone

Alicia Sacramone’s gymnastics career spanned for over a decade. Her learning stage started when she was 8, and in just seven years she would enter into an elite level competition. Winning 12 medals from 2004 to 2008 in the US National Championships, as well as winning 4 golds, 4 silvers, and 1 bronze in the World Championships adds considerably to her being one of the most decorated gymnasts in the world.

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She won the silver medal in the 2008 Olympics and proceeded to qualify for the Visa national championships. Failing to make it to the Olympic team, she left the sport in 2012 with “no regrets.”

Sergey Bubka

Sergey Bubka was in a league of his own when he represented the Soviet Union as a pole vaulter, up until its dissolution in 1991. He was named Athlete of the Year twice, winning a gold medal in the 1988 Seoul Olympics, and he was the IAAF World Champion for six years in a row.

 

Sergey Bubka was so dominant as a pole vaulter that he mainly trained to practically beat himself each time, crashing his own world records; and he would break pole vault records for 35 times. He retired in 2001, and is actively involved in IOC as an honorary member.

Mary Lou Retton

Mary Lou Retton had become such a popular gymnast that her image was used in a 1988 Paraguay stamp. Her prominence was mainly due to her performance during the 1984 Summer Olympics held in Los Angeles, where she became the first American woman ever to win a gold in the individual all-around.

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Having achieved such a historical feat, Mary Lou Retton remains one of the most beloved Olympians. Added to her medal tally are 2 silvers, and 2 bronzes. She was married to the University of Texas quarterback Shannon Kelly, but the couple divorced in Feb. 2018.

Jean-Claude Killy

Jean-Claude Killy’s family were forced to relocate in the Alps during the Second World War. They kept a simple life up in the ranges, where his father opened a ski shop. Jean-Claude dropped out of school to help his father and started to learn to ski rather easily and quickly with all the time in the world as a teen.

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He became a dominant alpine ski racer, winning three golds at the 1968 Winter Olympics. He followed that up with two world championships, making him a force in the sport in the 1960s. Retired, he is famous for his close ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Rulon Gardner

Rulon Gardner is an American retired Greco-Roman wrestler who has won a gold medal at the 2000 Olympics. He competed again in 2004 and won the bronze medal, but outside competition, he has had to endure more difficult trials, including falling into a freezing river with his snowmobile. This was in 2002, and he lost the middle toe in his right foot due to a severe frostbite, but he bounced back as an athlete.

 

He suffered from a learning disability as a kid, and he shares his stories to people as a motivational speaker. He survived a plane crash in 2007, but was unharmed. He joined the reality TV show Biggest Loser in 2011, after which he lost over 170 lbs, but quit the contest for personal reasons.

Mia Hamm

Mia Hamm is regarded by many as perhaps one of, or the most important athlete in the last 15 years for her achievements in soccer. Ironically, she was born with a club foot, and wore corrective shoes as a toddler. Her father was her first soccer coach, and she would excel in boys’ soccer team in school.

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She grew up to become a 2-time Olympic gold medalist, a ground-breaking athlete. She became an icon of the sport, and the face of WUSA (Women’s United Soccer Association). She is an author, a co-owner of Los Angeles FC, and a world ambassador for FC Barcelona.

Usain Bolt

Usain Bolt is a 9-time Olympic gold medalist from Jamaica. He specializes in the 100 m, 200 m, and 4×100 m relay events where he has dominated in three consecutive Olympic games. As if his popularity needed a jolt, he became more famous after setting two world records in double sprint events (100 m, 200 m) in the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

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Usain Bolt is regarded to be the greatest sprinter of all-time. Nicknamed the “Lightning Bolt,” he retired after the 2017 World Championships, and now plays football for the Central Coast Mariners in Australia.

Kerri Strug

Kerri Strug held the key to the United States’ winning its first gold medal in the women’s gymnastics team competition during the Olympics. Her sacrifices epitomized what it means to be an ideal Olympian; sacrificing her personal goals for her team’s glory in Atlanta in 1996.

 

To finally achieve their common dream, Strug gave up the golden opportunity to compete in the Individual All-Around category. She had to be assisted by the “Magnificent Seven” coach, Béla Károlyi from the podium after she landed from the vault routine with an ankle injury. It was an extremely thrilling performance right down the final rounds where she gracefully braved through the pressure. After her sports career, she has since worked as a teacher, a staff assistant in the White House, and a presidential appointee in the office of the Department of Justice.

Mike Eruzione

At a time when the United States and the Soviet Union were at the peak of their rivalry as superpowers, competing for world supremacy in practically everything, sport competitions were a grand platform to show off their talents to the world. And in the midst of such ethos, Mike Eruzione came out as an ice hockey hero.

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He was the captain of the 1980 Winter Olympics, where the US team were regarded as huge underdogs versus the Soviets who were deemed unbeatable. The game was called the “Miracle on Ice,” where Mike Eruzione upped his game to score the winning goal in favor of the US.

Tonya Harding

Tonya Harding devoted most of her time growing up training to become a professional figure skater. She even quit high school to gain more time to develop her skills, and this would soon redound to positive results. The two-time Olympian has a total of 5 gold medals, and she’s only the second woman in history to perform the extremely difficult triple Axel.

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She was banned for life after her ex-husband hired somebody to attack Nancy Kerrigan, her skating rival, and after she had pleaded guilty to hindering the case of the prosecution. She has since turned to pro boxing and has a record of 3-3.

George Foreman

Watching George Foreman pound the punching bag with his large fists gave you the impression he could cut a tree with his bare hands. “Big George” won a gold medal in boxing during the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City. He became more popular for his “Rumble in the Jungle” boxing match with Muhammad Ali in 1974.

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He is now a successful entrepreneur and spokesperson for the George Foreman Grill, that has sold more than a million units. He was paid $138 million for the grill’s naming rights in 1999.

Chad Le Clos

Chad Le Clos is a South African competitive swimming champion. He won titles in the Olympics, World Championships, and the Commonwealth Games. Unfortunately, his glitzy record is often undermined by his public rivalry with American champion swimmer Michael Phelps.

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The American decided to revoke his retirement to compete against Chad in the 2016 Rio Olympics, who beat him in 2012 in London in the 200m butterfly event. Both of them, however, lost to Tamas Kenderesi from Hungary. He is still actively competing in swimming and is considered the most decorated Olympian from South Africa.

Peggy Fleming

Peggy Fleming’s love for figure skating began when her father took her and her sisters out to skate. She mastered basic skating skills by the age of 9. After the US figure skating team died in a plane crash in 1961 while on their way to compete at the World Figure Skating Championships, she changed coaches.

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Having her own skating style, Fleming easily caught people’s attention. This helped her capture 3 world titles, and with more training, she was able to grab a gold medal during the 1968 Olympics in Grenoble. This was the only gold medal won by the US, however, it manifested their gradual return to dominance in figure skating. She’s been a sports commentator for more than two decades, covering the Winter Olympic Games, and the sport she has dedicated most of her life to.

Kristi Yamaguchi

Kristi Yamaguchi started to figure skate at a very young age. She clinched her first international gold medal at the 1990 Goodwill Games when she was only nineteen. She moved to Edmonton to train while taking up Psychology in the University of Alberta.

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Yamaguchi’s first Olympic gold medal came during the 1992 Winter Olympics. By that time she was already a world champion, and she won another gold in 1992 in Oakland. She’s now an author of children’s books, and occasionally she appears on NBC as a skating analyst.

Andre Agassi

Andre Agassi first drew attention in the sport of tennis for his “image is everything” style. He quickly rose to the ranks as a young athlete, but his skills had tremendously improved in 1995 under the tutelage of his new coach Brad Gilbert. This is the year he would first become ranked no.1 in the world.

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Many regard him as the best serve returner in the history of tennis. His best performances have been fueled by his rivalry with Pete Sampras, as they were considered the best players of their generation- Sampras being the greatest server, in contrast to Agassi’s superb returner skills. He retired in 2003, and has been married to Steffi Graf since 2001.

Sir Steve Redgrave

Sir Steve Redgrave was a master of the sweep rowing discipline, and as an athlete, he was as consistent and hard working as he could possibly be. His record is a testament to his efforts, which makes it doubly impressive considering he had suffered from illnesses most of his career.

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Regardless of the sport, he is considered the fourth most decorated among British Olympians. He’s competed in 5 Olympics and won gold medals every time. He is the greatest rower in Olympic history, and in 2011 he was given the “Sports Personality of the Year Lifetime Achievement Award” by BBC.

Dominique Dawes

Dominique Dawes dazzled the world audience when she became the first black person to clinch a gold medal in the Olympics in gymnastics. She had been a member of the US national team for a decade, and she eventually became the first African American to have won an individual Olympic medal (artistic gymnastics).

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Known as “Awesome Dawesome,” she was a member of the extremely talented group “Magnificent Seven,” that had brought home the first-ever gold medal in the team event at the 1996 Summer Olympics. She is now employed with the US government as a sports adviser.

Edwin Moses

Edwin Moses thrives in a competitive environment, so much so, that even after his retirement as a track and field athlete, he would go on to excel in bobsledding, winning the bronze in the 1990 World Cup.

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Moses won gold medals at the 1976 and 1984 Olympics in the 400 m hurdles event. Along the way, he has set world records four times. Being such a consistent performer, Edwin Moses won 107 consecutive finals competitions. He is a strong advocate for random drug testing and has helped significantly in reforming Olympic eligibility rules.

Charles Barkley

You would think the original basketball “Dream Team” sent to compete in the 1992 Barcelona Olympics were a bunch of nice guys up until Charles Barkley showed up. He is as tough as they get; a rough defender, loud mouth, and top rebounder. The US won the gold medal in 1992, and again in the 1996 Olympics, in which Barkley was part of.

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He was the NBA MVP in 1993. In spite of only being 6 ft 6 in tall, he led the league in rebounds for 3 straight seasons. He retired back in 2000, and he now works as a game analyst for the NBA TV program.

Ole Einar Bjørndalen

Ole Einar Bjørndalen left home at the age of 16 to pursue his career in biathlon, and cross-country skiing, but later on focused on the former. He was the most successful competitor during the 1994 Winter Olympic Games where he went home with an astounding 8 gold medals along with 4 silvers and a bronze.

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He has become known as the “King of the Biathlon.” Now at the age of 45 years old, Ole Einar Bjørndalen still continues to compete. In the grand picture of things, no other biathlete in history has won as much as half of his 44 total medals. He looks forward to adding more to that number.

Gabrielle Douglas

Thanks to one of Gabrielle Douglas’s older sisters, her mother was convinced to enroll her in gymnastics lessons when she was only 6 years old. She took formal lessons and even lived away from her family to pursue her training. She is the first African American to win an Olympic gold medal in the individual all-around event, also the first American gymnast to win the gold in the individual all-around and the team competitions as well in the same Olympic Games.

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Douglas attributes all her success to God. She says He is the secret to her success. She won the gold medal during the 2012 London Olympics and repeated her performance in the Rio Olympics in 2016. She has written a book, sharing her experiences, and what it takes to be an Olympic gold medalist.

Bart Conner

Bart Conner became the youngest member of the US Olympic team in the 1976 Summer Olympics at the age of 14. He had been competing since high school, and he probably would have won a medal after he qualified for the 1980 Olympics. But his dreams were aborted due to the boycott.

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He finally won two gold medals during the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles following his unique performance on the parallel bars. He found his true love, too, in competition; marrying Nadia Comăneci, a Romanian gymnast he’d met in 1976 at the Montreal Games. Both are active in the Special Olympics.

Michelle Kwan

For more than a decade, Michelle Kwan has won numerous medals in international events that would make her not just the most popular figure skater in America, but also the most decorated, and one of the most prominent female athletes regardless of sport.

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Her consistency and expressive artistry helped her garner 2 Olympic medals in 1998 and 2002, as well as become a 5-time world champion. She is often regarded as one of the best figure skaters of all-time, and one of the highest paid Winter Olympic athletes in terms of endorsements. She last worked as an outreach coordinator during Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign in 2016.

Bjørn Dæhlie

Bjørn Dæhlie isn’t about willing to let go of a career as a cross-country skier, that has made him arguably the most famous Norwegian athlete. During his prime, he has accumulated 29 medals from Olympic competition and the World Championships, 8 of them are Olympic golds.

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He still competes at the age of 51, much to the annoyance of his doctors and family, as he has to deal with his many injuries acquired over time. But perhaps this is where he finds his value in his life, and he braves the pain each time he performs. When he’s not competing he works as a fashion designer.

Summer Sanders

As a competitive swimmer, Summer Sanders specialized in the Butterfly and the Individual Medley. She only competed once in the Olympics in 1992 in Barcelona, where she won four gold medals.

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Her popularity after the games helped her land a job as a commentator for CBS Sports, NBC, and MSNBC where she covered various sports events. This would serve as a kickstart to a more prosperous career in television, as she would also make various appearances in many networks such as being the first female host of Nickelodeon. She is married to Olympian skier Erik Schlopy, and they have two children.

Sir Chris Hoy

It’s funny how movies can seem so trifling to us at times without knowing how it subconsciously nestles in our minds and grows. Sir Chris Hoy, the most decorated Olympic cyclist of all-time with 6 golds, actually decided to be a cyclist after he watched the movie E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. He was only 6 years old, and as a teenager, he was ranked as high as ninth in the world in BMX cycling.

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He moved up to track cycling, where he rose to prominence in the Olympics as a six-time champion and an eleven-time world champion. He retired after the 2012 London Olympics and is now involved in motorsports.

Domonique Moceanu

Dominique Moceanu was the youngest member of the “Magnificent Seven” US gymnastics team. She injured herself during the trials but was petitioned on the team on account of her strong scores during the Nationals. She was awarded a gold medal for the team event.

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Most of us remember her for substituting for Kerri Strug who had to vacant her slot and compete in the final round of the team event. Moceanu’s career had been riddled with various injuries, but she would compete one more time in the 2000 Olympics held in Sydney. She retired thereafter and is now a coach and author.

Ian Thorpe

Ian Thorpe is arguably Australia’s most popular athlete of all-time. He grew up in a sporting family and has naturally inherited his parents’ competitiveness. When his sister broke a wrist, Ian Thorpe would go along with her to the pool where she was advised to swim to recuperate from her injury.

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At 14, Thorpe was the youngest male to ever represent his country in the world championships. He is nicknamed “Thorpedo” for his speed, and that would catapult him to the world stage- winning 5 Olympic gold medals in the 2000 Summer Olympics, and a total of 11 world championship golds throughout his career. He is now an active philanthropist and was awarded for his efforts promoting indigenous people’s rights.

Shaun White

If rhythm plays a vital role in becoming a world class athlete, Shaun White should be a source of his own material as a musician, and it should push him to always be at his best as a professional snowboarder and skateboarder. As an Olympian, Shaun White has won 3 gold medals; holding the most number by a snowboarder.

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He’s won ten Espy Awards, and has earned more gold medals in the X-Games than any competitor. Shaun White plays the guitar for Bad Things, an electronic rock band. He also makes appearances in television and films such as Friends with Benefits.

Birgit Fischer

At the age of 18, Birgit Fischer became the youngest Olympic champion kayaker. She competed for twenty years, and throughout this span she has won 8 Olympic gold medals. She participated in 8 Olympic games and represented East Germany in several World Championships.

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Fischer initially retired after the 1988 and 2000 Olympic games, but her love for the sport and competition would overcome her decisions in both occasions. She became the oldest Olympian canoeing champion at the age of 42. She displays her works of photography through the Art of the Olympians organization.

Janet Beth Evans

Janet Evans didn’t seem at first like she had a promising future as a distance freestyle swimmer. She is shorter than most of her competitors, and her build wasn’t typical; slight, seemingly less powerful. But even as a teenager she was known to have set age group records, beating older, taller opponents.

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She was known for her unconventional swimming style. Her windmill stroke allowed her to win 4 Olympic gold medals. 2 at the 1988 Olympics, and another pair in 1992. After retiring from her athletic career, she’s become a motivational speaker. She’s married to Bill Wilson, and they have two children together.

Dick Fosbury

It wasn’t enough for Dick Fosbury to learn the basics and a few tricks as a high jumper at the age of 16. The traditional method was too hard for him to master, where a jumper had to cross the bar facing down, called the straddle method. So he experimented with his own, and this would be commonly practiced today, called the Fosbury Flop- running in a curve, rotating the body once over the bar, leaping backwards, and landing on one’s shoulders and neck.

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He set the high jump record and won the gold medal in the 1968 Olympics with his revolutionized style. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1993, and is now the Blaine County commissioner.

Larisa Latynina

Larisa Latynina has devoted most of her strength and vigor to whittle her skills in gymnastics. Most of her life has been about keeping composure, balancing, keeping equilibrium while tumbling up in the air. She has won 14 gold medals in the individual all-around, plus 4 team medals, a medal tally that made her the record holder for most Olympic gold medals for decades until Michael Phelps superseded her.

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Even after she retired as a competitor, she dedicated her time coaching young gymnasts of the Soviet Union, guiding them through 1968, 1972, and the 1976 Olympic Games. She retired shortly after her last Olympics in 1977 and now lives in Semenovskoye, Russia.

Sawao Kato

There are Olympians, and there are those who even raise themselves farther up the echelon as among the very few elite. Only ten athletes in the world have ever won 8 or more gold medals in the Olympics, and Sawao Kato is one of them, as a retired Japanese gymnast. From his Olympic debut in 1968 to 1976, he has won 12 medals, making him one of the best, most successful Olympic athletes of all-time.

 

Kato retired while still on top of his game, defending his title in the parallel bars. He aimed to win an unprecedented third gold medal in the all-around event during the 1976 Summer Olympics but failed, as he was defeated by Nikolai Andrianov. No Japanese Olympian up to this day has more Olympic golds than this legendary gymnast. Sawao Kato worked as a professor at the University of Tsukuba.

Caitlyn Jenner

It may seem a world away when Caitlyn Jenner used to be known as Bruce Jenner; a period where he was hailed unofficially as the “World’s Greatest Athlete.” In the world of the decathlon, a sport played mainly by male athletes, Jenner won his first Olympic gold medal in the 1976 Summer Olympics.

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He set a world record three times that made him wildly popular, and this would lead to a wide array of offers and career opportunities including TV, film, business, and as a cover model for Playgirl. However, in 2017, he took a course no one had ever expected by undergoing a series fo sexual transformation procedures. Now Caitlyn Jenner is one of the most famous transgender women in the world.

Paavo Nurmi

Finnish distance runner, Paavo Nurmi, left his home due to life hardships. He was only 12 when he had to provide for his family, and later he enrolled in the military where he started to flourish as a runner. He is credited for his unique training style- the “even pace” strategy.

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He was so fast and successful that he got the nickname “Flying Finn.” But he was also an elusive personality, and was later on referred to as the “Phantom Finn.” All in all, he set 22 world records, won 9 gold medals, and 3 silvers in the Olympics, starting from his debut in 1920 Summer Olympics. He was one of the richest people in Finland.