The Post-Olympic Lives of 15 Great Athletes

Getty Images
Getty Images

Olympic athletes are undoubtedly the best in the world at what they do, but unfortunately "what they do" isn't always all that lucrative once their performances start to slip and endorsements fade. Some athletes choose to stick with their sports in a coaching capacity, while others seek jobs far removed from their Olympic pasts. Here are a few notable examples of summer Olympians who veered away from their sporting careers:

Johnny Weismuller

Olympic Moment: Won a total of five gold medals at the 1924 and 1928 Games as part of an undefeated amateur swimming career. Also dabbled in water polo, in which he won a bronze at the 1924 Games.
Post-Games Career: Became an early film star by playing Tarzan in twelve films. (He invented the "Tarzan yell" as we know it.) Weismuller actually took over the role from a fellow Olympian, silver medalist shot putter Herman Brix.

Jesse Owens

Olympic Moment: Upstaging Hitler by destroying the field at the 1936 Games in Berlin.
Post-Games Career: Owens spent some time traveling the country showing off his athletic prowess, but he also ran a dry cleaning business, worked as a gas station attendant, and later traveled as a speaker and goodwill ambassador for the U.S.

George S. Patton

Olympic Moment: Finishing fifth in the first-ever Olympic modern pentathlon, although he might have finished first if not for a scoring controversy in the pistol event.
Post-Games Career: Commanding American troops during World War II as celebrated general "Old Blood and Guts."

Dick Fosbury

Olympic Moment: Won the high jump and set a new Olympic record at the 1968 Mexico City games with his revolutionary back-first "Fosbury Flop."
Post-Games Career: Finished his engineering degree and now owns a civil engineering company in Idaho.

Babe Didrikson

Olympic Moment: Grabbing three track and field medals at the 1932 Los Angeles Games.
Post-Games Career: Took up golf on something of a lark, then became the greatest female golfer of all time. She's still the only woman to ever make the cut at a men's PGA Tour event.

Jerzy Pawlowski

Olympic Moment: Winning five fencing medals for Poland over four Games from 1956 to 1968.
Post-Games Career: Used his status as Poland's top sports start to serve as a spy for the C.I.A. His double life fell apart in 1975, and he spent 10 years in prison.

Kerri Strug

Olympic Moment: Clinching the women's team gold for the American squad with a vault at the 1996 gymnastic finals despite an injured foot.

Post-Games Career: Has worked as an elementary school teacher and later as an employee of the Treasury Department and Justice Department.

Amy Van Dyken

Olympic Moment: Won a total of six gold medals in swimming at the Atlanta and Sydney Games.
Post-Games Career: Van Dyken has served as a sideline reporter for the Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks and performed in The Vagina Monologues. She's married to former NFL punter Tom Rouen.

Chris Brasher

Olympic Moment: Ran his way to gold at the 1956 Melbourne Games in the 3000-meter steeplechase.
Post-Games Career: Became a successful sports journalist and rose to become Head of General Features for the BBC before helping to develop the sport of orienteering and making millions in sporting goods. Brasher later co-founded the London Marathon.

Amanda Beard

Olympic Moment: Picked up seven Olympic medals in a swimming career that spanned three Games.

Post-Games Career: Has dabbled in modeling (including an appearance in Playboy) and served as a correspondent for Fox's The Best Damn Sports Show Period. Recently made headlines for claiming she did not want to date Michael Phelps.

Dave Johnson

Olympic Moment: Starred in Reebok's memorable "Dan vs. Dave" commercial campaign prior to the 1992 Games, then won a bronze in the decathlon at Barcelona. (Despite the ad blitz, Dan O'Brien failed to qualify for the Olympics that year.)
Post-Games Career: Johnson returned to Oregon and became an educator, serving as both a high school assistant principal and athletic director.

Kurt Angle

Olympic Moment: Took the gold in the 100 kg wrestling weight class at the 1996 Games.

Post-Games Career: Left the world of amateur wrestling for the glitz of professional wrestling and rang up multiple WWF/E titles.

Alexander Karelin

Olympic Moment: Winning three straight wrestling golds before American Rulon Gardner's stunning upset at the 2000 Games in Sydney.
Post-Games Career: Found a prominent place in Russian politics and won election to the State Duma, or lower house of the legislature, in 1999, 2003 and 2007.

Sebastian Coe

Olympic Moment: Won a total of four middle-distance running medals as a British Olympian at the 1980 and 1984 Games.
Post-Games Career: Spent five years in Parliament, then chaired London's successful bid to bring the 2012 Games to England.

Bruce Jenner

Olympic Moment: Winning the gold in the decathlon at the 1976 Montreal Games.
Post-Games Career: Dabbled in film with the colossal bust Can't Stop the Music, a pseudo-biopic of the Village People. (Yes, really.) Later came back into the public eye on the reality show Keeping Up with the Kardashians, which follows the lives of Jenner, his wife, and his stepdaughters.

Looking to Downsize? You Can Buy a 5-Room DIY Cabin on Amazon for Less Than $33,000

Five rooms of one's own.
Five rooms of one's own.
Allwood/Amazon

If you’ve already mastered DIY houses for birds and dogs, maybe it’s time you built one for yourself.

As Simplemost reports, there are a number of house kits that you can order on Amazon, and the Allwood Avalon Cabin Kit is one of the quaintest—and, at $32,990, most affordable—options. The 540-square-foot structure has enough space for a kitchen, a bathroom, a bedroom, and a sitting room—and there’s an additional 218-square-foot loft with the potential to be the coziest reading nook of all time.

You can opt for three larger rooms if you're willing to skip the kitchen and bathroom.Allwood/Amazon

The construction process might not be a great idea for someone who’s never picked up a hammer, but you don’t need an architectural degree to tackle it. Step-by-step instructions and all materials are included, so it’s a little like a high-level IKEA project. According to the Amazon listing, it takes two adults about a week to complete. Since the Nordic wood walls are reinforced with steel rods, the house can withstand winds up to 120 mph, and you can pay an extra $1000 to upgrade from double-glass windows and doors to triple-glass for added fortification.

Sadly, the cool ceiling lamp is not included.Allwood/Amazon

Though everything you need for the shell of the house comes in the kit, you will need to purchase whatever goes inside it: toilet, shower, sink, stove, insulation, and all other furnishings. You can also customize the blueprint to fit your own plans for the space; maybe, for example, you’re going to use the house as a small event venue, and you’d rather have two or three large, airy rooms and no kitchen or bedroom.

Intrigued? Find out more here.

[h/t Simplemost]

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10 Fast Facts About Wilma Rudolph

Wilma Rudolph breaks the tape as she wins the Olympic 4 x 100 relay in 1960.
Wilma Rudolph breaks the tape as she wins the Olympic 4 x 100 relay in 1960.
Robert Riger/Getty Images

Wilma Rudolph made history as a Black female athlete at the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome, Italy. The 20-year-old Tennessee State University sprinter was the first American woman to win three gold medals at one Olympics. Rudolph’s heroics in the 100-meter, 200-meter, and 4 x 100-meter events only lasted seconds, but her legend persists decades later, despite her untimely 1994 death from cancer at age 54. Here are some facts about this U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame member.

1. Wilma Rudolph faced poverty and polio as a child.

When Rudolph was born prematurely on June 23, 1940, in Clarksville, Tennessee, she weighed just 4.5 pounds. Olympic dreams seemed impossible for Rudolph, whose impoverished family included 21 other siblings. Among other maladies, she had measles, mumps, and pneumonia by age 4. Most devastatingly, polio twisted her left leg, and she wore leg braces until she was 9.

2. Wilma Rudolph originally wanted to play basketball.

The Tennessee Tigerbelles. From left to right: Martha Hudson, Lucinda Williams, Wilma Rudolph, and Barbara Jones.Central Press/Getty Images

At Clarksville’s Burt High School, Rudolph flourished on the basketball court. Nearly 6 feet tall, she studied the game, and ran track to keep in shape. However, while competing in the state basketball championship in Nashville, the 14-year-old speedster met a referee named Ed Temple, who doubled as the acclaimed coach of the Tennessee State Tigerbelles track team. Temple, who would coach at the 1960 and 1964 Olympics, recruited Rudolph.

3. Wilma Rudolph made her Olympic debut as a teenager.

Rudolph hit the limelight at 16, earning a bronze medal in the 4 x 100-meter relay at the 1956 Summer Olympics in Melbourne, Australia. But that didn’t compare to the media hype when she won three gold medals in 1960. French journalists called her “The Black Pearl,” the Italian press hailed “The Black Gazelle,” and in America, Rudolph was “The Tornado.”

4. After her gold medals, Wilma Rudolph insisted on a racially integrated homecoming.

Tennessee governor Buford Ellington, who supported racial segregation, intended to oversee the Clarksville celebrations when Rudolph returned from Rome. However, she refused to attend her parade or victory banquet unless both were open to Black and white people. Rudolph got her wish, resulting in the first integrated events in the city’s history.

5. Muhammad Ali had a crush on Wilma Rudolph.

Ali—known as Cassius Clay when he won the 1960 Olympic light heavyweight boxing title—befriended Rudolph in Rome. That fall, the 18-year-old boxer invited Rudolph to his native Louisville, Kentucky. He drove her around in a pink Cadillac convertible.

6. John F. Kennedy literally fell over when he invited Wilma Rudolph to the White House.

President Kennedy, Wilma Rudolph, Rudolph’s mother Blanche Rudolph, and Vice President Johnson in the Oval Office.Abbie Rowe/White House Photographs/John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum // Public Domain

In 1961, Rudolph met JFK in the Oval Office. After getting some photos taken together, the President attempted to sit down in his rocking chair and tumbled to the floor. Kennedy quipped: “It’s not every day that I get to meet an Olympic champion.” They chatted for about 30 minutes.

7. Wilma Rudolph held three world records when she retired.

Rudolph chose to go out on top and retired in 1962 at just 22 years old. Her 100-meter (11.2 seconds), 200-meter (22.9 seconds), and 4 x 100-meter relay (44.3 seconds) world records all lasted several years.

8. Wilma Rudolph visited West African countries as a goodwill ambassador.

The U.S. State Department sent Rudolph to the 1963 Friendship Games in Dakar, Senegal. According to Penn State professor Amira Rose Davis, while there, Rudolph independently met with future Ghanaian president Kwame Nkrumah’s Young Pioneers, a nationalist youth movement. She visited Mali, Guinea, and the Republic of Upper Volta (now Burkina Faso) as well.

9. Denzel Washington made his TV debut in a movie about Wilma Rudolph.

Before his Oscar-winning performances in Glory (1989) and Training Day (2001), a 22-year-old Denzel Washington portrayed Robert Eldridge, Rudolph’s second husband, in Wilma (1977). The film also starred Cicely Tyson as Rudolph’s mother Blanche.

10. Schools, stamps, and statues commemorate Wilma Rudolph’s legacy.

Berlin, Germany, has a high school named after Rudolph. The U.S. Postal Service issued a stamp celebrating her in 2004. Clarksville features a bronze statue by the Cumberland River, the 1000-capacity Wilma Rudolph Event Center, and Wilma Rudolph Boulevard. In Tennessee, June 23 is Wilma Rudolph Day.