The Post-Olympic Careers of 16 Medal Winners
We've all been enjoying watching Olympians triumph and claim medals, but what happens to them after the games are over? Does the luge offer long-term career opportunities? While many former Olympians have stayed close to their sports as coaches or commentators, others have used their medal-grabbing triumphs as springboards into very different careers. Here is what a few notable medalists have done to keep themselves busy.
1. Eric Heiden
Olympic Moment: Dominating the headlines by winning all five speed skating gold medals at the 1980 Lake Placid Games.
Post-Games Career: After Heiden walked away from the ice, he became a professional cyclist and even raced in the 1986 Tour de France. He later attended medical school at Stanford and became a successful orthopedic surgeon. Fittingly, he's been the team physician for the U.S. Olympic Speedskating Team at the last three Olympics.
2. Katarina Witt
Olympic Moment: Winning ladies' figure skating gold at both the 1984 and 1988 Winter Olympics.
Post-Games Career: In addition to skating, Witt has posed for Playboy, acted in a small role in the movie Ronin, and published a book called Only with Passion, in which she gives advice to young figure skaters.
3. Brian Boitano
Olympic Moment: Taking gold in men's figure skating at Calgary in 1988.
Post-Games Career: Currently hosting What Would Brian Boitano Make? on the Food Network. The show features Boitano cooking for his friends, and it's set to open its second 10-episode season next month.
4. Oksana Baiul
Olympic Moment: Winning figure skating gold at the 1994 Lillehammer Games.
Post-Games Career: The Ukrainian skater is still involved in her sport, but she also has her own clothing line and made an unsuccessful run on Celebrity Poker Showdown in 2005.
5. Sonja Henie
Olympic Moment: Winning three straight ladies' figure skating golds between 1928 and 1936.
Post-Games Career: The Norwegian ice princess parlayed her massive success on skates into a big-money silver screen contract with Twentieth Century Fox. Henie's draw as an actress and ice skater was so great that during the 1940s she was raking in around $2 million a year, which made her one of the world's highest earning women. She and her husband developed a collection of modern art that eventually became the Henie-Onstad Art Centre near Oslo.
6. Bonnie Blair
Olympic Moment: Winning six Olympic medals (five gold) in speed skating between 1988 and 1994.
Post-Games Career: Blair is raising her two kids in addition to being a national spokesperson for raising awareness of stress urinary incontinence, a disorder that leads to incontinence during quick movements. Blair started suffering from the problem after the birth of her second child, so she devoted herself to helping others get treatment.
7. Jean Vuarnet
Olympic Moment: Winning gold for France in the men's downhill at the 1960 Squaw Valley Games.
Post-Games Career: You might not recognize Vuarnet's face, but you might have worn his shades. After his big win in the downhill, Vuarnet agreed to help market an upstart French eyewear company's wares under his last name, which led to the big success of Vuarnet Sunglasses.
8. Kristi Yamaguchi
Olympic Moment: Winning the ladies' figure skating gold at the 1992 Albertville Games.
Post-Games Career: Yamaguchi returned to the spotlight by dominating the field to win the sixth season of Dancing with the Stars in 2008. She also appeared in the 1993 fitness video "Hip to Be Fit: The California Raisins and Kristi Yamaguchi."
9. Debi Thomas
Olympic Moment: Winning a bronze in figure skating in 1988
Post-Games Career: Thomas wasn't just a good skater; she was also quite a student. After her retirement from skating she finished her undergrad degree at Stanford and attended medical school at Northwestern. Like Eric Heiden, she's now an orthopedic surgeon.
10. Michelle Kwan
Olympic Moment: Taking silver in figure skating in 1998, then winning bronze in 2002.
Post-Games Career: Kwan has been busy. In addition to penning a children's book and an autobiography, she's also appeared on The Simpsons and Family Guy while doing graduate work in international relations at Tufts. Since 2006 Kwan has also served as a public diplomacy ambassador for the U.S. State Department.
11. Anne Henning
Olympic Moment: Winning gold and bronze speed skating medals at the 1972 Sapporo Games when she was just 16 years old.
Post-Games Career: After giving up speed skating, Henning headed to college and now teaches math in Englewood, CO.
12. Bjorn Daehlie
Olympic Moment: Piling up 12 medals (eight of them gold) in cross-country skiing between 1992 and 1998.
Post-Games Career: The Norwegian skier is apparently nearly as good at investing as he was at flying across the snow. His real estate and fashion company investments have allegedly helped Daehlie amass a fortune in excess of $30 million since his retirement from skiing.
13. The 1980 US Hockey Team
Olympic Moment: Toppling the favored Soviet squad in the Miracle on Ice en route to a gold medal.
Post-Games Career: Twelve of the 20 members of the team eventually made it to the NHL, and some were pretty successful there. Neal Broten won a Stanley Cup, was the first American to score 100 points in a season, and made two All-Star teams. Ken Morrow racked up four Stanley Cup wins while playing for the New York Islanders. Team captain Mike Eruzione retired from hockey after the Olympic win, although he remained close to the game as a commentator and motivational speaker.
14. Tenley Albright
Olympic Moment: Taking figure skating silver in 1952, then following it up with a gold in 1956.
Post-Games Career: The rigorous discipline required for skating must be good prep for medical school. When Albright won her gold in 1956, she was already immersed in her undergrad work at Radcliffe, and she later went to Harvard Medical School. She then became a general surgeon in Boston and conducted blood plasma research at Harvard.
15. Jeannette Altwegg
Olympic Moment: Defeating Albright for the figure skating gold in 1952 after taking a bronze in 1948.
Post-Games Career: Although Altwegg could have easily jumped into the lucrative professional skating world, she opted for a more altruistic path by opting to work at a Swiss orphanage instead. Her daughter Christina Wirz later became a world champion curler.
16. Peggy Fleming
Olympic Moment: Grabbing figure skating gold at the 1968 Grenoble Games.
Post-Games Career: In addition to her work as a skating commentator, Fleming and her husband also own Fleming Jenkins Vineyards and Winery in California. The vineyard ships around 2000 cases of wine a year.