11 People You May Not Have Known Were Olympians
For many, competing at the Olympics is the dream of a lifetime. But these accomplished athletes found success both inside and far beyond the Olympic stadium, as movie stars, politicians, famed generals, and Darth Vader's stunt double.
1. DR. BENJAMIN SPOCK
Dr. Benjamin Spock (1903-1998), author of the bestselling Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care (1946), was the authority on child rearing in Baby Boomer America. But long before he became a pop culture icon, Spock rowed with Yale's crew team and made the men's eights team for the 1924 Paris Olympics. He won a gold medal at age 21 and continued rowing for the rest of his life—even placing third in a 4-mile contest at age 84.
2. HILLARY WOLF
When she wasn't playing a teasing sister in 1990's Home Alone ("Kevin, you're completely helpless!"), Hillary Wolf was honing her judo skills. The child actress, who began practicing martial arts when she was 7, quit acting full time in 1991 to focus on her fighting career. The move paid off: Wolf became a four-time U.S. national champion, and made it to both the 1996 and 2000 Olympic games in Atlanta and Sydney, Australia.
3. JOHNNY WEISSMULLER
Johnny Weissmuller (1904-1984), the most famous actor to play Tarzan, was a star in the pool long before he hit the big screen. Before cementing his place in the Hollywood beefcake hall of fame, Weissmuller was an Olympic swimmer who won five gold medals between the 1924 Paris and 1928 Amsterdam games (as well as a bronze with the men's water polo team). Playing Tarzan came naturally to him, he once said, because "there was swimming in it, and I didn't have much to say."
4. HAROLD T. SAKATA
Harold T. Sakata's (1920-1982) steel rimmed hat and karate skills made him dangerous as the memorable James Bond villain Oddjob in 1964's Goldfinger, but in real life the Hawaiian-born athlete was a professional wrestler and weightlifter. He scored a silver medal for weightlifting at the 1948 London Olympics, years before Hollywood producers "discovered" him in the 1960s after catching one of his wrestling matches on television.
5. AND 6. CAMERON AND TYLER WINKLEVOSS
Perhaps most famous for being bitcoin billionaires and for suing Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg, Cameron Winklevoss and Tyler Winklevoss (known collectively as the Winklevoss twins) were also collegiate rowers at both Harvard and Oxford. In 2008, they competed in men's pair rowing at the Beijing Olympics, placing sixth overall.
7. SUMMER SANDERS
Summer Sanders spent four seasons sliming contestants on Nickelodeon's Figure It Out, but before getting gooey on national television, the host won four Olympic medals—including two gold—at the 1992 Summer games in Barcelona, Spain. Sanders retired from swimming when she was 22, paving the way for her future career as a game show host and sports commentator/reporter.
8. BEN NIGHTHORSE CAMPBELL
Ben Nighthorse Campbell, the former Colorado senator who served two terms from 1993 to 2005, became the first Native American to serve in the U.S. Senate in more than 60 years following his election in 1992. But long before he became interested in politics, Campbell served as captain of the first American judo team at the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo. Unfortunately he tore his ACL in the second round, which ended his athletic career but allowed him to pursue his other interests, like jewelry-making.
9. GENERAL GEORGE S. PATTON
General George S. Patton (1885-1945), the storied World War II officer who led the U.S. Third Army on the Western Front, was famous for his foul mouth, rousing speeches, and tenacious leadership. He was also a great athlete who placed fifth in the inaugural modern pentathlon (swimming, riding, fencing, running, shooting) at the 1912 Olympic Games in Stockholm, Sweden.
10. BOB ANDERSON
You likely don't know Bob Anderson's (1922-2012) name or face, but you certainly know his light saber skills. The British stunt double performed Darth Vader's fighting scenes in both The Empire Strikes Back (1980) and Return of the Jedi (1983), and competed as a pro fencer when he wasn't wearing an electronic helmet. Right before representing Britain at the 1952 Olympic Games in Helsinki, Finland, Anderson got his big break in the film industry when he was recruited to work as Errol Flynn's fencing coach and stunt double opponent in the 1953 film The Master of Ballantrae. He spent much of career as the go-to Hollywood sword-fighting choreographer, working on films like The Princess Bride, The Mask of Zorro, and the Lord of the Rings trilogy.
11. TOM MCMILLEN
Tom McMillen, the Democratic U.S. Congressman who represented Maryland's Fourth District from 1987 through 1993, left a towering legacy: Standing at 6 feet 11 inches, he's believed to be the tallest person to ever serve on Capitol Hill. Not surprisingly, McMillen is also a former professional basketball player who competed with the U.S. team at the 1972 Olympics in Munich, Germany. It was possibly the most controversial gold-medal event ever—the final three seconds were replayed over and over again until the Soviet team went ahead by one point. The U.S. team refused to accept their silver medals.