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Famous Olympians: Where Are They Now?

Famous Olympians: Where Are They Now?

Olympics

The modern Olympic Games have showcased the talents of the greatest athletes in the world since 1896. These famous Olympians never cease to impress; they break records and shatter our expectations, challenging what we believed to be possible and pushing their physical and mental limits.

The Olympics also never fail to deliver the drama: inspiring comebacks, heated rivalries, heartwarming triumphs and heart wrenching failures. No doubt, training and competing at the highest level changes an athlete’s career and entire life. But what happens after the Games? Let’s take a look at where some of the most memorable Olympic athletes from over the years are today.

1. Apolo Ohno, Speed Skating

During the 2002, 2006, and 2010 Winter Olympics, one of the most famous Olympians competing was American speed skater Apolo Ohno. In his three trips to the Games, Ohno won eight medals (two gold) in various short track speed skating events. Since hanging up his skates, Ohno’s recognition certainly hasn’t faded.

Streeter Lecka, Charley Gallay Getty Images

The famous Olympian has made various television appearances, including hosting Minute to Win It on GSN and starring in “Tasmanian Devils,” a Syfy original movie.

Ohno even got a chance to prove that he could compete in more than just speed skating. His athleticism helped him win season four of Dancing with the Stars, with partner Julianne Hough.

2. Diana Taurasi, Basketball

Many incredible WNBA players have represented Team USA in the Olympics, but former University of Connecticut star Diana Taurasi is a superstar among the greats. Taurasi has competed in four straight Olympic Games from 2004-16. Each time, she has helped her country bring home gold.

Tim Clayton-Corbis, Christian Petersen Getty Images

Taurasi has been dominating the WNBA since she was drafted No. 1 overall in the 2004 draft. After winning her most recent Olympic gold medal, Taurasi returned to All-Star form. In 2017, she earned her eighth WNBA All-Star selection.

On June 18, 2017, Taurasi became the WNBA’s all-time leading scorer – and she’s still going strong.

3. Joe Frazier, Boxing

Turn back the clock to 1964, when the Tokyo Games introduced the world to heavyweight boxing hero Joe Frazier. Thanks to an injured Buster Mathis – who actually handed Frazier his only amateur loss in three years – Frazier was bumped up from alternate to competitor.

He took advantage of the opportunity and, even after breaking his thumb in the semi-finals, took home the gold.

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Frazier’s tough guy persona also extended beyond his Olympic career. Starting in 1965, he went on to become one of the biggest names in boxing. Frazier started his professional career 29-0 before finally going down to George Foreman.

He ended his career with a 32-4-1 record, his four losses coming only at the hands of Foreman (twice) and Muhammad Ali (twice). On November 7, 2011, Frazier passed away due to complications from liver cancer.

4. Cathy Freeman, Track

Cathy Freeman is one of the most famous Olympians to represent Australia in the Olympics. Freeman has a truly unique, special story. In 1992, she was selected for the 4×100 m event and became the first Indigenous Australian woman to compete in the Olympics.

In 1996, Freeman took home silver in the 400m. Then, she became the first Indigenous Australian woman to win gold in an individual event (400m) in 2000. The occasion was especially momentous, as the ’00 Summer Olympic Games were held in Sydney, Australia.

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After retiring from competition, the Australian sprinter dated actor Joel Edgerton before marrying stockbroker James Murch. In 2011, Murch and Freeman had a child together, Ruby.

In 2007, the famous Olympian started the Cathy Freeman Foundation, which actively works to improve educational programs in Indigenous communities.

5. Aladar Gerevich, Fencing

When it comes to performing jaw-dropping athletic feats around the world, Hungary’s Aladar Gerevich is one of the baddest dudes on the planet. A 10-time Olympic medalist in team and individual sabre (fencing), Gerevich made six trips to the Olympic Games. His first came in 1932 and his last in 1960.

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Gerevich’s story almost ended prematurely, though. In 1956, the Hungarian Olympic Committee deemed him too old to compete. However, Gerevich proved age was just a number by defeating every single member of the sabre team. He earned his spot on the team – and went on to win Olympic gold.

After retiring, Gerevich continued to teach fencing at the Vasas Sports Club in Budapest until his death in 1991 at the age of 81.

6. Carl Lewis, Track & Field

All Carl Lewis had to do to be considered the favorite in a track and field event was enter his name. Lewis won nine Olympic gold medals and one silver competing in the 100 meters, 200 meters, 4×100 meter relay and long jump. Lewis racked up a total of 10 medals in the ’88, ’92 and ’96 Games.

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Still, he would undoubtedly have more in his collection were it not for the 1980 Summer Olympics boycott.

Lewis has remained in the public eye since his retirement from competitive track and field in 1997, appearing in a number of television shows and films. The famous U.S. Olympian has been voted Sportsman of the Century, World Athlete of the Century and Olympian of the Century. Lewis’ many accomplishments have made him an icon.

7. Richard Fosbury, High Jump

Richard Fosbury doesn’t have a trophy case full of Olympic medals like some of the better-known track and field athletes on this list. Yet, his impact on the sport – high jump – is unrivaled.

Ignoring massive criticism, Fosbury crafted his own high jump style now known as the “Fosbury Flop.” Today, it is by far the most popular technique of high jumping. His pioneer jumping style led to a career best 7’4.5″ high jump and a gold medal at the 1968 Games.

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Aside from leaving a legacy that forever changed the high jump event, Fosbury went on to live a successful life. He graduated from Oregon State University in 1972 with a civil engineering degree – and two NCAA national championships. He is now the co-owner of Galena Engineering, Inc. in Idaho.

Fosbury also remains an active e-board member of the World Olympians Association.

8. Greg Louganis, Diving

Greg Louganis is to diving what Michael Phelps is to swimming: the GOAT. Louganis appeared in three Olympic Games and medaled five times, four of those gold, in the 3m springboard and 10m platform events.

At the 1988 Summer Games, Louganis suffered a concussion in the preliminary rounds – and still won gold by a 25-point margin. It’s a safe bet that his medal collection would be even larger had it not been for the 1980 Olympic boycott.

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In 1995, Louganis publicly came out as gay. Later that year, Louganis announced that he is HIV-positive. He has since been highly involved as an activist for LGBT rights.

The famous Olympian also puts his theatre major to use, working on movies and off-Broadway productions. He also keeps his competitive spirit alive by entering dog agility competitions.

9. Cassius Clay (Muhammad Ali), Boxing

At the 1960 Olympics in Rome, the world was introduced to a man named Cassius Clay who would go on to win that year’s light heavyweight title. Later that year, Clay boxed in his first professional fight to begin one of the greatest careers in sports history.

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In 1964, during an undefeated streak that would extend through 1970, Clay famously changed his name to Muhammad Ali. The self-proclaimed (and essentially undisputed) “greatest in the world” talked trash – and backed it up. Ali retired in 1981 with a 56-5 record in boxing.

Muhammad Ali was far more than a fighter, though. Before passing away in 2016, he contributed to countless charitable and humanitarian causes. He took an active role defending African-American rights, and raised awareness of Parkinson’s disease, from which he suffered. Ali will truly be remembered as a great Olympian, and one of the most influential voices of the century.

10. Ronda Rousey, Judo

Long before Ronda Rousey was even close to being a household name, she was following her mother’s path as a world class judoka (judo practitioner). Rousey got her first shot at the Olympics in 2004. Only 17 years old at the time, she lost her first match. She fared better the second time around, earning a bronze medal in the 2008 Olympics.

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Rousey decided to try her hand at MMA and got her first shot in 2011. After dominating her first three amateur fights, winning each match in under one minute, she became a superstar in the Ultimate Fighting Champ (UFC). Rousey was flawless in the octogan, winning 12 straight matches and becoming one of the most recognizable faces in professional sports.

After losing her final two fights, Rousey retired from the UFC and is now enjoying her new career in the WWE.

11. Oscar Pistorius, Track

Leading up to the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, South African sprinter Oscar Pistorius was an inspiration around the globe. A double amputee below the knees, Pistorius did not let anything stop him from following his dreams of being an athlete.

Pistorius experienced overwhelming success for years in the Paralympics. Then, he got his shot to compete in the 2012 Summer Games in the 400m and 4x400m events. Though Pistorius didn’t medal, his journey to the Games was an inspiring story of triumph.

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However, everything came crashing down the following year when, on Valentine’s Day, Pistorius shot and killed his girlfriend, model Reeva Steenkamp, in his home. Pistorius claimed that he mistakenly believed Steenkamp was an intruder.

Pistorius was found guilty of murder and sentenced to six years in prison. A judge later extended Pistorious’ sentence to 13 years and five months.

12. Michael Phelps, Swimming

No Olympic athlete has enjoyed more success than Michael Phelps. Through an array of individual and team swimming events, Phelps has won the most medals in Olympic history (28). In 2000, Phelps made his Olympic debut at age 15. Though he didn’t reach the podium the first time around, he went on to win a record 23 gold medals.

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After his fifth Olympic appearance at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games, Phelps announced his retirement. The famous American Olympian traded his Speedo for a suit and tie, as he took on new responsibility out of the water. Phelps now runs a swimwear company, MP, along with other business ventures.

13. Mark Spitz, Swimming

Before Michael Phelps took the swimming world by storm, the United States had champion Mark Spitz in the water. “Mark the Shark” set the tone for competitors across all sports, not just in the pool. The famous Olympian won a total of nine medals in the ’68 and ’72 Summer Games combined.

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Spitz wrapped up his competitive swimming career at just 22 years old, allowing him to pursue numerous other passions. After calling it a career, Spitz enjoyed using his celebrity to land a slew of television gigs. He eventually moved away from the camera lens to focus on a variety of entrepreneurial ventures.

14. Usain Bolt, Track

From 2008-16, the world witnessed one of the most dumbfounding spectacles in sports – and it was all a blur. In three Olympics, Usain Bolt won eight gold medals as a sprinter. Even more impressive? Bolt’s times in the 100m, 200m, and 4x100m are all world records.

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The Jamaican-born sprinter wrapped up his unrivaled career in 2017. Since then, he has enjoyed a wave of endorsements.

Still, the world’s fastest man would like to put his athletic gift to use. Bolt has often said how he’d love to play soccer professionally. That dream could become a reality for the famous Olympian. Bolt actually has a trial in the works with Borussia Dortmund of the Bundesliga.

15. Bruce Jenner (Caitlin Jenner), Decathlon

Not many athletes fondly reflect on injuries as “special” moments in their career. But for Bruce Jenner, an injury set the athlete on a path to super stardom. A knee injury forced Jenner into surgery and retirement from football in college. That moment eventually led Jenner to compete in the decathlon.

Fast forward to 1976: Jenner’s Olympic-record performance was filled with personal bests. After the historic win, Jenner grabbed an American flag and took it for a victory lap. Since then, the tradition has become a staple amongst Olympians after a win.

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Following that incredible performance in ’76, Jenner rapidly became a national hero and an international superstar. Jenner has regularly appeared on television, film, magazines, and more. Primarily, Jenner has starred on the reality show Keeping Up with the Kardashians since ’07.

In 2015, Jenner publicly identified as a trans woman and changed names from “Bruce” to “Caitlin” the same year.

16. Misty May-Treanor, Beach Volleyball

Misty May-Treanor was a beast at the Olympics, winning three straight golds (2004-12) in beach volleyball. She has had far more success, though, outside of the Olympic Games. May-Treanor and her teammate Kerri Walsh Jennings are strong candidates for the most dominant beach volleyball team ever.

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May-Treanor made her Olympic and professional exit at the top of her game. She retired from the sport after earning her third gold in the 2012 London Games. In 2013, Misty May-Treanor earned her MA in coaching and athletic administration. One year later, she and MLB husband Matt Treanor welcomed their first child, Malia.

17. Mary Lou Retton, Gymnastics

Mary Lou Retton was one of the paramount figures who put U.S. women’s gymnastics on the map. Her lone Olympic appearance came in 1984 when Los Angeles hosted the Games. Retton was stunning, earning five medals: two bronze, two silver, and one gold.

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Retton’s celebrity after the Olympics scored her plenty of endorsement deals, varying from Dairy Queen to Wheaties. Her Olympic success, along with her conservative Christian values, made Mary Lou Retton a popular endorser of President Ronald Reagan.

Today, Retton’s primary focus is her family. One of America’s most famous Olympians, she has also been working as a fitness ambassador for nutritional supplement company Nature’s Bounty.

18. Michelle Kwan, Figure Skating

For nearly a decade, Michelle Kwan was the face of U.S. figure skating. Even though she enjoyed overwhelming success from 1997 through 2005, Kwan never won an Olympic gold. She topped out with a silver medal at the ’98 Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan, and earned a bronze medal in Salt Lake City in ’02.

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Injury prevented Kwan from making another Olympic run in 2006, making ’05 the end of Kwan’s competitive skating career. Afterwards, she decided to pursue other career goals and earned her law degree from Tufts University. She now works for the government in the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.

19. McKayla Maroney, Gymnastics

Gymnast McKayla Maroney made Olympic history with the “Fierce Five” at the 2012 Summer Games, helping Team USA take home their second-ever team medal in women’s gymnastics. Individually, she took silver in the vault final, despite a fall on her second vault.

Then, of course, there was the famous “not impressed” meme featuring the American gymnast. The photo of Maroney looking, well, unimpressed as she accepts her silver medal at the London Olympics quickly went viral.

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After the Olympics, Maroney suffered an injury during an uneven bars dismount at an exhibition. She returned to competition in 2013, winning the vault event at the U.S. Secret Classic that year and stating her hopes to compete in the 2016 Games. However, a string of injuries and knee surgery led Maroney to retire from gymnastics in 2016.

Since retiring, Maroney has publicly spoken out against abusive USA Gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar, serving as a brave advocate for many other victims. Maroney has also been exploring acting and has a few television appearances under her belt. Passionate about music from a young age, Maroney is also branching out to start her own singing career.

20. Michael Jordan, Basketball

Michael Jordan’s first trip to the Olympics came fresh out of college in 1984. Team USA took home gold that year, but it was Jordan’s second trip to the Olympics in 1992 that will be remembered forever. MJ helped lead “The Dream Team” to another gold medal. That year’s roster that is still considered by many to be the greatest team in all of sports.

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Jordan went on to have one of the greatest NBA careers of all time. He retired after winning six championships with the Chicago Bulls. MJ’s playing days have been over since 2003, but he remains a staple of American basketball culture. His sports apparel line, Jordan Brand, remains wildly successful. In 2006, Jordan bought a minority stake in the Charlotte Hornets (then Bobcats) and became majority owner in 2010.

As of 2015, MJ achieved another special title: billionaire.

21. Kerri Strug, Gymnastics

At only 14 years old, Kerri Strug helped bring home a bronze in the all-around women’s gymnastics event at the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona. Four years later, Strug would pull off one of the most iconic moments in Olympic history.

After injuring her ankle on the vault, Strug had to go up once more to defeat Russia and secure gold. Strug somehow fought through the pain and miraculously stuck the landing on one foot, securing the win before collapsing.

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Incredibly for one of the country’s youngest famous Olympians, her career ended before she even entered college. After the 1996 Olympic Games, Strug attended UCLA; she went on to earn her master’s degree in sociology at Stanford University. Strug used her schooling to become an educator at an elementary school in San Jose, CA.

After teaching tykes in Northern California, Strug switched things up in a big way. She moved to Washington, D.C. to work as an assistant at the White House Office of Presidential Correspondence in 2003. Two years later, Strug joined the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, where she still works today.

22. Nadia Comaneci, Gymnastics

Nadia Comaneci remains one of the most influential athletes and famous Olympians of all time. Turn back the clock to 1976, when she was just a 15-year-old gymnast representing Romania at the Games in Montreal. Comaneci earned five of her nine Olympic medals that year, but one moment was particularly significant. Comaneci’s flawless routine on the uneven bars earned the Olympics’ first ever perfect 10 score – and she will always be remembered for it.

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After the 1980 Olympics, the Romanian government kept a close watch over Comaneci, ensuring that she would not try to defect from the communist regime. But, weeks before the Romanian Revolution, Comaneci defected to America and married former Olympic gold medal gymnast Bart Conner. Together, they own and run the Bart Conner Gymnastics Academy, Perfect 10 Production Company, and a few other sports business endeavors.

23. Sugar Ray Leonard, Boxing

There was Muhammad Ali in 1960, and Joe Frazier in 1964… then, it was boxing legend Sugar Ray Leonard who exhibited his prowess in the ring in 1976. Before Leonard headed to Montreal to win the light welterweight gold, U.S. Olympic Boxing Team assistant coach Sarge Johnson came up with the boxer’s classic nickname. Johnson said to the head coach, “That kid you got is sweet as sugar.”

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Leonard followed up his Olympic gold with a successful professional career. He beame the first boxer to earn over $100 million before retiring with a 36-3-1 overall record. Since retiring from the ring, Leonard has remained actively involved in the sport. He is now working as an analyst with numerous networks.

24. Tommie Smith, Track

At the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City, the United States took two spots on the podium in the 200m dash: Tommie Smith with gold and John Carlos with bronze. However, it wasn’t Smith’s first place finish that shocked the world.

Instead, it was Smith and Carlos’ bold decision use the podium as a platform. The athletes each raised a fist, offering the Black Power salute while wearing black gloves and black socks. The political symbols were a protest of racial discrimination against African-Americans.

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After the 1968 Olympics, Smith tried his hand at football. He played one season in the NFL with the Cincinnati Bengals. Smith eventually returned to his track roots as a coach at Oberlin College,  where he also taught sociology. He then moved on to teach at Santa Monica College. In 2007, Smith published his autobiography, “Silent Gesture.”

25. Shannon Miller, Gymnastics

Shannon Miller was a member of America’s famous Magnificent Seven, the women’s gymnastics team that took gold in Atlanta (1996) for the women’s team event. Before Miller earned two golds in ’96, she took home five medals at the ’92 Olympics, making her the all-time leading medalist in gymnastics for the United States.

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After the Olympics, Miller attended the University of Houston as an undergraduate, then Boston College Law School. Rather than take the bar exam, Miller decided to return to her passion, so she made a living teaching gymnastics and making celebrity appearances.

She is now president of Shannon Miller Lifestyle and the Shannon Miller Foundation. The organizations promote healthy living and fight against childhood obesity.

26. Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Track

In a career spanning four Olympic Games from 1984-96, Jackie Joyner-Kersee took home six medals – three of them gold – in the heptathlon and long jump. Jackie Joyner-Kersee’s dominance in the two events earned the American Olympian the esteemed honor of being named the Greatest Female Athlete of All Time by Sports Illustrated, a prominent sports magazine.

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Jackie Joyner-Kersee set the bar as a track and field athlete, and now she quite literally sets the standard since her retirement from competition. The former U.S. Olympian has served as a member of the USA Track & Field Board of Directors since 2012.

27. Nikolai Andrianov, Gymnastics

Before Michael Phelps smashed Olympic medal records by winning 28, gymnast Nikolai Andrianov of the Soviet Union stood above all other famous Olympians with 15 medals.

From 1972 through 1980, Andrianov in the Olympic Games was like Ivan Drago in Rocky IV. To Americans, Andrianov was a seemingly invincible super-athlete representing the USSR. Andrianov medaled in every men’s gymnastics event: floor exercise, rings, vault, parallel bars, pommel horse, horizontal bar, all-around, and team competition.

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Andrianov wed fellow Soviet Olympic gold medal gymnast Lyubov Burda. They continued their passion for gymnastics by teaching and coaching children in the sport. Andrianov coached the Soviet national junior men’s team from 1981-92 and the senior men’s team from 1990-92. He also ran the Soviet Gymnastics Federation from 1990-93.

Near the end of his life, Andrianov suffered from multiple system atrophy. He passed away in 2011 at age 58.

28. Shaun White, Snowboarding

For as long as professional snowboarder Shaun White has been shredding, he’s been dominating the sport. White took home gold in the halfpipe competition in his first two Winter Olympic Games in 2006 and 2010. But at the 2014 Sochi Olympics, he fell just short of the podium with fourth place.

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Today, White is far from done with his pro snowboarding career and his Olympic medal quest. Even after suffering a crash that resulted in 62 stitches to the face, White seeks to reclaim his rightful place atop the halfpipe throne. One of snowboarding’s most famous Olympians hopes to secure gold once again as he heads to the 2018 Games in PyeongChang.

29. Fanny Blankers-Koen, Track

When spectators tune in to watch the Olympics, they expect to be amazed by stunning athletic feats. Still, the tale of Dutch Olympic sprinter Fanny Blankers-Koen takes the absurdity to another level.

At the 1948 Games in London, Britain’s team manager told then-30-year-old Blankers-Koen that she was too old to compete. The mother of two proved him wrong, big-time. Blankers-Koen took gold in four track events, earning her the nickname “The Flying Housewife.” Oh yeah, and she was pregnant with her third child at the time.

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Blankers-Koen’s accomplishments came at a time when many wanted to keep women from competing, to spare females from “inelegant public sweaty exhaustion.” The famous Olympian has remained an inspiration to countless women, athletes and non-athletes alike.

In 1999, she was named Female Athlete of the Century by the IAAF. Blankers-Koen passed away in 2004 at age 85.

30. Larisa Latynina, Gymnastics

From 1956 through 1964, it was impossible to watch the Olympics without seeing Soviet gymnast Larisa Latynina collecting her medals. Latynina was a force of nature, earning a medal in 18 of the 19 Olympic events she competed in. To this day, Latynina is the only female athlete who has won nine Olympic gold medals.

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Latynina held the distinction of having more Olympic medals (either individually or with a team) than any other athlete, from 1964 until 2012. After retiring from competition in 1966, Latynina took over as the Soviet national gymnastics coach, holding that role for over a decade.

Now a mother, Latynina is enjoying living out her 80s in the small country town of Semenovskoye, outside of Moscow.

31. Florence Griffith-Joyner, Track

In 1984, Los Angeles-born sprinter Florence Griffith-Joyner made her Olympic debut in her home city. Even better, she earned a silver medal in the 200m. In 1988, Flo-Jo strung together some unforgettable performances to earn three golds (in the 100m, 200m, and 4x100m) and a silver (4x400m).

During the ’88 Olympic trials, Flo-Jo set a world record in the 100m dash (10.49 seconds), which still stands, and in the 200m dash (21.77 seconds).

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Flo-Jo’s record-setting success at the Games made her one of the most famous U.S. Olympians. Her retirement from the sport didn’t stop a wave of endorsement deals from coming her way, either.

Before her life was unexpectedly cut short from an epileptic seizure in 1998, FloJo also enjoyed a second career as an artist. She actually designed the 1989 Indiana Pacers basketball team uniforms. Her paintings can still be seen at the Art of Olympians Museum in Fort Myers, Florida.

32. Princess Anne, Equestrian

Princess Anne isn’t an amazing nickname; this Olympian is, in fact, the daughter of Queen Elizabeth II. In 1976, Princess Anne officially became the first British Royal Family member to compete in the Olympics.

Although she did not medal, such a high profile figure participating in the Games as an athlete was one of the most unique Olympic moments to date. In the 1976 Games, Princess Anne even rode the Queen’s horse, Goodwill, which only made it cooler.

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Princess Anne has led a remarkable life since flaunting her equestrian talents on the world’s stage. Her charity work spans the globe, as does her influence. She also maintained an active role in the Olympics, helping to organize the 2012 Games in London. Princess Anne also served as a British representative on the International Olympic Committee at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.

33. Tonya Harding, Figure Skating

Tonya Harding is undoubtedly one of the most notable names and famous Olympians in history, though her notoriety is perhaps for all the wrong reasons.

Harding was a member of the U.S. figure skating team at the Winter Olympics in 1992 and 1994. Harding never medaled, but will forever be remembered for her alleged role in the attack on her rival, fellow U.S. figure skater Nancy Kerrigan. While Harding has never admitted to planning the hired attack, she allegedly had knowledge of her ex-husband’s plan and hindered the investigation afterwards.

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In the aftermath of the Kerrigan scandal, Harding was banned for life from competitively skating or coaching in the States again. She had a brief boxing career from 2003-04, retiring with a 3-3 record. The disgraced skater’s story has fascinated the world. In December 2017, an award-winning biopic titled “I, Tonya” and based on her life, debuted.

Of course, Harding’s name can’t be mentioned without that of the next Olympian on this list.

34. Nancy Kerrigan, Figure Skating

Every story with a villain must also have a hero(ine). U.S. Olympic figure skater Nancy Kerrigan emerged as a heroine in the sad tale of Tonya Harding’s fall from grace. Both women represented Team USA in the 1992 Winter Olympics, where Kerrigan took bronze.

As Kerrigan left a practice run before the 1994 U.S. Figure Skating Championships, she was attacked by a man who struck her in the knee with a police baton. Investigators later discovered that Harding’s ex-husband had hired the attacker.

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The damage to Kerrigan’s knee forced her to miss the U.S. Championships, but she was able to heal in time to compete in the 1994 Winter Olympics one month later. Kerrigan went on to take silver, while her teammate Harding finished eighth.

After the attack and her incredible comeback to win silver in ’94, Kerrigan became one of the most famous U.S. Olympians. She has made several celebrity appearances on various television and reality shows, such as Dancing with the Stars. Her story has also been the subject of numerous documentaries.

35. Jesse Owens, Track

Jesse Owens is an international superstar whose fame has transcended time both inside and out of the sports world. Owens competed in the infamous 1936 Olympic Games held in Berlin, Germany under Hitler’s Nazi regime.

Owens shattered the misguided notion of Hitler’s “Aryan athletes” proving their dominance. Representing the USA, Owens won gold in four track and field events: 100m sprint, 200m sprint, 4x100m relay and long jump.

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Despite Owens’ overwhelming success representing his country in the face of Nazi Germany, the American Olympian returned home to a country rife with racial discrimination. Owens was not allowed to compete professionally and was essentially forced to work menial labor jobs. He only got the opportunity to race in promotional events that often had him pitted against racehorses.

Owens reportedly smoked a pack a day from age 32 until his death – caused by an aggressive form of lung cancer – in 1980. Though he endured a lifetime of struggle, Owens is now a celebrated athlete. He is not only one of the most famous Olympians of the century, but a symbol of perseverance through prejudice.

36. Dick Button, Figure Skating

American figure skater Dick Button took home the Olympic gold twice in the men’s singles event, in St. Moritz in 1948 and Oslo in 1952. Button was a pioneer in the sport, as the first skater to land the double axel in competition and the first ever triple jump. Button is also credited as the inventor of the camel spin.

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After the Olympics, Button attended Harvard and eventually earned his JD at Harvard Law. Button has also remained close to the sport he loves. The trailblazing athlete has provided color commentary at the Winter Olympics and various figure skating events since 1960.

Sources: NBC SportsCBS NewsBleacher ReportESPN

Below average athlete. Irrationally confident fantasy manager. Competent benchwarmer.

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