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For athletes all over the world, it takes a lifetime of hard work, dedication and sacrifice to make it to the Olympics. As spectators, many of us get just a glimpse into their incredible achievements every two years. While the endorsement contracts that often come with Olympic participation can be lucrative, many athletes who compete at the games move on to other careers once they retire from their sport.
Here’s what some of our favorite American Olympians have accomplished off the field of play since their memorable medal moments.
McKayla Maroney, a beloved member of the “Fierce Five” U.S. Women’s Gymnastics Team, competed in the 2012 Summer Olympics in London and came home with both a gold and a silver medal. She also unwittingly inspired a meme when she scrunched her face up in disappointment after botching one of her landings and getting the silver medal instead of the gold.
After retiring two years ago, the gymnast is now a musician, releasing her debut single in 2020. She’s also got more than 1.2 million followers on Instagram, where she posts about her new career and gives advice about things like skincare and mental health. In 2021, Maroney brought back her iconic “not impressed” face for a GEICO commercial that saw her using her gymnastics skills to help a pair of hapless Frisbee throwers.
Kerri Walsh Jennings
Competing with partner Misty May-Treanor, beach volleyball star Kerri Walsh Jennings won three consecutive gold medals at the 2004, 2008 and 2012 games. She returned for a fifth Olympics appearance in 2016 at Rio with new partner, April Ross, and brought home an emotional bronze medal after defeating the hometown Brazilian team. After taking some time off following Rio, Walsh Jennings attempted to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics with another new partner, Brooke Sweat, but narrowly missed out on a spot.
At 42 years old during the 2021 qualifiers, you’d think her dream of a sixth Olympics appearance would be over, but she hinted that she would try again in 2024. She and husband Casey Jennings, a fellow volleyball pro, share three children together and recently relocated from California to Nevada. Off the court, Walsh Jennings has been working to promote Kindli, a new social media app.
Aly Raisman competed in both the 2012 and 2016 Summer Olympics and has three gold, two silver and one bronze medals to her name. She was famously part of the “Fierce Five” and the “Final Five,” the two beloved American teams from those events. She was inspired to get into gymnastics after repeatedly watching tapes of the 1996 women’s gymnastics team as a girl, taking up the sport that same year.
Raisman has since retired from competitive gymnastics, but her profile has only gotten bigger in the years since the Rio Games. She’s been honored with ESPN’s prestigious Arthur Ashe Courage Award and with a spot on Time’s “100 Next” list for her work advocating for sexual assault victims in the USA Gymnastics program. In 2021, she said she was working on a children’s book and a Lifetime television series.
Figure skating legend Nancy Kerrigan competed in two Winter Olympics in the 1990s and brought home a bronze and a silver amidst a fierce and fraught rivalry with fellow American skater Tonya Harding. For people who didn’t follow her heartbreaking attack in January 1994 — and remarkable comeback — the story was told in 2017’s Oscar-winning movie, “I, Tonya,” letting a new generation see Kerrigan’s determination.
While Kerrigan has continued skating and performing with roles in “Broadway on Ice,” “Skating with Celebrities” and “Dancing with the Stars,” she’s also done plenty that doesn’t involve athletics. Kerrigan has written two books about her experiences on the ice and has done some acting and TV hosting work more recently, even showing off her impressive collection of skating memorabilia on “Antiques Roadshow.” Kerrigan is married with three kids and has also been vocal about the devastation of having suffered several miscarriages.
Another beloved figure skater, Kristi Yamaguchi won gold in the Albertville Winter Olympics in 1992. She went pro soon after, competing in tournaments and touring with Stars on Ice. Despite only competing in the Olympics once, Yamaguchi left a lasting impression on fans of the sport and even landed in the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Hall of Fame in 2006.
These days, Yamaguchi mentors young skaters — including Karen Chen, who competed in the 2018 Winter Olympics — and works tirelessly for children’s literacy with her own Always Dream Foundation. In addition to promoting literacy in kids, the mother of two has also given them something to read, as she has co-authored a pair of bestselling children’s books.
Brandi Chastain was a key player on the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team during the 1996, 2000 and 2004 Olympics, and helped the team bring home two gold medals and one silver. While her prowess on the Olympic pitch was undeniable, Chastain’s most famous moment came after she scored the winning penalty-kick goal at the 1999 World Cup and removed her jersey, baring her Nike sports bra. A photo of her celebrating was used on the cover of Sports Illustrated and has even been called “perhaps the most iconic photograph ever taken of a female athlete” by The New York Times.
In the years since she retired from playing soccer, Chastain hasn’t stayed far from the game. She’s worked as a commentator for ABC, ESPN and NBC and has been coaching boys at Bellarmine College Preparatory in her native San Jose, California, since 2016. She must be doing something right because since she joined the team’s staff, it won its first division championship ever.
In addition to being one of the greatest soccer players of all time and a leading goal-scorer, Mia Hamm helped the U.S. Women’s National Team win gold medals in the 1996 and 2004 Summer Olympics, as well as a silver in 2000 and two World Cup titles in the 1990s. She retired from the beautiful game shortly after earning that final Olympic gold in 2004.
When she retired from soccer in her early 30s, Hamm was the all-time leading goal-scorer in the history of the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team. She’s since been surpassed by Abby Wambach, but her standing in soccer is still immense. She’s part of the ownership group for the MLS franchise Los Angeles FC, sits on the board of directors for Italy’s club A.S. Roma and has sat on the board for the National Soccer Hall of Fame.
“Awesome Dawesome” won gold in 1996 as part of the “Magnificent Seven” U.S. Women’s Gymnastics Team and competed in two other Summer Olympics. Dawes broke a ton of ground with her performance in Atlanta, becoming the first Black athlete of any gender to win a gold medal in gymnastics at the Olympics. She opened the door for recent gymnasts like Simone Biles and Gabby Douglas to become stars in the sport.
Dawes has since branched out from tumbling and taken on diverse jobs like performing in “Grease” on Broadway and serving as co-chair on the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition during President Obama’s administration. Dawes is now married and has four kids and, like fellow Olympic legend Nancy Kerrigan, has opened up about a near-fatal miscarriage she suffered in 2016.
Mary Lou Retton
Fellow gymnast Mary Lou Retton won a historic gold at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles. She received perfect scores on her vault and became the first American gymnast to win gold. She also brought home two silver and two bronze medals from those games, giving her the biggest medal haul of any athlete for Team USA that year.
Since that incredible Olympic performance, Retton worked as part of the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports under President George W. Bush. Her involvement in politics also drew some controversy in 2017, when she seemed to oppose a U.S. Senate bill aimed at increasing protections for young athletes involved with USA Gymnastics. Retton has four daughters and has turned into a rowdy fan at their own gymnastics events.
Two-time Olympian Shannon Miller is the most decorated American Olympic gymnast ever — at least heading into the Tokyo Games — with two gold, two silver and three bronze medals to her name. She is most famous for winning gold individually on the balance beam in 1996 as part of the “Magnificent Seven.”
Like many others on this list, Miller has written a memoir since retiring from the gym and has opened up about her own health battles, including a bout with ovarian cancer. But the champion gymnast has reached other personal milestones, including earning a degree in marketing and entrepreneurship from the University of Houston before earning a law degree from Boston College in 2007.
At the 1988 Calgary Winter Olympics, Brian Boitano cemented his place in American figure skating history by winning gold. That was his only time earning a medal at the games but only added to his collection of medals from various international competitions. Boitano retired from competitive skating after competing at the 1994 Lillehammer Games. Medals aren’t the only hardware Boitano has earned from skating, as he even won an Emmy Award for his performance in 1990’s “Carmen on Ice.”
Off the ice, the Olympic hero has made a name for himself in television for his work with Food Network and HGTV. In addition to co-writing a book about the behind-the-scenes world of figure skating in 1997, Boitano penned a cookbook in 2013. Ahead of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, he publicly announced he is gay, a revelation he decided to make after being appointed an American delegate to those games by President Obama.
Sprinter Carl Lewis earned four gold medals at the 1984 Olympics, the start of a career haul that would include nine total medals at four different Olympics. He set the records for the 100-meter and 200-meter sprinting events and the long jump. All that success at the games made Lewis an American athletic icon on par with the greatest Olympians ever.
Since the 1996 Olympics, which were Lewis’s last, he has shifted his focus to another type of running. In 2011, he launched a bid to become a state senator in his native New Jersey, but had to drop out of the race when he didn’t meet the residential requirements. Lewis has also done some acting and co-wrote a memoir about his career up to the early 1990s. He has spent most of the past decade coaching track and field at the University of Houston, where he himself ran before his professional track career took off.
While competing in four Olympics from 1984 to 1996, Jackie Joyner-Kersee won three gold, one silver and two bronze medals in the heptathlon and long jump events. Despite routinely dominating fields full of the best athletes in the world, Joyner-Kersee battled severe asthma her entire career. For her accomplishments, Sports Illustrated for Women named her the Greatest Female Athlete of the 20th Century.
After her Olympic competition days were done, Joyner-Kersee switched to basketball for a time, playing professionally in the now-defunct American Basketball League. But her achievements outside of sports have impacted millions of people. In 2007, she co-founded the charity Athletes for Hope alongside a handful of other sports legends and, since 2016, she’s been the face of Comcast’s Internet Essentials program, which has helped millions of Americans get high-speed internet in low-income areas.
Wearing his signature gold shoes, Michael Johnson sprinted into the record books in the 200-meter and 400-meter dashes in the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. He also has a relay gold medal from the 4×400-meter event at the 1992 Barcelona Games, and defended his 400-meter title at the 2000 Sydney Games.
Although he’s no longer the “fastest man in the world,” Johnson hasn’t strayed far from his sport, working as something of an ambassador for track and field and trying to grow the sport among the American youth. He also works for the BBC as a sports analyst and operates the Michael Johnson Performance center for athletes in Texas. In 2018, Johnson suffered a frightening mini-stroke, but has been able to fully recover.
Arguably the greatest snowboarder of all time, Shaun White has won three gold medals in halfpipe in competition at four different Winter Olympics. He’s earned more medals than any American snowboarder in X Games history and held the worldwide record total until 2020.
After earning another gold medal at the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics in snowboarding, White announced he would shift his focus to skateboarding when the sport makes its Summer Olympics debut in Tokyo. His bid to qualify for the event fell short, but the 34-year-old extreme sports icon hasn’t closed the door on his Olympic career. He’s also spent time moonlighting as a musician, playing guitar in the band Bad Things.
Diver Greg Louganis made history when he won gold medals in the springboard and platform competitions at the 1984 and 1988 Summer Olympics. He competed in three different Olympics during a career that was so impressive, it landed him in the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Hall of Fame in 1985, before he was even done competing at the games!
In addition to his place as a sports icon, Louganis is now regarded as an icon for gay rights and HIV awareness. He was diagnosed with the illness in 1988 and has been one of its most public faces for decades. In 2006, he published his autobiography, “Breaking the Surface,” and currently works as the sports director for Red Bull Cliff Diving.
Michael Phelps is the most decorated Olympian of all time, with a whopping 23 gold, three silver and two bronze medals at home. After representing Team USA at a remarkable five different Olympic Games from 2000-2016, Phelps retired from the sport, leaving a massive void to be filled in international swimming.
Since his retirement from competition, Phelps has been making headlines of a different sort with his growing family, and with the charitable efforts of his Michael Phelps Foundation. He’s also been an outspoken advocate for mental health care, revealing his own struggles with depression and suicidal ideations.
Record-breaking five-time Olympian Dara Torres has brought home four gold, four silver and four bronze medals in her lengthy Olympic swimming career. She competed in her first games in 1984 and most recently in 2008. At the age of 45, she narrowly failed to qualify to compete in the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.
Since retiring from competitive swimming, Torres has published two books, travels for speaking engagements and coaches for the charity Swim Across America. She’s a self-described “workaholic” who has done sports reporting and analysis for several major networks and most recently started working with the CBD oil company CaniBrands as its chief wellness officer.
Misty May-Treanor made up half of a dynamic beach volleyball duo and, along with Kerri Walsh Jennings, won Olympic gold medals in 2004, 2008 and 2012 on the sand. Their pairing has been called the best in the sport’s history and it’s hard to deny it when you count their hardware.
After retiring from beach volleyball in 2012, May-Treanor produced a video series called “Full-Life Hacks” to motivate families to be more active on a budget. She holds a master’s degree in coaching and athletic administration and has used it in her current job as Long Beach City College’s director of volleyball operations.
This American speedskater is one of the most decorated Olympic athletes of all time. Bonnie Blair competed in four Winter Olympic Games and won five gold medals and one bronze. Blair was at every edition of the games from 1984-1994 and earned at least one gold medal at three of them.
Since retiring from the sport, Blair has worked as a motivational speaker and sits on the board of The Pettit National Ice Center in Milwaukee. While her competition days are over, Blair has spent plenty of time rooting on her own speedskating daughter, Blair Cruikshank, and her son, hockey player Grant Cruikshank, both of whom she shares with husband Dave Cruikshank, himself a former Olympian.
One of the most famous speedskaters ever, Apolo Ohno has two gold, two silver and four bronze medals after competing in three Winter Olympics between 2002 and 2010. The Seattle native dominated short-track speedskating in the early 2000s, winning his first of 12 U.S. national championships at the age of 14 in 1997. He retired in 2010, before he had even reached the age of 30.
After leaving the ice, Ohno stayed in the public eye by acting in shows like “Hawaii Five-O” and “Superstore” and twice competing on “Dancing with the Stars,” which he won in 2007. Recently, Ohno said that his life has been “significantly busier” since he retired from skating, with his work including writing another memoir, investing and philanthropic efforts.
One of the greatest basketball players in history, WNBA icon Lisa Leslie also earned four gold medals in four appearances at the games from 1996-2008. When she played her last game with Team USA, she walked away as the all-time leading scorer, rebounder and shot blocker in its history. How’s that for dominance?
Like many athletes who have achieved legendary status, Leslie hasn’t strayed far from her sport since retiring. She’s worked as a basketball commentator for networks including ABC and NBC, and from 2011-2013, she was co-owner of her former WNBA franchise, the Los Angeles Sparks. That venture made her the first former WNBA player to own a stake of a team in the league.
In an incredible show of athletic achievement, Caitlyn Jenner won gold in the decathlon at the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal, an event which involves arguably the best all-around athletic skills of any in the games. Jenner was competing as Bruce Jenner in those days and became an American icon for her performance, knocking off the Soviet Union’s reigning gold medal winner to claim the podium.
Jenner has been one of the most notable former Olympians on this list in the years since retiring from competition, with long-running roles on E! reality shows like “Keeping Up with the Kardashians” and “I Am Cait” making her a TV fixture. In recent years, she’s been recognized for helping make transgender people more visible in the mainstream and getting involved in politics as a candidate for California’s governor seat in 2021.
While Tonya Harding was a two-time Olympian and the first American woman to successfully land the difficult triple axel jump in competition, her tremendous accomplishments on the ice were overshadowed by her conduct off it. Harding went from a hero to a villain because of her involvement in the infamous attack on rival Nancy Kerrigan prior to the 1994 Winter Olympics. Although she skated for Team USA at both the 1992 and 1994 Winter Olympics, Harding never reached a podium.
Since her skating career came to an unceremonious end, Harding has competed in other ways, including as a boxer and on “Dancing with the Stars.” Additionally, the Oscar-winning 2017 biopic, “I, Tonya,” brought her story back into the spotlight and gave many people a more sympathetic view of the notorious Olympian.
A high-energy, fan-favorite skater, Tara Lipinski won gold at the 1998 Winter Olympics in historic fashion. She was only 15 years old when she did it, making her the youngest American figure skater to earn Olympic gold in history. She narrowly beat out teammate Michelle Kwan to take that medal.
If you’ve paid attention to figure skating at the Winter Olympics in recent years, you’ve undoubtedly seen Lipinski in action — in a different way these days. Along with fellow skater Johnny Weir, Lipinski has worked as an analyst for NBC’s coverage of the games since 2014. Their pairing has been so popular with fans that the network has hired them to aid coverage of non-skating events like the Kentucky Derby, the National Dog Show and even the Summer Olympics.
While she narrowly missed out on gold at the 1998 Winter Olympics, Michelle Kwan has earned more hardware from competition than any other figure skater in American history. She medaled at those games and in 2002, where she took home bronze, and under the former scoring system used by the sport, she earned more perfect marks than any other skater in the world. Kwan retired from competition in 2006.
In the years since she stopped collecting medals, Kwan has continued skating on international tours and has worked as a commentator. Away from the ice, she’s worked as an American diplomat under the administrations of Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, and she campaigned for Joe Biden during his run for the White House, as you can see in this 2019 photo.
California native Missy Franklin lit up the 2012 London Games with her youthful energy and brilliant smile, all while dazzling in the pool. She raked in four gold medals and a bronze at those games, including two in the backstroke. Franklin returned as part of Team USA’s 2016 swim team in Rio and earned another gold medal for her role in a freestyle relay, cementing her place as one of the nation’s best Olympic swimmers.
Now only 26 years old, Franklin has already retired from competitive swimming, citing severe shoulder injuries for her early exit. She now works with the USA Swimming Foundation and helps raise awareness for youth swimming lessons to prevent drowning deaths. Late in 2019, Franklin married fellow swimmer Hayes Johnson and spent the 2020 lockdown period enjoying the time with her new husband, telling People that she was still “obsessed” with him after all that time alone together.
As Missy Franklin’s Olympic career was just taking off, Natalie Coughlin’s was winding down after a long period of greatness. She represented Team USA at the 2004, 2008 and 2012 Olympics, earning 12 total medals, including three golds. Coughlin’s six-medal haul at the 2008 Beijing Games put her in the history books as the first American woman to earn that many medals at a single Olympiad.
While Coughlin has never formally retired from competitive swimming, the 37-year-old didn’t launch a bid for the Tokyo Games. She seems to love cooking nearly as much as swimming, making appearances on “Chopped” and “Iron Chef America” in recent years and investing in Luvo, a frozen-food startup. She has also worked with the World Food Program as an ambassador to fight global hunger, doing work in nations including Uganda, where she’s shown here on the right.
A pivotal member of two beloved American women’s gymnastics teams, Gabby Douglas was just 16 years old when she made history at the 2012 Olympics. Her gold medal at the women’s all-around competition that year made her the first woman of color from any nation to win that event. Douglas would win three gold medals in total during her Olympic career, which also included the 2016 Rio Games.
Douglas became a household name after her triumph in 2012 and had a Lifetime movie (starring Regina King as Douglas’s mother) made about her story not long after. She has since been the star of the Oxygen reality series, “Douglas Family Gold” and has written two books. In 2020, she won the inaugural season of Fox’s “The Masked Dancer,” proving that Douglas can still crush a competition when she wants to.
Sprinting phenom LaShawn Merritt competed for the Red, White and Blue at the 2008 and 2016 Olympics, sadly missing the event in between after he suffered an injury. He earned four medals at those games, including three golds, all at his specialty distance of 400 meters.
Despite being 35 years old, in 2021, Merritt gave it his all to try and represent Team USA at the Tokyo Games. He was coming back after a couple years loaded with injuries and ended up missing the cut at the Olympic Trials. When he’s not running, Merritt is known for his philanthropic efforts, especially in his native Portsmouth, Virginia, where his namesake foundation helps local athletes get exposure and scholarships.