Life After Gold: Where Famous USA Olympians Are Today

Athletes | 8/26/20

From a young age, Olympic athletes train tirelessly in hopes of becoming the best in the world at their respective sports. It begs the question, though, after they’ve competed, stood on the podium listing to the national anthem, and traveled back home, where do these mega-athletes end up?

As it turns out, most of them don’t stray too far from their beloved sport. Track and field star Carl Lewis went on to be an assistant coach at his alma mater. And Shawn Johnson is teaching her daughter how to stick a balance beam landing worthy of gold. For the rest, you’re going to have to keep reading to find out!

Tommie Smith – Track And Field

Tommie Smith
Eddie Sanderson/Mirrorpix/Getty Images; David Livingston/Getty Images
Eddie Sanderson/Mirrorpix/Getty Images; David Livingston/Getty Images

Track and field star Tommie Smith was breaking records and making a name for himself in the sport since high school. But it was during the 1968 Olympic Games where we made history. Smith became the first runner to break the 20-second barrier in the 200-meter sprint, crossing the finish line in 19.83 seconds and winning gold in the process.

His and John Carlos’ Black Power salute while standing on the medal podium is still considered a symbol of the Black Power Movement. Today, he’s been awarded for his stand against racism all those years ago, being inducted into the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Hall of Fame.

Shaun White – Snowboarding

Shaun White - Snowboarding
Jeffrey Mayer/WireImage; Jon Kopaloff/Getty Images
Jeffrey Mayer/WireImage; Jon Kopaloff/Getty Images

Shaun White swapped his skis for a snowboard at the age of six. And by the time he was seven, White received his first sponsorship. Throughout his career, White participated in four Winter Olympic Games, winning three gold medals in the snowboard half-pipe event in 2006, 2010, and 2018.

As far as snowboarding goes, White is resuming training in hopes of making it to Beijing for the 2022 games. Ironically, fans of the athlete were hoping to see him in Tokyo for the 2020 Summer Games for skateboarding. And while the 2020 games were canceled, White told Associated Press that he wasn’t ready to walk away from the snow anyway.

McKayla Maroney – Gymnastics

McKayla Maroney
Pinterest/Jenna Ortiz; Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
Pinterest/Jenna Ortiz; Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Retired artistic gymnast McKayla Maroney was technically put into the gym at the age of two! According to Maroney, after her mom saw her crawling around on all fours impersonating Tarzan, she knew she had to do something! So, gymnastics it was!

Maroney went on to be part of the Fierce Five at the 2012 Summer Olympic Games in London, winning team gold and individual silver for the vault event. The latter being where the infamous “not impressed” face made its first appearance. Today, Maroney’s taken a step back from the world of gymnastics and into the recording studio. She released her first single “Wake Up Call” in 2020.

Carl Lewis – Track And Field

Carl Lewis - Track And Field
David Cannon / Getty Images; Tibrina Hobson/WireImage
David Cannon / Getty Images; Tibrina Hobson/WireImage

Track and field star Carl Lewis had a career spanning from 1979 to 1996, his last Olympic event. He is known for a few events, particularly the long jump as well as the 100 and 200-meter sprint. Lewis is one of those lucky souls who made it to the Olympic Games four times in his life, winning nine gold medals and one silver in total.

Since retiring from the track, Lewis has been involved in numerous ventures, including acting, politics, and even running his own marketing business, C.L.E.G. But, most recently, in 2018, he took up an assistant coaching position at his alma mater, the University of Huston.

Kerri Strug – Gymnastics

Kerri Strug - Gymnastics
Ron Galella, Ltd./Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images; Jason Kempin/WireImage
Ron Galella, Ltd./Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images; Jason Kempin/WireImage

Kerri Strug began her gymnastics training at the young age of three. And at the age of eight, she began competing. When the 1992 Summer Games in Barcelona rolled around, Strug was the youngest member of Team USA, not that it deterred the team from winning bronze.

But it was the 1996 Olympic Games where Strug made history, landing her vault one-footed after an ankle injury. Her run helped win the team gold that year. After gymnastics, Strug became an elementary school teacher. Then, in 2020, Olivia Wilde announced that she would be directing a biopic about Strug base don the book Landing On My Feet, A Diary Of Dreams.

Simone Biles – Gymnastics

Simone Biles - Gymnastics
Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images; Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images
Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images; Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

Simone Biles is the most decorated United States gymnast in history, with a combined total of 30 medals from both the Olympic Games and World competitions. During her first run in the games in 2016 as part of the “Final Five,” Biles showed her artistic style and dominance in the sport, winning gold in vault, floor, and all-around, bronze in beam, and gold for team.

Today, Biles is still in her prime, training and getting ready for the next Summer Games in 2021. We can only hope she’ll perform her signature moves during the competition, the Biles on beam and vault, and the Biles II on floor.

Mark Spitz – Swimming

Mark Spitz - Swimming
Bettmann/Getty Images; Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic
Bettmann/Getty Images; Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic

Swimmer Mark Spitz made history when he became the most decorated athlete at the 1972 Summer Games in Munich, winning seven gold medals in world record time! He went on to hold that title for 36 years until the reign of Michael Phelps dove into the pool.

After he hung up his speedo, Spitz took on a completely different venture, opening his own real estate company in Beverly Hills! Most recently, in 2020, he took on the “Katie Ledecky Challange,” balancing a glass of water on his head while doing ten strokes. She thought he would’ve been quicker had he been rocking his infamous mustache!

Michael Phelps – Swimming

Michael Phelps - Swimming
Allen Kee/WireImage; Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images For Nickelodeon
Allen Kee/WireImage; Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images For Nickelodeon

With a total of 28 medals, former competitive swimmer Michael Phelps is the most decorated Olympian of all time. He holds the record for most gold medals, 23, most gold medals in an individual event at 13, as well as total medals won in an individual event at 16.

Due to his performances in the Summer Games from 2000-2016, Phelps is considered to be one of the greatest Olympians of all time. Today, Phelps lives with his wife and three sons in Paradise Valley, Arizona. There, he volunteers as a coach for the Arizona State Sun Devil swim team.

Joan Benoit – Track And Field

Joan Benoit - Track And Field
Focus on Sport/Getty Images; Jack Milton/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images
Focus on Sport/Getty Images; Jack Milton/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images

Joan Benoit made history during the 1984 Summer Olympic Games in Los Angeles, California when she became the gold medalist for the first-ever woman’s marathon event. But that wasn’t the end of her triumphs. For 32 years, she held the fastest time for an American woman at the Chicago Marathon, and for 28 years at the Boston Marathon.

And while she isn’t as fast as she used to be, Benoit is still running in marathons. In 2019, 40 years after her Boston Marathon win, Benoit and her daughter ran together. Her final time was 3:04:00, within 40 minutes of her original time.

Nancy Kerrigan – Figure Skating

Nancy Kerrigan - Figure Skating
David Madison/Getty Images; Jimi Celeste/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images
David Madison/Getty Images; Jimi Celeste/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images

Nancy Kerrigan pretty much grew up on skates, starting lessons at the age of six and winning her first major competition at the age of nine. Kerrigan soon found herself competing on a national scale, and finally for Team USA Figure Skating in the Winter Olympics in both 1992 and 1994, winning bronze and silver, respectively.

Today, Kerrigan has stepped away from the glitter and glam of competitive figure skating and has stepped in the studio spotlight. Kerrigan served as a “special correspondent” for Entertainment Tonight during the 2010 Winter Games, but she’s also taken to land! In 2017, Kerrigan competed on Dancing With the Stars.

Jackie Joyner-Kersee – Track And Field

Jackie Joyner-Kersee - Track And Field
Tony Duffy/Allsport/Getty Images; Arturo Holmes/Getty Images
Tony Duffy/Allsport/Getty Images; Arturo Holmes/Getty Images

Jackie Joyner-Kersee is considered one of the greatest athletes of all-time in the long jump and heptathlon and was even named The Greatest Female Athlete of All-Time by Sports Illustrated for Women. She participated in four Summer Games, from 1984-1996, winning six medals in the process — three gold, one silver, and two bronze.

Apparently, she couldn’t fully leave the sport behind her and is now on the Board of Directors for USATF, USA Track & Field, the governing body for the sport. But she is also a very active philanthropist, focusing her efforts on women’s rights, racial injustice, as well as education.

Tara Lipinski – Figure Skating

Tara Lipinski - Figure Skating
Steve Azzara/Corbis via Getty Images; Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images
Steve Azzara/Corbis via Getty Images; Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images

Tara Lipinski knew she was destined for gold at the age of two, standing on top of a Tupperware bowl pretending she just won gold at the 1984 Summer Olympics. A few years later, she did just that, but at the Winter Games in 1998 where, at the age of 15, she became the youngest athlete to win Olympic gold.

After the games, Lipinski retired from competitive skating, focusing on live shows before hanging up her skates for good in 2002. Now, she prefers to comment on others skating, becoming a broadcaster for NBC.

Mary Lou Retton – Gymnastics

Mary Lou Retton - Gymnastics
Focus on Sport/Getty Images; Joe Scarnici/Getty Images for USOC
Focus on Sport/Getty Images; Joe Scarnici/Getty Images for USOC

Mary Lou Retton was only a sophomore in high school when she competed in the 1984 Summer Olympic Games as part of Team USA Gymnastics. There, she became the first female Olympian to win gold in the all-around competition (she also won a silver and bronze, too). Her success made her one of the most popular athletes in the country.

Due to her fame coming out of the Olympics, Retton secured many endorsement deals, including becoming the first female athlete to appear on the front of a Wheaties box! As of 2019, Retton’s been the spokesperson and face for the pain relief creme, Australian Dream.

Greg Louganis – Diving

Greg Louganis - Diving
Focus on Sport via Getty Images; Steve Granitz/WireImage
Focus on Sport via Getty Images; Steve Granitz/WireImage

Greg Louganis has been called many things, including “the greatest American Diver.” During both the 1984 and 1988 Summer Olympics, Louganis brought home gold in both the springboard and platform events. He is one of two divers, and the only male, to ever sweep the two diving events in consecutive games.

Even after Louganis stopped competing, he was never far from the diving board. For both the 2012 and 2016 Summer Games, the former diver acted as a mentor for Team USA. Then, in 2020, he acted as a diving judge for the sport’s reality competition show Holey Moley.

Chloe Kim – Snowboarding

Chloe Kim - Snowboarding
Tom Pennington/Getty Images; Frazer Harrison/Getty Images
Tom Pennington/Getty Images; Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

At 17 years old, Chole Kim became the youngest female athlete to win gold at the Olympics. Her success came at the 2018 Olympic Games during the half-pipe event, where she scored a nearly perfect score on her second run, 98.25 points. That year, she became the first-ever female to perform a frontside double cork 1080 during the half-pipe event.

Recently, Kim has been admitted to Princeton University as part of the class of 2022 but deferred the offer until 2023. She plans on studying science! Of course, she’s still young and continues to ride and compete.

Dara Torres – Swimming

Dara Torres - Swimming
Henri Szwarc/Bongarts/Getty Images; Michael Ciaglo/Getty Images for USOPC
Henri Szwarc/Bongarts/Getty Images; Michael Ciaglo/Getty Images for USOPC

Twelve-time Olympic medalist Dara Torres is the first swimmer to represent Team USA in five Summer Games, 1984, 1988, 1992, 2000, and 2008. At her last games, she was 41, making her the oldest athlete to earn a place on the Olympic team. She announced her retirement in 2012, after failing to make the Olympic team a sixth time.

But that wasn’t the end of Torres’ career with swimmers. She became an announcer and reporter for various networks, including ESPN, TNT, CBS, Fox News Channel, and OLN. Torres is also a celebrity swimmer for Swim Across America, a charity organization that raises funds for Cancer research.

Shawn Johnson – Gymnastics

Shawn Johnson - Gymnastics
Helen H. Richardson/The Denver Post via Getty Images; Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images
Helen H. Richardson/The Denver Post via Getty Images; Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images

Shawn Johnson is considered to have the best rookie season in all of gymnastics history, winning the all-around at the American Cup, U.S. National Championships, World Championships, and Pan American Games, all within her first year of being a “senior gymnast.”

Then, in 2008, she went on to win gold on the balance beam and silver for the all-around, floor, and team event at the 2008 Summer Games. Today, Johnson is focused on her husband and child, showing off her young daughter’s awesome “gymnast skills” on her various social media accounts. Hey, if Drew Johnson wants to make Team USA by the time she’s 16, she has to start training!

Michelle Kwan – Figure Skating

Michelle Kwan - Figure Skating
Ron Galella, Ltd./Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images; Araya Diaz/WireImage
Ron Galella, Ltd./Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images; Araya Diaz/WireImage

For over a decade, figure skater Michelle Kwan was wildly considered one of the most popular female athletes across the United States. She participated in the 1998 and 2002 Winter Games, winning silver and bronze, respectively. Kwan was slotted to compete in the 2006 games but was forced to withdraw because of a hip injury.

After retiring from competitive skating, Kwan turned her focus to film, appearing in numerous movies as well as television series. She is also a huge supporter of the Special Olympics, being added to the Board of Directors back in 2011.

Kyle Mack – Snowboarding

Kyle Mack - Snowboarding
MARTIN BERNETTI/AFP via Getty Images; Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
MARTIN BERNETTI/AFP via Getty Images; Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Olympian Kyle Mack began his career at the age of three. Then, by seven, Burton Snowboards caught wind of his talent and dedication to the sport, offering him a sponsorship. Everything fell into place, with Mack winning big competitions and traveling the world with the Burton team.

Eventually, he was offered a place on Team USA for the 2018 Winter Games. There, he won silver in the Men’s Big Air event. Being so young, Mack is still competing when he can, his most recent competition being the X Games Aspen back in January of 2020.

Brian Boitano – Figure Skating

Brian Boitano - Figure Skating
David Madison/Getty Images; Gabe Ginsberg/Getty Images
David Madison/Getty Images; Gabe Ginsberg/Getty Images

Brian Boitano is probably best known for his 1988 performance during the Winter Games, aka “The Battle of the Brians.” The infamous battle was between Boitano and Canadian figure skater Brian Orse, both of whom were pretty much tied going into the free skate event. Boitano wound up winning the event, and therefore gold for Team USA.

He returned to the Olympic stage in 1996, but he placed sixth and didn’t return home with another medal. To this day, Boitano still skates. For someone who was the first US athlete to land a triple axle in competition, we can imagine its hard for him to walk away from the sport!

Katie Ledecky – Swimming

Katie Ledecky - Swimming
Joe Scarnici/Getty Images; Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images
Joe Scarnici/Getty Images; Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Katie Ledecky is the most decorated female swimmer in history, having won five Olympic gold medals and 15 World Championship gold medals. She was only 15 years old when she unexpectedly won gold in 2012, her Olympic debut. During her career, Ledecky has broken a whopping total of 14 world records, an amazing feat.

Her success in the pool has earned Ledecky the five-time title of Female Swimmer of the Year by Swimming World, another record! During the 2019 World Aquatics Championships, she finished with top times in both the 800- and 1500-meter freestyle, the seventh-straight year in a row!

Nastia Liukin – Gymnastics

Nastia Liukin - Gymnastics
Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images; Paul Archuleta/Getty Images
Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images; Paul Archuleta/Getty Images

As part of the 2008 US Women’s Olympic Gymnastics Team, Nastia Liukin won gold for the all-around event as well as three silver medals and one bronze. Aside from her Olympic accolades, Liukin is also tied with fellow Olympian Shannon Miller for the third-highest tally of World Championship medals among US gymnasts.

After she didn’t qualify for the 2012 Olympic team, Liukin opted to retire from the sport. Instead of seeing her on the gym floor, fans of the athlete began seeing her on-screen in multiple cameo appearances. Most recently, she competed in the hit show American Ninja Warrior, making it past the first set of obstacles.

Bonnie Blair – Speed Skating

Bonnie Blair - Speed Skating
Mike Powell /Allsport; Theo Wargo/Getty Images for The Buoniconti Fund To Cure Paralysis
Mike Powell /Allsport; Theo Wargo/Getty Images for The Buoniconti Fund To Cure Paralysis

Speed skater Bonnie Blair was one of the top athletes in the sport during her era, not to mention one of the most decorated Olympians in history. Competing in the 1984, 1988, 1992, and 1994 Winter Games, Blair won a total of five gold medals and one bronze.

Although 1994 was her last Olympics, Blair continued competing on the national circuit until 1995 when she finally decided to retire. Since retirement, Blaire has found a calling as a motivational speaker, but skating was never far behind. In 2018, she began serving on the board of the Pettit National Ice Center, an indoor ice rink in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Kim Rhode – Skeet And Trap Shooting

Kim Rhode - Skeet And Trap Shooting
Alexander Hassenstein/Bongarts/Getty Images; PASCAL GUYOT/AFP via Getty Images
Alexander Hassenstein/Bongarts/Getty Images; PASCAL GUYOT/AFP via Getty Images

Six-time Olympic medalist Kim Rhode’s is the most successful female shooter of the Summer Games, as the only woman to have won two gold medals for Double Trap and for being the only triple Olympic Champion. As of the 2016 games in Rio, she is also the only Olympian to win a medal on five different continents!

After participating in six consecutive Olympic Games, Rhodes didn’t qualify for the US Shooting Team for Tokyo, coming in fourth. But, according to an interview she had with the Los Angeles Times, she is far from done competing, and she intends to try for the 2024 and 2028 Summer Games.

Picabo Street – Skiing

Picabo Street - Skiing
Mike Powell/Getty Images; Doug Pensinger/Getty Images
Mike Powell/Getty Images; Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

Picabo Street became of member of the US ski team in 1989, at the age of 17. From there, she went on to medal at the 1994 Winter Games in the downhill event, bringing home the silver. Then, after four more years of training, she brought home gold in the giant slalom event during the 1998 Winter Games.

Street retired from international competition after placing 16th in the 2002 Winter Games. Now, while she’s not taking care of her three sons, she’s busy with the Picabo Street Academy, a place where students are able to focus on academics and training.

Ryan Lochte – Swimming

Ryan Lochte - Swimming
Chris McGrath/Getty Images; Harry How/Getty Images
Chris McGrath/Getty Images; Harry How/Getty Images

Behind Michael Phelps, swimmer Ryan Lochte is the second-most decorated Olympic swimmer in history, with 12 medals to his name. He also currently holds the world records for both the long and short course 200-meter individual medley, the long course 4×200-meter freestyle, and the 4×100-meter freestyle mixed relay.

While he’s not in the water, Lochte has made quite a few television appearances, including his own show, What Would Ryan Lochte Do? which was canceled after one season. But, most recently, in 2020, the former Olympian became the international swimming ambassador for SPIRE Institue and Academy, an academic and sports training facility.

Karch Kiraly – Volleyball

Karch Kiraly - Volleyball
Stephen Dunn/Allspor; Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images
Stephen Dunn/Allspor; Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

Karch Kiraly helped Team USA bring home gold in volleyball in both the 1984 and 1988 Summer Games. Then, in 1996, he won gold once more, but this time it was for beach volleyball, a brand new event that was included that year. The ’96 medal earned him the title of the only Olympian to ever win gold in both the indoor and beach volleyball events.

Kiraly is one of those athletes that never turned away from the sport. Even though he stopped competing on the court and sand, Kiraly uses his knowledge of the sport in another way. He is the current head coach of the United States women’s national volleyball team.

Apolo Ohno – Speed Skating

Apolo Ohno - Speed Skating
Matthew Stockman/Getty Images; Alberto E. Rodriguez/FilmMagic
Matthew Stockman/Getty Images; Alberto E. Rodriguez/FilmMagic

Short track speed skater Apolo Ohno is probably one of the most well-known winter Olympians. Through his career at the games, Ohno won eight medals, two gold, two silver, and four bronze, making him the most decorated American Winter Olympic athlete in history.

Ohno decided to retire after the 2010 Olympics, picking up broadcasting to stay in the circuit. He was even a commentator for the 2012 Sochi Games as well as the 2018 Pyeongchang Games. Most recently, though, he’s been writing a book about his post-skating career business ventures, which he hopes to release in 2020; his last book release was in 2010.

Shannon Miller – Gymnastics

Shannon Miller - Gymnastics
Ron Galella, Ltd./Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images; Tibrina Hobson/Getty Images
Ron Galella, Ltd./Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images; Tibrina Hobson/Getty Images

When part of the Magnificent Seven of the 1996 US Gymnastics Team, Shannon Miller helped the team win gold, as well as winning individual gold for the balance beam. After winning two silver and three bronze at the 1992 games, the gold was a nice change of color!

Behind Simone Biles, Miller is the most decorated gymnast in United States History and the thirteenth most decorated out of any country with her individual medal count. Currently, Miller is in charge of two organizations, Shannon Miller Lifestyle, and the Shannon Miller Foundation, both of which fight against childhood obesity in the country.

Kristi Yamaguchi – Figure Skating

Kristi Yamaguchi - Figure Skating
JUNJI KUROKAWA/AFP via Getty Images; Steve Granitz/WireImage
JUNJI KUROKAWA/AFP via Getty Images; Steve Granitz/WireImage

In 1992, Kristi Yamaguchi brought home the gold medal for the Ladies’ singles figure skating event in Albertville, France. She is also a two-time World Champion and probably one of the better-known figure skaters in the country, even if she doesn’t necessarily compete anymore.

While she turned professional after the 1992 season, having a long career on the ice, today she is perusing other avenues. In 2012, she designed a line of women’s activewear called Tsu.ya by Kristi Yamaguchi, with a portion of its proceeds going to the Always Dream Foundation. The organization was founded by Yamaguchi and helps support early childhood literacy.