These American Olympians Look Totally Different From When They First Set Foot In The Stadium

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The Olympics are the pinnacle of any athletic sport, whether it’s beach volleyball, snowboarding or anything in between. And while some of its participants are remembered by many for only one summer, others become legends of their sports or go on to shine in later careers. However, all of these accomplished Olympians look very different to how you might remember them.

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40. Mike Eruzione

When the U.S. hockey team faced the Soviet Union at the 1980 Winter Olympics, victory seemed impossible. You see, the U.S.S.R. hadn’t been defeated in an Olympic game in more than a decade. With ten minutes left on the clock, though, the score was tied at three apiece. Then, U.S. team captain Mike Eruzione deftly struck the puck into the back of the opposition’s net, securing gold in a contest remembered fondly today as the “Miracle On Ice.”

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39. Apolo Ohno

With eight medals to his credit, speed skater Apolo Ohno has won more Winter Olympic medals than any other American. In fact, he first took the U.S. speed-skating crown at the age of just 14. Alongside his eight world titles throughout the 2000s, Ohno amassed four bronze, two silver and two gold medals across the 2002, 2006 and 2010 winter games before retiring in 2013 aged 31.

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38. Ronda Rousey

Hard lessons can be learned from crushing defeats. And for Ronda Rousey, scoring a bronze medal at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing wasn’t good enough. She’d wanted to follow in the footsteps of her mother, AnnMaria De Mars’, by becoming the world’s best. Though she subsequently found huge success in MMA and the UFC, the defeat left her crushed. Nevertheless, she managed to refocus that disappointment as unflinching determination.

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37. Michael Phelps

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Swimmer Michael Phelps is simply the greatest Olympian of all time. He made a surprise fourth and final games appearance at Rio in 2016. His haul of five golds and a silver that year bought his total medal collection up to two bronzes, three silvers and 23 golds. It’s a record that many expect to stand for a long time.

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36. Greg Louganis

Louganis is a quadruple gold medalist in diving, spanning two Olympic Games in 1984 and 1988. He’s also the first Olympic competitor ever to be awarded a perfect score in a diving contest. Louganis revealed he was gay at the height of the 1980s AIDS crisis, which lost him the support of sponsors. Thankfully, though, in a more accepting time, he now works as an advisor to the American diving squad.

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35. Shannon Miller

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Miller scored a couple of golds as part of Atlanta 1996’s “Magnificent Seven” women’s gymnasts. This came four years after winning two silver and three bronze medals in the Barcelona games. Today she’s a public speaker and a campaigner for healthy lifestyles among kids and women. In 2011 she beat cancer and now promotes prompt diagnosis of the condition.

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34. Joanna Hayes

Hayes first took to the track as a 400m hurdler. However, her technique proved to be more suitable for the 100m hurdles, so she switched before the 2004 Olympics in Athens. The move proved to be a smart one, as Hayes took home the gold medal in the event that year. Today, she remains associated with the sport by training cross-country and track athletes.

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33. Lauryn Williams

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Williams is the first U.S. athlete to take home medals from both the summer and winter games. And only four others of any nationality have ever achieved such a feat. After earning a silver in the 100m race in 2004, she then scored gold as part of the 4 x 100m relay squad in 2012. With her running career at an end, Williams then took up bobsleigh and came second in the two-woman section at Sochi in 2014.

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32. Kerri Strug

This gymnast didn’t let a major ankle problems prevent her from appearing at Atlanta 1996. In fact, Strug’s contribution to the U.S. squad allowed them to win gold. And she didn’t let a difficulty in walking stop her taking her place on the podium, as trainer Béla Károlyi famously lifted her there himself. Today, the mom of two carries out governmental work.

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31. Mary Lou Retton

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Mary Lou Retton was plagued by injury prior to her gymnastics performance the LA Olympics in 1984. Nevertheless, “America’s Sweetheart” narrowly beat Romanian rival Ecaterina Szabo to win gold via a margin of just .05 points. These days, she can be found supporting the next generation of U.S. gymnasts in the shape of her four daughters, each of whom compete in their own right.

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30. Bart Conner

Connor achieved success across all gymnastics stages. He won a couple of golds at the 1984 Olympics in LA, the second by achieving a perfect grade for his parallel bars routine. The accomplishment is all the more impressive since he’d only just recovered from an injury. Nowadays, he runs a gymnastics center in Oklahoma and undertakes charity work with his wife, fellow Olympic gymnast Romanian Nadia Comaneci.

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29. Summer Sanders

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Some may remember Sanders as a television presenter, as she hosted the game show Figure It Out in the late 1990s. However, prior to that she was an Olympic swimming ace who won two golds, a silver and bronze at the Barcelona games in 1992. Her TV career continued as a host, reporter and commentator on later Olympics, as well as several reality shows.

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28. Gary Hall Jr.

This swimmer’s first appearance at the Olympics came back in 1976. You see, his father, Gary Hall Sr., had just made to his third games when he victoriously lifted his young son in the air. Two decades on, the younger Hall picked up some Olympic medals himself, including helping two relay teams to gold. Famously, he would take to poolside with the showmanship of a boxer entering the ring.

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27. Amy Van Dyken

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At Atlanta 1996, Van Dyken became the first woman from the U.S. to win four golds at a single games. She followed up her achievements in the pool with two further gold medals at the Sydney 2000 event. However, an ATV crash in 2014 resulted in a severed spinal cord, leaving the swimmer wheelchair-bound. Nevertheless, she still participates in CrossFit events adapted to her physical state.

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26. Peggy Flemming

Figure skater Flemming’s medal at the Grenoble Olympics in 1968 was particularly notable because she was the only American to win gold at the games. More poignantly, it was the country’s first success since a devastating plane crash claimed the lives of the entire U.S. figure skating team in 1961. Now 72, Flemming is a health advocate and retired wine producer.

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25. Scott Hamilton

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Scott Hamilton was at the top of men’s figure skating when the Sarajevo Winter Olympics rolled around in 1984. And, despite close competition from the Canada team, he won gold in the discipline for the U.S. for the first time since the 1961 plane crash. He became a co-creator of the figure skating troupe Stars On Ice in 1986 and carried on competing professionally up until the 1990s. He beat cancer later in the same decade and today trains upcoming figure skaters.

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24. Sasha Cohen

Initially, Cohen had wanted to be a gymnast, but she switched to figure skating aged seven. Her talent for ice dancing earned her silver at the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy, making her the latest U.S. medalist in the discipline. After failing to qualify for the 2010 games following a brief retirement, a career change saw her enter the world of finance.

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23. Michael Jordan

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Considered by many as the best basketball player who ever lived, Michael Jordan needs little introduction. Indeed, his retirement in 1993 at the age of 30 did nothing to diminish his many achievements. Among them are the Olympic golds he earned in 1984 and 1992. His popularity never fell away, either, and in 2014 he became the first billionaire NBA player.

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22. Venus Williams

When Venus Williams won her first Olympic gold at Sydney 2000, it’s unlikely anyone would have predicted she’d be gunning for a sixth medal 20 years later. What’s more, the five medals she already has exceed any other tennis player in history, including her sister, Serena, whom she partnered with for three golds. Now aged 40, she’s still on the hunt for more.

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21. Amanda Beard

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A seven-time Olympic medalist, swimmer Amanda Beard was just 14 when she first appeared at the games in 1996. What’s more, she’s the second-youngest gold medalist in U.S. history. While she would compete in three further Olympics, images of the teenager grasping a teddy bear as she received her medal in in Atlanta remain a defining image for many.

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20. Kristi Yamaguchi

California-born Kristi Yamaguchi first took up ice skating at age six as part of treatment for her club feet. After success on the world stage in pairs competitions, she went solo to win gold at the 1992 Winter Olympics. In retirement, the former figure skater won season six of Dancing With The Stars in 2009, scoring the biggest total in the series has ever seen.

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19. Brian Boitano

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18. Shaun White

Snowboarder Shaun White was three times Olympic champion between the ages of 19 and 31. Indeed, after failing to secure a medal in 2014, his bid to reclaim his crown looked to have been thwarted when a training injury required more than 60 stitches in 2017. Nonetheless, at the 2018 games he pulled out all his show-stopping tricks to clinch gold in the dying moments.

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17. Mark Spitz

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Before Michael Phelps came along, Mark Spitz was the best male swimmer the Olympics has ever seen. His long-standing record of seven golds at Munich 1972 – each achieved with a new world record – stood until 2008. But, whereas swimmers tend to rid themselves of body hair to improve their performance, Spitz had a mustache, declaring it lucky. Post-Olympics, he’s been an actor, realtor and public speaker, all mustache-free.

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16. Edwin Moses

When his basketball dreams were shattered in high school, Edwin Moses instead moved into athletics. His Olympics debut in Montreal 1976 won him the 400m hurdles gold and set a world record in the process. The runner scored a second gold in 1984 and then collected a bronze in 1988 before retiring a year later. For nearly ten years in his discipline, the runner remained unbeaten for an astonishing 122 successive races.

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15. Katie Ledecky

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Swimmer Ledecky made waves at London 2012 when she won gold in the 800m freestyle aged only 15. Creating an even bigger splash at Rio 2016, she achieved four golds, breaking multiple records along the way. Among her achievements that year was a trio of gold medals for the 200m, 400m, and 800m freestyle, which no one had ever accomplished before.

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14. Ryan Lochte

Swimmer Ryan Lochte won 12 Olympic medals between 2004 and 2016, six of them gold. He earned millions of dollars along the way, but lost it all after a scandal surrounding a vandalized gas station during Rio 2016. Following a ban from competition, he received a second, even longer band for taking a supplement intravenously. Nevertheless, the 35-year-old is due to appear at the rescheduled Tokyo 2020 games.

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13. Serena Williams

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Serena Williams is level with her sister, Venus, for the highest number of Olympic gold medals in tennis. While Venus has an additional silver to her credit, three of their titles were achieved as a pairing in the women’s doubles discipline. Serena may be the most accomplished female tennis player of all time, but she’s still hungry for more success.

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12. Dara Torres

Swimmer Dara Torres appeared in no less than five Olympic Games. Indeed, she was already setting world bests at 15 and continued to compete on the international stage up until her early 40s. Throughout her formidable career, she won 12 Olympic medals, including four golds. Since injury forced the swimming ace into retirement, she’s forged a path as a public speaker.

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11. Simone Biles

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With more than 30 national and international titles to her credit, Biles is perhaps the most accomplished gymnast in American history. After winning four golds and a bronze at Rio 2016, the 23-year-old took a break from competition and appeared on T.V. dance contest Dancing With The Stars in 2017. But she couldn’t stay away from the gymnastics floor, beams and vaults and is expected to take part in Tokyo 2020.

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10. Dominique Dawes

Dawes earned the nickname “Awesome Dawesome” as part of the Atlanta 1996 women’s gymnastics team. That “Magnificent Seven” troupe won gold at the event. It was the second of three games that Dawes won medals at, making her the first U.S. gymnast to be decorated at three consecutive Olympic events. In retirement, she trod the boards on Broadway and became co-chair of the Obama administration’s Fitness, Sports & Nutrition council.

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9. George Foreman

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Boxer George Foreman is perhaps most famous as Muhammad Ali’s opponent in The Rumble In The Jungle. However, it was his Olympic success that put him squarely in Ali’s cross hairs. You see, Foreman won gold in the heavyweight category in Mexico City in 1968. He hung up his gloves in 1997 having been beaten only five times in 81 bouts.

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8. Tonya Harding

Although Harding was the first female figure skater to execute the tricky triple-axel move in contest, that’s perhaps not how she’s best remembered. You see, when her rival Nancy Kerrigan was injured in an attack in January 1994, the perpetrator had been hired by Harding’s ex-husband. The scandal resulted in a lifetime ban from the sport for the skater and was recounted in the 2017 biopic, I, Tonya.

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7. Andre Agassi

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In Atlanta 1996, tennis ace Andre Agassi achieved a straight-sets win over Spain’s Sergi Bruguera to secure the Olympic gold. It was the first time the title was taken by a U.S. player since Vincent Richards back in the 1920s. As well as a further eight Grand Slam titles, Agassi was also known for the garish clothing he often wore on court.

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6. Michael Johnson

Runner Michael Johnson established himself as the “Fastest Man In The World” in 1996, after his speed in the 200m sprint was recorded at 23mph. The first of his four Olympic golds came in the 1992 4 x 400m relay, before he went solo and scored victory in the 200m race in 1996 plus the 400m that year and again in 2000. Johnson recovered from a stroke in 2018.

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5. Jackie Joyner-Kersee

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Track and field athlete Jackie Joyner-Kersee is one of the greatest America has ever seen. Not only was she the first female Olympic long jump gold medalist from the U.S., but she was also the first female heptathlete to ever accumulate in excess of 7,000 points in one contest. Over four Olympic games, she won a total of two bronze, one silver and three gold medals.

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4. Carl Lewis

Carl Lewis is one of the most decorated track and field athletes of all time. Among his accomplishments are nine Olympic golds, including the 100m and 200m races and the 4 x 100m relay at the L.A. games in 1984, and the first ever back-to-back long jump titles that year and at Seoul in 1988. Lewis’ political aspirations in retirement were thwarted by residency issues in 2011.

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3. Matt Biondi

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Biondi was only the second best Olympic swimmer of the 1980s. Nevertheless, there are still very few athletes to top his haul of eight gold medals in the pool. Indeed, if it hadn’t been for Mark Spitz, Biondi would have been the best of his era. Today he works as a math teacher but remains in touch with his former sport by training a local swimming squad.

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2. Caitlyn Jenner

Before the world recognized her as a reality TV star, Caitlyn Jenner once competed as Bruce Jenner in the 1976 Olympic Games. Indeed, she was a fierce all-rounder, in what’s considered the toughest discipline in the event – the decathlon – and went on to win gold. Today, she inspires many people around the globe as a high-profile transgender individual.

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1. Dominique Moceanu

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Gymnast Moceanu was just 14 years old when she took part in the Atlanta games in 1996. Team U.S.A. won gold that year, but injuries forced her into retirement at 18. Nevertheless, she wrote her memoir in 2012 in which she detailed abuses she and the other gymnasts suffered at the hands of its coaches. At 38, she now runs a gym with her husband in Ohio.

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