Sochi Olympics 2014: From Senators to Drug Peddlers, 5 Zaniest Post-Games Careers
As we watch the Olympics in Sochi, it's hard to not be impressed with the athletes. They have trained for years to reach this point. Their bodies are coiled springs, and their minds are sharply honed and focused on their shot at a gold medal. They are even able, under this intense pressure, to make a swipe or two on Tinder. When the Olympics are over, they will return to their home towns or training grounds to spend another four years in preparation. For some, however, this will be their last Olympics. What, then, is waiting for those Olympians who hang up their skates, cleats, or curling brushes?
As the following stories will demonstrate, some athletes have retired their aching joints from athletics entirely, while others have branched out into different fields within the world of sports. The transition from sports to political or entrepreneurial fame is not a new one: the Hunger Games, much like the Olympics, prepared Catniss for her future career as begrudging Capital spokeswoman, two-time Hunger Games competitor, and rebel figurehead. Here are some former Olympians who have attained similar levels of success, or, at the very least, notoriety.
Michelle Kwan: Diplomatic Envoy
After winning a bronze and silver medal in Olympic figure skating, five world championships, and nine U.S. figure skating titles, Kwan accepted her position as diplomatic envoy for the United States in 2006. She was selected, no doubt, for her photogenic face, role model persona, and ability to skate around important issues. Condoleezza Rice herself was present to appoint Kwan to the position when the former skater was still a political science student at the University of Denver.
Tonya Harding: Boxer and Actress
Figure skaters are winning at the moment for sheer range in post-Olympic professions. It has been twenty years since the attack on Nancy Kerrigan that would lead to the end of Harding's skating career, and those interested in the controversy can watch The Price of Gold, which was released recently on Netflix. After leaving skating, Harding dabbled in acting, in the 1996 film Breakaway , and celebrity boxing. While both careers were relatively short, Harding boxed her way under the alias "Bad Girl" to a 3-3-0 record before retiring the mitts in 2004. In addition to boxing, Harding's most recent contribution to the sporting world came in 2009, when she drove a vintage gas coup on the Bonneville Salt Flats for a land speed record of 97.177 miles per hour. In the following video, you can watch Harding battling Paula Jones in the boxing ring.
True to form, Saturday Night Live had a take on the match, which involved a battered Paula Jones (Rachel Dratch) remarking, "I thought it was going to be a lot classier than it was." Amy Poehler's Tonya Harding, meanwhile, reveals that she trained by throwing a keg through her boyfriend's window.
George Foreman: Grillmaster
The name George Foreman is so synonymous with grills that it's almost easy to forget his 1968 gold medal in boxing at the Summer Olympics in Mexico City. Foreman taught the world how to grill lean, and Michael Scott how to prepare an accidental filet of sole.
Shannon Bahrke: Drug Peddler
The drug, of course, is coffee. Freestyle skier Bahrke and her husband, Matt Happe, launched Silver Bean Coffee Company after an inspirational ski and coffee day with friends in the winter of 2007. Their company currently runs two coffee shops in Salt Lake City, Utah, and offers twenty-one "Athlete Blends" of coffee, each one named after a professional skier or team. To our knowledge, no athletes have been harmed in the making of these products. Bahrke, who won a 2002 silver medal in Salt Lake City and a 2010 bronze medal in Vancouver, retired with twelve years of professional and Olympic skiing under her belt. For now, at least, she's grinding away a different profession.
Carl Lewis: New Jersey State Senator…
…almost. Lewis, who won nine Olympic gold medals for sprinting and long jump, was foiled in April of 2011 in his quest for a New Jersey State Senate seat; he was disqualified for not meeting the four year residential requirement. It would have been a long jump to the 8th legislative district in Jersey, but hey, Lewis set a world record for the 100 meter dash when he was thirty. If anyone can handle New Jersey politics, it's him. Of his interactions with Chris Christie after he announced his intention to run, Lewis has said, "I felt like he was trying to intimidate me, absolutely… But I definitely didn’t feel intimidated." You stay classy, Carl Lewis.
Ultimately, while some Olympic athletes struggle with building a life outside of their sport, others have embraced new careers with vim and vigor. Retiring from the Olympics is rather like graduating from college, with graduates and retirees adrift in the world and searching for a job that matches their skill set. And, unlike college graduates, most athletes probably have never shuddered at the thought of the freshman fifteen. Even if they continue to eat like Olympic athletes, they can count on the George Foreman Lean Mean Fat-Reducing Grilling Machine for inspiration and sustenance.
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