What Do Olympic Athletes Do After The Olympics? It's Not Always Easy To Leave Athletic Glory Behind

The road to the Olympics is a hard one, with athletes following a rigorous training schedule that dictates everything from exercise to diets and sleep — all in the name of potential gold medal glory. But what happens once the Games are over and competitors no longer have the tightly packed schedule that they're accustomed to? What do Olympic athletes do after the Olympics?

After the Olympics, many athletes struggle to find a new path away from their respective sports. Some of the more popular medalists are able to turn their athletic success into a full-blown career, earning sponsorship and endorsement deals, hitting the circuit as motivational speakers, or even becoming a coach in their own right.

But not all Olympians are quite as lucky. Many leave the Games and quickly realize they have to find a new career. The change doesn't come easy for every athlete. As NBC reports, plenty of former Olympians struggle to find their identity outside of their sport, and end up battling depression and substance abuse in their post-Olympic years.

Still, there are also many others who manage to make the transition successfully. Some former Olympians choose to pursue a regular office job like the rest of us. Case in point? Per NBC News, speed skater Cathy Turner, who won gold in both the 1992 Albertville games and the 1994 Lillehammer games, is now a database manager at Paychex, a payroll and human resources company in Rochester, N.Y. Meanwhile, this year's 23-year-old gold medalist swimmer Maya DiRado has decided to forgo a return to the Olympics, instead beginning a career with management consulting firm, McKinsey and Co., in September.

Others start their own businesses — like Diann Roffe, who retired at age 26 after earning a gold medal in Super G during the 1994 winter Olympics and now runs ALPINEone, a company that makes steel locker systems for team locker rooms.

Of course, younger Olympians also have the option of continuing their athletic careers at a university. This year's breakout swim star, Katie Ledecky, is set to attend Stanford under an athletic scholarship this fall, where she's expected to swim at least one NCAA season before returning to international competition.

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Whatever path Olympians take — whether it's finding a new career or returning to train — one thing's for sure: they'll always carry the memory of competing in the Games with them.