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31 Famous Olympic Athletes Who've Made Headlines -- Both On & Off the Podium

Celebrities Tanvier Peart Aug 12, 2016

Olympian Shannon Miller

Can you still feel the Olympic fever running through your veins? It's so addictive! Even though we all have two years to catch our breath, there's something about cheering for your favorite athlete that helps create so many amazing memories. So, in honor of the Olympic season, we're taking a stroll down memory lane. Come with us.

 

Shannon Miller. Michael Jordan. Tara Lipinski. These names ring a bell, right? They should.

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There are so many amazing Olympic stories that fill our timelines (not counting the fact there wasn't a thing called social media back in the day), it's hard not to pinpoint standout stories. From amazing world records to scandals that made our mouths completely drop, here's a look at Olympic athletes who made headlines ... and a reminder of (if they're not still competing) what the heck they're up to now.

 

Images via Chris Cole/Allsport/Getty Images; Everett Collection / Shutterstock

 

#FBF another one for my skating peeps. I always had such subtle reactions #bangs #peggysvoice

A video posted by Tara Lipinski (@taralipinski) on

1Tara Lipinski

Simply put, Tara Lipinski was our '90s. As the youngest person to win a world figure skating championship, Tara proved you can achieve greatness, even if you're still navigating your teen years. At age 16, this girl on fire blazed on the ice at the 1998 Olympics, where she took home the gold medal. Making appearances on classic '90s shows like Sabrina, the Teenage Witch; 7th Heaven; and Malcolm in the Middle, Tara is now a sports commentator for NBC.

2Kerri Strug

There are certain events in life that force us to stop and take pause -- and the 1996 Olympics was one of them. With the "Magnificent Seven" locked and ready to take home the gold, Kerri Strug's incredible vault routine while injured (Strug tore two ligaments in her ankle) will forever be a champion moment. Kerri attended UCLA after the Olympics, where she graduated and later became an elementary school teacher. Now she spends her days as the program manager for the US Department of Justice's Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention and is also a wife and mom of two.

Images via Walter McBride/INFphoto.com; H&M/ Splash News

3Caitlyn Jenner

Caitlyn Jenner (then Bruce) won the 1976 Olympic gold medal for a world record–setting decathlon performance. Jenner even saw some success in front of the cameras over the years, often starring in made-for-TV movies and making appearances on game shows. Needless to say, all that faded to the background when Jenner married Kris Kardashian and the pair, along with their blended family, changed the reality game with their show, Keeping Up With the Kardashians. In April 2015, Jenner officially announced plans to transition and has been living in her truth ever since.

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Image via KCS Presse/Splash News

4Michael Phelps

There's absolutely no way in hell we could ever talk about the Olympics and headlines and not bring up Michael Phelps. He's the most-decorated Olympian of all freaking time -- and is still handling his business inside the swimming pool at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games. With more than 25 Olympic medals, Michael Phelps recently broke a 2000-year-old Olympic record with his individual Olympic golds. As exciting as Michael has been to watch in the pool, he had a couple bad run-ins with police in the past. In 2004 and 2014, Phelps got arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol. Contemplating suicide at one point, Michael was able to rise out of his dark place and get his life back on track. Now with a fiancée and an adorable 3-month-old son in his corner, Phelps is ready to conquer both the Olympics and the world. 

Images via Brad Camembert / Shutterstock.com; s_bukley / Shutterstock.com

5Lance Armstrong

You simply cannot bring up Lance Armstrong without mentioning the scandal that still haunts him today. Noted as a "dealer and a liar," the federal government has a civil case against Armstrong for fraudulent actions surrounding his highly publicized doping debacle. Armstrong vehemently denied taking performance enhancers for many years until 2013, when he finally admitted to using steroids. Not only did he return the Olympic bronze medal he won at the 2000 Summer Olympic Games, but the Tour de France stripped Lance of his seven consecutive titles. Between trying to settle lawsuits and deal with the disgrace he caused for Livestrong, his cancer charity (Lance battled testicular cancer), it looks like Armstrong still has an uphill battle ahead of him.

Image via Sedres/London Entertainment / Splash News

6Oscar Pistorious

Known as "Blade Runner," Oscar Pistorious is a South African track and field competitor who became the first amputee to compete on an Olympic level. Though he didn't medal, Pistorious's presence at the games inspired many to fight for their dreams, no matter the limitations. But in Septemeber 2014, a South African judge convicted Pistorious of culpable homicide for killing his girlfriend in his home on Valentine's Day (he said he thought she was an intruder). A year later, however, Oscar's conviction was reversed to murder. The six-time Paralympic gold medalist is currently serving his six-year prison sentence.

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Images via Derek Storm / Splash News; Ouzounova/Splash News

7Nancy Kerrigan

Even though Nancy Kerrigan is a two-time Olympic and world medalist, she will forever be associated with "the whack heard around the world" -- when she was attacked by a hitman (who was hired by rival Tonya Harding's ex-husband) just seven weeks before the 1994 Winter Olympics, where she succeeded in earning a silver medal. After retiring, Kerrigan skated in a series of ice shows and made on-screen appearances as an Olympics correspondent and in the movie Blades of Glory. Earlier this year, Kerrigan choreographed the 2016 Skate Niagara Ice Show in Ontario, Canada.

Images via Dara Torres/Twitter; AdMedia / Splash News

8Dara Torres

Should you ever hear someone say the nickname "DT," please know said person is talking about true greatness. Dara Torres is an Olympic swimmer (she has 12 medals to prove her worthiness) who not only set records, but proved to the world age ain't nothing but a number. At her final Olympic Games in 2008, Torres (at 45 years young) became the oldest swimmer to join an Olympic team. And, until recently, Dara was the only swimmer to make it on five US Olympic squads. (Michael Phelps now joins the club.) Spending her days outside the pool as a TV announcer on occasion, Dana Torres also lends her voice to many charities -- including her recent work with Team Kellogg and its endeavors to inspire Olympic hopefuls to achieve greatness. 

Image via Suntzulynn for LE / Splash News

9Mary Lou Retton

What is there to say about Mary Lou Retton -- except that she's awesome. Mary became the first American female gymnast to medal at the Olympics (she won five to be exact) and was also the first female athlete to grace the front of a Wheaties box. Even though it's been quite some time since Mary competed, the 48-year-old continues to impact the sport of gymnastics -- earning herself the title "Gym Mom of the Year." When's she not cheering on her four daughters (all are involved in gymnastics), Retton is a "Fitness Ambassador" who enjoys traveling to spread the gospel of fitness and nutrition. 

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Images via Splash News; TonyaHarding1/Twitter

10Tonya Harding

Oh, Tonya, Tonya, Tonya. Despite all her accomplishments -- including winning two Olympic medals and being the first US woman to land a triple axel -- Tonya Harding will forever be known for her lifetime figure skating ban due to the attack against former Olympic teammate Nancy Kerrigan. While Harding says she had no part in her ex-husband and bodyguard's schemes, nothing could stop her fall from grace. Taking a detour from figure skating, Tonya Harding became a professional boxer in 2003 for about a year before she gave it up (her record was 4-3).

Image via Amazon.com

11The 'Dream Team'

Before ballers like LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, and Kevin Durant played in an Olympic arena, we had the Dream Team. This US basketball team of titans (comprised of Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Scottie Pippen, Karl Malone, Charles Barkley, Patrick Ewing, Chris Mullin, John Stockton, David Robinson, Christian Laettner, Clyde Drexler, and a somewhat well-known player named Michael Jordan) dominated the 1992 Olympic Games. So, just how badass were these men? During their entire time on the court, the Dream Team never scored fewer than 100 points. Needless to say, they took home the gold and all went on to have pretty awesome careers. (Every one of them is in the Basketball Hall of Fame.)

glad to have this girl by my side as we continue the winning streak🏆 @k.walshjennings

A photo posted by Misty May-Treanor (@misty_maytreanor) on

12Misty May Treanor & Kerri Walsh Jennings

If you look up "best volleyball duo with superhuman powers," you'll likely see a photo of Misty May Treanor and Kerri Walsh Jennings. Undeniably the best beach volleyball team we've ever seen kick ass and take names in the sand, these ladies won gold at three consecutive Olympic Games and together have 14 Olympic victories. Since their time together, Misty competed on Dancing With the Stars and gave birth to daughter Malia in 2014. Kerri continues to play volleyball (she and partner April Ross will try their hand at winning gold during the 2016 Olympics), and is proud mama to three children -- one of whom, daughter Scout (age 3), was front and center during the 2012 Olympics. (Mom was five weeks pregnant at the time of the event.)

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Image via s_bukley / Shutterstock

13Dorothy Hamill

Dorothy Hamill is a figure skating icon who won the Olympic gold at age 19. Dorothy's influence -- including her infamous "Hamill camel" -- helped revolutionize the sport and she went on to win three medals at the World Championships. Plus, she had a mean bob that everyone copied. Despite her success on the ice, after purchasing the Ice Capades in the mid '90s, Dorothy Hamill experienced major financial setbacks, causing her to file for bankruptcy. And, if that's not traumatizing enough, doctors diagnosed Dorothy with breast cancer in 2008. Now cancer-free for eight years, Hamill continues to empower others with her Be WisER + About Breast Cancer campaign. As Dorothy told People, "I'm a beneficiary of the research that's been done, so I felt a responsibility to do what I could to make it easier for the next person."

14Nadia Comaneci

Not only does Nadia Comaneci have nine Olympic medals (five of which are gold), but the former Romanian gymnast was the first Olympic athlete to ever score a perfect 10 -- and she was 14 when she did it! With handfuls of international titles to call her own, Nadia has spent much of her adult years giving back. Once a speaker at the United Nations, Comaneci is now on the International Board of Directors for the Special Olympics. An honorary president of both the Romanian Olympic Committee and the Romanian Gymnastic Federation, Nadia continues to inspire gymnasts around the world.

15Usain Bolt

It must be crazy for Usain Bolt to think of himself as the world's fastest man (maybe it isn't?), but that doesn't make it any less true. With plans to end his career after the 2016 Olympics, Usain Bolt went into this year's games as the most decorated sprinter ever to do the damn thing. Six for six in the gold medal department, Bolt also has 11 World Championship gold medals and world records to add to his name. Usain is also a champion for his Usain Bolt Foundation, which focuses on stewardship and providing opportunities for children to thrive. We'll miss "Lightening Bolt," but look forward to the next chapter of his life.

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Images via Bob Martin/Allsport/Getty Images; gotpap/Bauergriffin.com

16Jackie Joyner-Kersee

When people refer to you as the greatest female all-around competitor, yeah, you're kind of a big deal. Jackie Joyner-Kersee has six Olympic medals and four gold World Championships for track and field. And, if that just sounds like pocket change to you, know this: During Jackie's competition days, she set heptathlon world records ... three times! (She was also the first US female athlete to set a world record in a multi-event.) A fierce competitor, Jackie Joyner-Kersee has also been the face of asthmatic athletes and continues to advocate for health issues. Both her foundation, the Jackie Joyner-Kersee Foundation and Athletes for Hope (Jackie is a cofounder) strive to help pay it forward. Jackie Joyner-Kersee recently became a Comcast spokesperson in effort to make certain technology accessible to low-income families.

Image via Tonya Wise/London Ent/Splash News

17Michelle Kwan

You'll find it damn hard to think about Olympic-level athletes and not add Michelle Kwan to the mix. Earning two Olympic medals in 1998 and 2002, Kwan has a total of 40 championships under her belt and ties for winning the most US Championships. She stole our hearts on the ice as a teen (Michelle was 18 when she won her first Olympic medal) and continues to inspire us today with her endeavors. Working as a public diplomacy ambassador in the early '00s, Michelle Kwan continued her diplomatic pursuits as an envoy for the Obama administration. Today, Michelle plans to help Hillary Clinton by opening an organizing office for the presidential hopeful's campaign.

Images via Chris Cole/Allsport/Getty Images; Everett Collection / Shutterstock

18Shannon Miller

Another standout who made heads turn during the 1996 Olympics is gymnast Shannon Miller. Earning herself five Olympic medals, before adding two to her trophy box with the "Magnificent Seven," Miller also has nine medals from World Championships. Shannon's ferocity helped land her in a series of noteworthy halls of fame -- including the International Gymnastics Hall of Fame and the US Olympic Hall of Fame. (Shannon Miller is the only female athlete inducted twice.) Fast-forward many years later and you'll see Shannon enjoying life as a wife, mother, ovarian cancer survivor, and author of It's Not About Perfect: Competing for My Country and Fighting for My Life.

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Image via David Madison/Getty Images

19Marion Jones

Marion Jones was truly a force on the track. In 2000, Jones became the first female to ever win five Olympic track-and-field medals (three gold and two bronze) at a single Olympic Games. Needless to say, Jones was an awesome athlete. Too bad she would lose her titles. In 2007, Marion Jones admitted to using steriods prior to the 2000 Olympics and lying to federal agents about it. As a result of her actions, Marion Jones had to serve a six month prison sentence. Once she completed her time, Marion briefly played for the Tulsa Shock WNBA team in 2010 before getting cut. Jones now spends her days working to make a difference with Take a Break, a program Marion created to help others avoid life-altering mistakes due to their poor decisions.

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