11 Olympians Who Are More Famous for Something Else
These athletes made their mark away from the games.
By: Athlon Sports | 7/26/12, 5:28 AM EDT
For these former 11 Olympians, being famous for their athletic efforts at the games just wasn't enough.
Everyone remembers the former running back as one of the great sports icons of the 1980s; Walker finished in the top three of the Heisman Trophy voting after all three of his seasons at Georgia, and he won the award in ’82. He was also an accomplished sprinter for the Bulldogs track team. Walker played professionally in the USFL and NFL from ’83 to ’97, but many probably have forgotten about his brief foray into Olympic bobsledding: He was on the U.S. two-man team in ’92, and finished seventh.
The princess competed in the 1976 Olympics on Britain’s equestrian team, where she did not medal, though she did medal in the European Eventing Championships. Obviously, Her Royal Highness is far more famous for representing her country than for her athletic feats.
The Princeton basketball star became the youngest member of the 1964 U.S. Olympic basketball team, which won gold. Bradley later went on to a successful NBA career, but became just as (and maybe more) famous as a U.S. Senator from New Jersey from 1979 to 1997 and a Presidential candidate.
Babe Didrikson Zaharias
The Texan won two golds and one silver in the 1932 Games between the javelin, high jump, and 80-meter hurdles. She also dove, roller-skated, bowled, and played baseball and basketball outside the Olympics, but was most famous as a dominant golfer (she won 82 amateur tournaments) and a founding member of the LPGA, where she won 41 events and even played in three PGA men’s events as well. She may be the greatest female athlete of all time.
Larry “Buster” Crabbe
The Hawaiian swimmer won bronze in the 1500-meter freestyle in 1928, and the gold in the 400-meter freestyle four years later. He later starred in over 100 movies, including roles as Tarzan and Flash Gordon.
Ben Nighthorse Campbell
Campbell immigrated to America at age 6, then competed for his country in judo in the 1964 Olympics, where he was injured and did not medal. A military veteran-turned-politician in the 1980s, he served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1987 to 1993, then as a Senator from ’93 to 2005. Campbell switched from the Democratic Party to the Republican side in 1995.
Those of us who grew up in the 1970s know Bruce Jenner as one of the most famous Olympic athletes of his time. Jenner finished third in the decathlon at the 1972 Munich Olympics and won the same event in 1976 in Montreal. He won the Sullivan Award and the AP’s Male Athlete of the Year in ’76 as well. Sadly, later generations know him as the stepfather to Kourtney, Kim and Khloe and father to Kendall and Kylie on the E! reality series, Keeping up with the Kardashians.
The Californian won the decathlon in 1948 and in ’52, and also took Stanford to the Rose Bowl the latter year. He served his state in the U.S. House of Representatives from ’67 to ’75 as well.
Thorpe was the male counterpart of Babe Didrikson, excelling in just about every sport he ever tried. As far as Olympic sports, that included the decathlon and pentathlon, in which he won gold in both at Stockholm in 1912. Those medals were taken away from Thorpe when it later became known he’d taken money for playing baseball, but he was re-awarded them in 1983. He later played Major League Baseball and also in the NFL, where he was elected to the Hall of Fame. After Thorpe’s death, the Pennsylvania town of Mauch Chunk renamed itself “Jim Thorpe” even though Thorpe had never been there.
When Weissmuller was nine, he contracted polio, and doctors recommended swimming as therapy. What a suggestion that turned out to be: He won three swimming gold medals in the 1924 Games and then two more in Amsterdam four years later. The handsome Weismuller became a model one year later before Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer cast him as Tarzan in the 1932 hit, Tarzan the Ape Man. He would appear in six more Tarzan movies, and later, 13 Jungle Jimfilms while working for Columbia.
Ryun won silver at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City in the 1500 meters, four years after becoming the first U.S. high school runner to break four minutes in the mile. From 1996 to 2007, Ryun served his native Kansas at one of its U.S. Representatives.
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