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Seven Olympic athletes who transitioned to television - VIDEO

by Richard Keller, posted Aug 13th 2008 2:02PM

When I think about the Olympics I don't think about the grandeur of the competitions, the feeling of global community, the individual stories of the athletes, or the mesmerizing synchronized swimming routines. The one thing that comes to mind when I think about the Olympics: anonymity. Out of the thousands of athletes that compete in these games many fade into the daily routine of their countries once the Closing Ceremony is completed.

Yet, there are a handful, particularly the up-and-coming stars of each Olympic games, that remain in the spotlight well after the torch has been extinguished. Some continue into the professional sports realm, others become "experts" in their field, and some jump into another profession altogether. Then there are those who enjoy the television spotlight so much that they remain in the medium in one capacity or another.

Sometimes it's as themselves on other television properties. Other times they dabble into the acting field with mixed results. Here are seven Olympic athletes who continued their careers on television in one form or another.

Muhammad Ali (Gold medal, 1960 Summer Olympics) -- Muhammad Ali and television were made for each other. In addition to the many places where he acted as himself, Ali actually had one acting role playing Gideon Jackson in 1979 movie Freedom Road. Ali also voiced his animated persona in the Saturday morning cartoon I am the Greatest: The Adventures of Muhammad Ali.

George Foreman (Gold medal, 1968 Summer Olympics) -- Another Olympic boxer who appeared as himself on such shows as Saturday Night Live and Home Improvement, George also acted in a number of programs like The Six Million Dollar Man and his own sitcom, George, in 1993. He is currently starring as himself once again on the TV Land reality series Family Foreman

Mitch Gaylord (Gold medal, 1984 Summer Olympics) -- Mitch's acting career began even before his appearance at the Olympics with a non-credited role on the CBS science fiction series Logan's Run. In the 90s he appeared on shows like the syndicated remake of Dragnet. His most recent appearance was as a judge on the reality show Celebrity Circus.

Bruce Jenner (Gold medal, 1976 Summer Olympics) -- Here is an Olympic athlete who used the most his star-status to have a medium-sized career on television. His biggest on-going role was probably as Officer Steve McLeish on Chips. He has also made acting appearances on Murder, She Wrote, The Love Boat, and King of the Hill, among others. As himself, Jenner has appeared on such shows as Celebrity Double Dare, Skating With Celebrities and, currently, in the E! reality series Keeping Up with the Kardashians.

Michelle Kwan (Medal winner, 1998 and 2002 Winter Olympics) -- Outside of the televised skating competitions she has been involved with after her Olympic win, and an occasional appearance as herself on shows like Sabrina, the Teenage Witch, Michelle's career has been as a voice actor. She has voiced herself in a number of animated shows, including King of the Hill, Arthur, and The Simpsons.

Sugar Ray Leonard (Gold medal, 1976 Summer Olympics) -- Sugar Ray's television appearances have been mixed. He has appeared as himself on shows like Married With Children, The Larry Sanders Show, and The Bernie Mac Show and has acted in Tales From the Crypt, Renegade, L.A. Heat, and CW series Half & Half. He has even dabbled into into the reality realm with a stint as the Boxing Mentor on The Contender.

Mary Lou Retton (Gold medal, 1984 Summer Olympics) -- Out of all of the Olympic athletes mentioned, only Mary Lou Retton hosted her own show. In this case, it was the PBS program Mary Lou's Flip Flop Shop. She has also appeared as herself on Knots Landing, Baywatch, Buddy Faro and Dream On. Plus, how can anyone forget her perky appearances as spokesperson for Energizer Batteries in the 1980's -- long before the Energizer Bunny was born.

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RobynM

How could you forget Scott Hamilton? He's done everything from game shows to voice work, not to mention movies.

August 16 2008 at 2:21 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
John Howard

Using the boxers, especially Ali, is a bit of a stretch. They didn't end up on TV because they were famous Olympians, they ended up on TV because they were famous boxers.

August 14 2008 at 12:03 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
WalterJ

If you include movies (and not just TV), you could add Johnny Weismuller (star of many Tarzan movies) to the list.

August 13 2008 at 8:47 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to WalterJ's comment
Brent McKee

Not to mention Buster Crabbe who not only did movies but had a syndicated series - Captain Gallant of the Foreign Legion - for a couple of years in the 1950s, which co-starred his 11 year-old son Cullen.

August 13 2008 at 11:44 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Richard Keller

Thanks for the information about Bruce and Michelle. I have made the necessary corrections.

August 13 2008 at 3:46 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Karin

Bruce Jenner was on Skating with Celebrities, not Dancing with the Stars.

August 13 2008 at 3:33 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
tom2ytx

Unfortunately, Michelle Kwan has never won an olympic gold medal. She lost to Tara Lipinski in 1998 and then lost to Sarah Hughes in 2002. She's an amazing athlete, but not an Olympic gold medal winner.

August 13 2008 at 3:08 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
tom2ytx

Unfortunately, Michelle Kwan has never won an olympic gold medal. She lost to Tara Lipinski in 1998 and then lost to Sarah Hughes in 2002. She's an amazing athlete, but not an Olympic gold medal winner.

August 13 2008 at 3:05 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Tanner

How could you forget the memorable role Bart Connors and the rest of the US Men's Olympic Gymnastic Team had on Diff'rent Strokes?

August 13 2008 at 2:53 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Cody

You forgot Summer Sanders.

August 13 2008 at 2:48 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Cody's comment
Cody

Also Kurt Angle if we're looking for gold medalists.

August 13 2008 at 2:58 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
joy

I can't believe I didn't know about Mitch Gaylord being a "celeb" judge on "celeb" circus. That might be the only thing to recommend that show to me. Wait, is it still on?

August 13 2008 at 2:39 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to joy's comment
Jeff

What about Summer Sanders?

August 13 2008 at 2:45 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
D Colin

so I watched one episode (to check it out) and didn't realize that one of the judges was Mitch Gaylord. I just looked up for his pic and man he's changed, yeah twenty- four years have passed, wow. He didn't look bad but I just didn't recognize him (and I had such a crush when he was in American Anthem) and I guess i didn't bother reading the judges names either

August 13 2008 at 7:20 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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