Past Olympic Stars: Where Are They Now?

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Being an athlete of Olympic caliber is an all-consuming task. For many, the Olympic Games is a culmination of years (if not decades) of sacrifice and training for that one moment in time. Singular focus is what it takes. Then in an instant, a career, an entire lifetime, and then that identity is over. It just ends. Sometimes with gold and a fanfare, other times with simply memories and the honor of having competed. Then what?

Unlike professional athletes in the big money sports, most Olympians don't have a bank account to show for all their hard work beyond whatever sponsorship monies they have been able to land. Let's face it, even big money doesn't make the transition to retirement any easier. So many high-ticket players simply blow the money and end up cash-strapped used-to-be's, which is why franchising is becoming a popular post-retirement career for professional and other elite athletes.

Retirement can be an emotionally charged time for anyone, but even more so for elite athletes who have to go from stadiums of cheering fans to the solitude of career transition at a much earlier age, usually decades before traditional retirement. Going from top of your sport to retired carries a heavy mental price, one that many athletes don't plan for but one which no one can avoid. Confusing who you are with what you do can be even more tricky for athletes, many of who have trained since they were young children. With the sport as a core part of childhood, adolescence, and into adulthood, the lines between who you are and what you do can be blurred even more. A recent Forbes article looked at how star athletes deal with retirement and talks about the magnitude of the mental transition:

Too often people confuse who they are with what they do; or unknowingly fall in love with their job or aspect of work life that can’t love them back.  In doing so, they set themselves up for disappointment and unnecessary struggles in the early phases of retirement. Unlike a simple break-up, retirement can result in a full-blown divorce, leaving those who aren’t prepared lost and misguided.

Depression, addiction, weight gain, and even suicide can plague the elite athlete. After all, they go from burning thousands of calories a day in training to regular everyday living. Unless a new passion is rekindled, the limbo can last a long time.

In this New York Times piece on life after the Games for five former Olympians (Tara Lipinski, Sasha Cohen, Sarah Hughes, Jeremy Bloom, and Joey Cheek ), Bloom summed up the post-sport life as:

“My biggest fear of quitting sports was — what’s next?” Bloom said. “What the hell is my life going to look like now? I worried that I was going to be worthless to society.”

Let's take a look at five famous female Olympians and where they are now ...

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