15 years ago, David Ayres had to undergo getting a kidney transplant. Ever since then, he figured his days of playing competitive hockey were over. But last week he found out that they weren’t – and that one more game would change his career forever.
In front of more than 18,000 people, the emergency goalie blocked a series of shots that would lead the Carolina Hurricanes to victory.
But that came just moments after he hit the ice, and was hit in the face by fear. The 42-year-old father of three had already spent years sitting on the sidelines without getting his hopes up. When they called him, he admitted that he thought it was a joke at first.
But after the tean’s starting and other backup goalies were injured, it was his time to shine. And shine he did.
“Actually, I did think it was a prank,” the 42-year-old father of three said. “When the guy first came into the room he said, ‘Get your stuff on, we’re going out on the ice,’ I said, ‘Are you serious?'”
He was more than just trained on the ice – as the director of operations at the Mattamy Athletic Centre, a local arena in Toronto, he spent all day every day around the ice, along with his training to prepare him for this exact moment. But nothing can truly prepare someone for their first play for a professional team, until that moment itself comes.
He entered the game in the second period, and his team was in the lead 3-1 against the Toronto Maple Leafs. At first, he was too shaky on his feet – letting two goals in quick.
“The first two shots went in, and that wasn’t good for me,” he said. “It kind of killed the confidence for a second. I had to regroup. One of the players came down to me, and he said, ‘Just relax, this is gonna be fun for you, have a good time with it. We don’t care how many goals you let in, and let’s just have fun.'”
Then he made a redeeming save – followed shortly by seven more.
By the end of the game, Ayres had completely shut out the other team, and the Hurricanes took home a 6-3 win. Ayres personally left the ice to raging cheers from the fans.
If that wasn’t life-changing enough for him, he entered the locker room to another standing ovation from the other Hurricanes – who gave him a hurricane of their own in celebration of his role in the game.
“I had no idea that was coming,” he said. “Next thing you know I’m having the shower before I even get in the shower.”
After his kidney transplant, he thought his career was over. His own mother was the donor, so the night felt like a victory for her as well – she even called in the news with the following statement to her son: “I was always very proud of you from the beginning, and this has just made me so extremely proud,” she. “I have no words. I couldn’t sleep for the first night. It’s amazing.”
That night, Ayres played and won a life-changing game – but he also made a piece of history, becoming the oldest goalie in NHL history to celebrate a victory in their regular-season debut.
To commemorate it, his stick was sent to the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto.
Famous Olympic Athletes And How They’re Looking Years Later
Olympic medalists are among the most exceptional human beings on the planet. Unsurprisingly, these outstanding individuals often continue to excel later in life… Check out some of the greatest Olympians and how they’re doing nowadays.
Shawn Johnson’s parents made a very fateful decision when they took her to a gymnastics class. She was just three years old, and it kicked off a successful career that culminated in grabbing gold at the balance beams and three silver medals in the 2008 Beijing Games. A torn ACL she suffered in a skiing accident cut short her gymnastics career, but she has remained in the public eye. Besides Dancing with the Stars, Johnson’s made regular appearances on TV whether it be talk shows or commentary.
At the young age of 14, Amanda Beard won a gold and two silver medals at the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games. Images of her clutching her teddy bear at the podium are some of the most memorable pictures from the Games, when she became the second-youngest American to win a gold medal. Beard continued to compete at the Olympics until 2012, when she didn’t qualify. She managed to win seven Olympic medals all in all. Besides her career in sports, she’s worked as a sports correspondent, model, and as an animal rights activist.
Tara Lipinski made history at just 14 years, nine months, and 10 days old when she became the 1997 World Figure Skating Champion. The following year, the American skating sensation converted this success to Olympic gold in the 1998 Olympics, but when she became professional that same year, it meant she could no longer compete in competitions. The media lambasted her, and one journalist likened it to joining the circus. Lipinski ended her professional career in 2002, but later said she was searching for something, so she launched a sports commentator career.
Michael Phelps smashed fellow American Mark Spitz’s records, winning an incredible 23 Olympic gold medals. This brings his total Olympic medals up to 28. After 2012, it was thought that he had retired, yet in 2016 he returned to the Olympic Games, this time in Rio, and dominated the competition. They were his fourth Games. Besides winning medals, he also started the Michael Phelps Foundation in 2008, which grows swimming as a sport to promote health ever since he committed a $1 million bonus from Speedo.
Nancy Kerrigan may be best remembered when rival Tonya Harding’s husband ordered a hit to cripple her, after which she came back to win a silver medal at the 1994 Winter Olympics. If she hadn’t been attacked, there’s a chance she could have won the gold. Later, she continued skating in several different ice shows. Besides skating, her mother is blind, so she started a foundation to support and raise awareness for the vision-impaired. Kerrigan has appeared in movies and TV, both in guest appearances and as a reporter or host for various programs.
Nastia Liukin is the daughter of two Russian gymnastic champions who had moved to the U.S., so she was fated to become a star gymnast from the start. Raised in America, she represented the U.S. in the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, where she won five medals. Liukin didn’t make the team for the 2012 Olympics, though this didn’t stop her from branching out. She’s made many appearances at special events and on TV, including Dancing with the Stars and Ninja Warrior.
Dominique Moceanu became the youngest to compete for a medal in the Olympics when she arrived in Atlanta shortly after her 14th birthday, winning gold in the all-around competition. Unfortunately, injuries forced her to retire only four years later. Moceanu wrote a book about how training so hard from such a young age affected her.
Another one of the “Magnificent Seven,” Dominique Dawes was the one who took home the all-around medal, but that’s not her only distinction. In fact, she’s the first American gymnast to win medals in three consecutive Summer Olympics after she came out of retirement to compete in the 2000 Sydney Games. Before her, no one of African descent had won a gold medal at the Olympics for gymnastics. Dawes has only become more of a national asset since then, having been appointed as a sports advisor to the U.S. government.
American swimmer Brooke Bennett had lost her grandfather mere days before winning big at Atlanta 1996. Despite the tragedy, winning gold anyway was a huge success story, although this personal story might have been overshadowed by swimming star Janet Beth Evans’ last appearance at the Games. Bennett won two more gold medals at the 2000 Olympics but was unable to qualify for the 2004 Olympics. She retired from competitive swimming, yet she coaches high school, opened and runs the Brooke Bennett Swim School, and swims marathons.
Gregory Louganis was the first diver in history to receive a perfect score from Olympic judges for one of his dives, so it’s no surprise he has won four gold medals. The first two were in 1984 and the rest in 1988, as he swept the men’s events. An LGBT activist whose endorsements were initially dropped when he came out of the closet, in the midst of the AIDS epidemic, he’s since then found acceptance and become a mentor for the U.S. diving team.
Dorothy Hamill first started skating when she was eight, which isn’t the youngest the world has seen, but by the age of 12 she was beating other girls at competitions. In the 1976 Winter Olympics, she wowed the world with her routine and won a gold medal. Hamill has her very own skating move called the Hamill Camel, which is when the skater changes a camel spin to a sit spin. She remained one of the most popular athletes decades after her performance and made quite a lot of TV appearances over the years.
Inge de Bruijn
Inge de Bruijn, the Dutch swimmer, tried several different sports before she focused on swimming. It was a long time before she became a champion, but hard work pays off and she won four gold medals. Before she retired in 2007, she became the oldest Olympian to win gold, and she’s still the oldest woman to do so. Her brother is Matthijs de Bruijn, a fellow Olympian who played water polo in the 2000 Games. De Bruijn was once the face of Sapph, a Dutch lingerie company, and now lives in Eindhoven.
Carly Patterson was inducted into the USA Gymnastics Hall of Fame thanks to her performances in the 2004 Athens Olympic Games, which was the first time an American won the all-around competition in a non-boycotted Olympics. After this, she was forced to retire because of an injury she realized she had in her back. “Carly,” she was told by her doctor, “you really need to stop if you want to be able to walk when you get older.” Patterson since then launched her music career as a singer/songwriter.
The media have always called U.S. gymnasts by creative names, and Shannon Miller was one of the so-called “Magnificent Seven” who competed in Atlanta in 1996. She was returning after bringing home five medals in the 1992 Barcelona Olympic Games and took home two more golds in ’96. Miller is deservedly considered one of the greatest gymnasts who competed at the Olympics. After her achievements, Miller has spent her time starting a foundation whose stated intent is to combat childhood obesity.
Larisa Latynina from the Soviet Union was a record-holder until Michael Phelps came along, having won no less than 18 Olympic medals — five of them gold! After achieving victory at the Olympics between 1956 and 1964, she coached for the Soviet team. The Soviet women’s team won gold in 1968, 1972, and 1976 before she retired from coaching. Then, Latynina was an organizer for the 1980 Moscow Games’ gymnastics competition. Today, she lives in a rural estate in Russia.
After Paul Hamm won gold at the all-around in the 2004 Athens Olympics, he became the only American gymnast to have won the all-around in both the Olympics and the Gymnastics World Championships. This gold medal was controversial because of a scoring error that happened to one of his competitors, but the medal remained with Hamm, who also won a pair of silvers. After he failed to make the team both in 2008 and 2012, he made appearances on the Japanese version of Ninja Warrior.
Annia Hatch was born in Cuba, and she represented her homeland since she was four years old. Despite qualifying for the 1996 Olympics, the Cuban Olympic Committee didn’t have enough funds to send her to the games, even though they were closeby in Atlanta, Georgia. But in 1997 she met Alan Hatch, an American, and married him. She had already moved to the U.S. and gotten naturalized, so when the 2004 Olympics rolled around, she wowed judges and won two silvers. Since then, she has coached and designed her own fashion line.
Kyla Ross along with her childhood friend, McKayla Maroney both competed as part of the “Fierce Five” on Team USA in the 2012 London Olympic Games, bringing back a gold medal in the team event. She later started going to school at UCLA, where she continued with gymnastics and competed on their collegiate team. The 11th NCAA gymnast to achieve a perfect score in 2019, she became only the second person with the distinction of earning perfect marks in a competition a week later.
Jordyn Wieber won a gold medal in London at the 2012 Games, which became all the more impressive once she disclosed that she had developed a stress fracture which she soldiered through during the team event. She retired from professional gymnastics in 2015, but Wieber couldn’t be kept from the sport. In April 2019, during her senior year of college at the University of Arkansas, she became the first Olympic champion to take on the coaching job for the Arizona Razorbacks.
Bart Conner took home two gold medals in 1984 for the American team, solidifying his place among the country’s preeminent gymnasts. He was inspired by Nadia Comaneci and arranged to appear on The Pat Sajak Show after learning that his idol was due to appear on it. The two hit it off and Comaneci was impressed by Conner. They started dating and married in 1996. He founded the Bart Conner Gymnastics Academy, which he runs with his fellow Olympian wife.
Gabrielle Douglas might never have gotten her start had her older sister not begun first. She taught the three-year-old and before a few years were done, Gabrielle had become a state champion in her native Virginia. She continued to make splashes as she grew older, and she helped the American team take home gold that year. The next Olympics, the 2016 Rio Games, Douglas took home another gold medal. That was the same year she starred in her own TV show, Douglas Family Gold, a reality show that ran for one season.
The first memory you may have of Summer Sanders might be when she appeared on TV as the host of a Nickelodeon show Figure It Out, which premiered in 1997. Her start, though, was winning four medals swimming at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. The camera liked her a lot and, with her experience as an Olympic champion, she is the perfect sports commentator. In fact, Sanders was still competing when she began giving commentary for various sporting events, but she’s since retired from competitive swimming.
Dara Torres has more medals than most Olympians with 12 to her name, four of them gold. That’s more success than most of us can hope for, and she was only cut short when injuries forced her to stop. Torres had to undergo surgery for her knees and stopped competitive swimming. Ever since then, in 2012, she’s pursued modeling as a career, in addition to being a TV correspondent. Torres still swims as a celebrity swimmer for a cancer research-funding charity called Swim Across America.
Allison Schmitt has won eight Olympic medals by swimming for the US team so far, and there’s a chance we’ll see even more medals in the future. In 2008’s Beijing Games, she won only a bronze medal, but in 2012 in London she won five medals. Three were gold and Schmitt helped set a world record in a relay race. Besides international competitions, she was a four-time NCAA swimming champion in the 200 and 500-yard races.
Ryan Lochte has appeared in the media in recent years with several controversies, including one claim from the Brazilian police that the authorities vehemently denied and which cost him his spot on the US Team in the 2016 Rio Olympics. Despite this, he’s a champion swimmer that holds the record in the 200-meter and 400-meter individual medley. All in all, he has 12 Olympic medals to his name, six of them gold. Besides swimming, Lochte appeared on TV in 2019 for Celebrity Big Brother.
American Katie Ledecky currently holds records in several races, the 1500-meter, 800-meter, and 400-meter freestyle. Throughout her career, she’s broken 14 world records, many of them her own, and Ledecky is still young enough to break more before she’s done. Just 15 when she debuted in London 2012, she won a gold medal in the 800-meter freestyle race. The next Olympics, the 2016 Rio Games, Ledecky won four more gold medals. In the voting for Associated Press’s Female Athlete of the Decade, only Simone Biles and Serena Williams came before her.
Chen Ruolon is a powerhouse in the diving world, with five gold medals to her name, but injuries to her neck in 2016 have forced her out of competing for good, it seems. Ruolon has competed in three Olympics, though, and is one of only three Chinese athletes with five gold medals. The 10-meter dive is a serious one with a lot of competition, but she dove ahead of the other contenders and won a pair of gold at each of her Olympic appearances except for her final one.
Gary Hall Jr.
Just like his father and namesake, Gary Hall Jr. became an Olympic swimmer. He won five gold medals in three different Olympic Games, but may best be remembered because he used to warm up like a prizefighter. Completing his look with a robe and boxing shorts, Hall would even start shadow boxing and flexing for his fans. He got fined at the 2004 Games. These warm-ups came in handy when he saved his sister’s life in a shark attack by punching the animal repeatedly until it swam off.
Melissa “Missy” Franklin
American swimmer Melissa “Missy” Franklin won five gold medals and held a few records, some of which have since been broken. She debuted at the young age of 17 at the 2012 London Games, having had to make the tough choice of whether to represent Canada or the U.S., as she’s a citizen of both countries. Franklin won four of her five gold medals in her Olympic debut, snagging one more as part of the 200-meter freestyle relay. She retired from professional swimming in December 2018.
Janet Beth Evans
Janet Beth Evans was destined for great things, from the start sticking out from the competition with her unorthodox swimming style. This far-reaching “windmill” style helped her become a champion, despite being short for a swimmer. Evans won two gold medals at each of the 1988 Olympics and 1992 Games, solidifying her place in American swimming history by defeating larger competitors, some of whom were found to use illegal performance enhancers. Since then, Evans helped bring the Olympics back to the U.S., as the 2028 Games will take place in Los Angeles.
Ian Thorpe is allergic to chlorine, so pursuing a career in competitive swimming might not have been what the doctor ordered when he first started off, but his talent was so undeniable once he debuted at the 2000 Sydney Olympics. He’s won five gold medals, the most of any Australian. The great Michael Phelps said Thorpe is a hero of his. Despite retiring from the sport, he remains one of the most popular athletes in the world. Thorpe is also an activist for LGBT rights. Besides his swimming career, he’s an ambassador for Armani.
Natalie Coughlin was an NCAA swimming champion before she entered the Olympics, and she truly shone at the 2004 Athens Olympics by winning two gold medals for the U.S. She is the first woman to swim the 100-meter backstroke race in under a minute, a feat accomplished at the following Olympics in Beijing. Besides modeling after her swimming career, she became CO2 Coconut Water’s spokeswoman and made TV appearances. Coughlin was a judge on Iron Chef America and competed on Chopped.
Peggy Fleming was the Olympic figure skating champion in 1968, two years after she became the world champion. Since then, she’s skated professionally, performing shows. Fleming was also a goodwill ambassador for the United States, having skated in both the Soviet Union and China during the Cold War. She remains one of America’s enduringly popular athletes. There always seems to be a spot for her to commentate in the Winter Games whenever they roll around. Besides skating, she owns a winery with her husband.
Most people can’t even do a backflip, but Scott Hamilton can do one on skates! It’s actually against the rules in competitive skating, so that’s not the reason he’s on this list. Not just an acrobat, his footwork wowed judges at international competitions in the early ’80s. He won his gold at the 1984 Olympics after dominating the competition for years. Since then, he’s skated with Stars On Ice and the like, as well as branching out into charity and writing books.
Sarah Hughes started skating when she was just three years old, following her father, a college hockey player, onto the ice rink. She’s one of the youngest skating gold medalists, having won ahead of her 17th birthday. Hughes also has the distinction of being the only American woman to win Olympic gold without first winning a world or U.S. title in the sport. Her mother is a breast cancer survivor, and Hughes has said, “I always said that if I can get one person to get a mammogram, I’ve accomplished something.”
Sasha Cohen is the most recent American woman to get an individual Olympic medal after winning silver at the 2006 Games. Actually starting off in gymnastics, by the age of seven Cohen started figure skating. After 2006, she announced she’d be retiring from competitive skating and went into entertainment, skating with Stars on Ice. Cohen didn’t get selected for the U.S. team when she came out of retirement for the 2010 Olympics. Since then, she has pursued her interest in finance and works as an associate at Morgan Stanley.
Although she’s not an individual champion in skating, ice dancer Meryl Davis won a gold medal in Sochi 2014 alongside partner Charlie White, improving from silver the previous Games. This was the first time an American team had won the event and it was a big victory for the U.S., solidifying both of their places in history. The pair have skated together since 1997, making them the longest-lasting American dance team. Since they retired competitively in 2017, Davis still performs with him in ice shows.
Charlie White, Meryl Davis’s partner, made history as part of the first American team that won gold in the ice dance competition at an Olympic Games. He’s a former hockey player and ice dancing came naturally to him. While raking up a resumé like that, they performed on ice shows as well. In 2014, the same year he won the gold with Davis, they competed against each other when they appeared on Dancing with the Stars.
Katarina Witt is one of the legendary names in figure skating, having won a couple of gold medals at the 1984 and 1988 Olympic Games for East Germany. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, it came out that the secret police had given her cars, accommodations, and traveling perks to keep her from defecting. Now defunct, East Germany’s archives opened up, and Witt found 3,000 pages on her dating from back when she was eight years old. Since then, she’s modeled and had cameo appearances in several movies, such as Jerry Maguire.
Yuna Kim has had one of the most remarkable runs in figure skating in recent years, winning gold in 2010 and silver in 2014 in the individual competition. “Queen Yuna,” as she’s been dubbed, elevated her home country, South Korea, to a status hitherto unknown in the skating world and become one of (if not the) most widely recognized South Korean athletes in the world. Although she has retired and didn’t compete in 2018 when the Winter Games came to South Korea, she lit the Olympic cauldron that year. Her many endorsements and TV appearances keep her busy nowadays.
Long before Trey Parker and Matt Stone immortalized Brian Boitano in the South Park: Bigger, Longer, & Uncut, he came up against Brian Orser in the 1988 Winter Games. Both figure skaters had won World Championships, and it was Boitano that came out on top. Boitano said South Park changed his life as kids completely ignorant about figure skating now saw him as a hero. Parker and Stone have expressed their admiration for him, and Boitano has benefited. Besides skating, he’s now a motivational speaker and chef who appeared on the TV show What Would Brian Boitano Make?
Oksana Baiul was the first Ukrainian to win gold at the Olympics, just a few short years after an independent Ukraine joined the international sporting community. In fact, she’s still the only Ukrainian figure skater to win gold at the Olympics. She picked up skating because she was told she wasn’t suited to ballet. After returning home from the Games to difficult prospects at home, she moved to America and started a professional skating career in ice shows, including Broadway on Ice. She also launched her own fashion and jewelry lines.
Gracie Gold has a name that predicted the gold she’d win in skating competitions, but one gold that eluded her is an Olympic gold medal. Hers must have been a confusing name to announce when she was called to stand at the podium after winning bronze in the 2014 Winter Olympics for the team event. Gold didn’t compete at the 2018 Games and started coaching. However, this didn’t last and she was soon back training to compete, with the goal of making the U.S. team for the 2022 Winter Olympics.
Winning three medals for Canada at the 2014 and 2018 Winter Olympics, Kaetlyn Osmond has the complete set of Olympic medals. The competitive skater took home the gold, silver, and bronze medals during her career. Following her Olympic success, Osmond had an ice skating rink named after her in 2014. The skater ended her career on a high note after winning first place at the 2018 World Championship. In 2019, at the age of 23, Osmond decided to make the bold move and announced her retirement from competitive skating.
Having skated together for more than twenty years, Tessa Virtue and her partner Scott Moir are the longest-standing ice dance team in Canadian history. Starting her career young, Virtue was only eight years old when she was paired with Moir by her coach and aunt. Their achievements and versatility on ice, as well as their lifelong bond, helped the dynamic duo win Olympic gold in the dance competition in 2010 and 2018. They took the silver medal at the 2014 Games. After 22 years together, the pair stopped skating competitively in 2019.
Scott Moir and Tessa Virtue have shared their lives’ accomplishments and disappointments since they were both very young. Moir was ten years old when he was paired with Virtue – more than 20 years later, and they considered by many to be the greatest ice dancers of all time. The pair has won three Olympic medals, and they came to the mutual understanding that they wanted to end their careers together. Moir and Virtue only recently stepped away from competing on ice, and their future remains a mystery to their many fans.
Making an amazing impression when he stepped out onto the Olympic rink in 2010, Evan Lysacek was bound for glory. That same year, he took the men’s singles gold and was then named Sportsman of the year by the United States Olympics Committee. The 34-year-old was the last American male solo figure skater to win an Olympic medal and has not returned to the Winter Games since his big win in 2010. It was a big honor for Lysacek when he was inducted into the U.S Figure Skating Hall of Fame in 2016.
There is no doubt in anyone’s mind that Kristi Yamaguchi’s destiny was to skate. The skater spent most of her youth on ice, and her hard work paid off when in 1992, she was named the Olympic figure skating champion. Yamaguchi quickly turned into a cultural icon in the United States and used that fame to good use after announcing her retirement. In 2005 she was inducted into the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame, and in 2008, she became the sixth celebrity champion of Dancing with the Stars.
Edwin Moses knows no defeat – he took home two gold medals at two Olympic Games in both 1976 and 1984. The champion hurdler’s discipline was the 400m hurdles, and between 1977 and 1987, Moses won a total of 107 finals in a row! The hurdler has set four world records in his lifetime and retired from the racing track in the early 2000s. A true enjoyer of competition, Moses still enjoys racing – now he let’s gravity do the work seeing as he participates in bobsleigh events.
Usain Bolt became the fastest man in the world when he broke the world record on the way to his 100m victory. The former sprinter holds world records for 100m, 200m, and the 100m relay. He is considered to be the greatest sprinter of all time and won Jamaica a gold medal for every Olympic event he competed in, taking a total of eight golds from 2008 to 2016. When Bolt retired, he tried his best to make his way into another sport, even making his way onto a professional soccer team. It turns out, soccer wasn’t his forte, and he officially retired from sports in 2019.
Becoming an American hero after he won a total of four gold medals at the 1984 Olympic Games, Carl Lewis is a name that isn’t easily forgotten. The former athlete has nine Olympic gold medals and ten medals overall in his Olympics career. Lewis won the World Championship a total of ten times before deciding to retire. Hanging up his running shoes in 1997, after more than 20 years on the track. In 2011, Lewis attempted to run for the New Jersey Senate but was unable to due to residence ineligibility.
Sprinter Allyson Felix is unstoppable – literally. The Olympian has won six gold medals in her career so far, but she’s far from being done. In 2019, she won her 12th and13th World Championship and is planning on making the USA’s Olympic team for Tokyo in 2021. The athlete is determined to win and has not taken a break from the track since the beginning of her career. All bets are on Felix as she makes her way to the next Olympic Games.
Former track and field sprinter Maurice Greene specialized in 100m and 200m sprints. He took gold at the 2000 Olympics for the individual and relay events. In 2004, Greene won silver and bronze medals in Athens. Only Usain Bolt surpassed his world record. Greene’s career was affected by several injuries, and since retiring, he has used his fame to become a TV personality appearing on reality shows such as Blind Date and Dancing with the Stars.
Once you win your first gold, it’s hard settling for anything less – that stands true for Michael Johnson, who won three. He won his first gold medal in the 4X400m relay in 1992, before moving onto conquering the 400m and 200m solo events in 1996. Johnson’s final gold came in 2000 as he maintained the title as king of the 400m. Since retiring, Johnson works as a commentator for athletics. In 2018, the former athlete suffered a stroke but has fought to get back to normal since the incident.
Mohamed ‘Mo’ Farah
One of the most successful runners in Olympic history is long-distance runner, Mohamed ‘Mo’ Farah. Farah won his first gold medals for 5,000m and 10,000m events at the 2012 Olympic Games in his home country, Great Britain. Four years later, Farah won both medals once again, making him the second athlete to win successive Olympic doubles in both events. The long-distance runner has transitioned into marathon running and is preparing for the competition at the 2021 Games in Tokyo.
United States pride, Sanya Richards-Ross, is a widely successful 400m runner. She has won gold medals at three different Olympic Games! She won her first gold in 2004 and last in 2012. Ranked best 400m runner in the world for a decade from 2005 to 2009, Richards-Ross rose to the top again in 2012. Richards-Ross’s career came to a sudden halt in 2016 when the runner suffered from a devastating injury to her hamstring, forcing her to retire.
Joanna Hayes’s speed ensures that she doesn’t miss a step while hurdling. The sport is a tricky one, leaping over a fence while running – but Hayes is a pro at it. She hurdled her way to the gold medal at the 2004 Summer Olympics in the 100m hurdles. She started as a 400-meter hurdler, but her pace meant that the 100m was better suited to her skills. Since her retirement, Hayes has focused on coaching, and she teaches track and cross country.
Running the relay is a team effort – you have to hope that everyone on the team runs their best. DeeDee Trotter was one of the most consistent 400m relay runners in the history of America, winning multiple gold medals at both the World Championships and Olympics. She won her first gold in 2004, maintaining an excellent pace through her last Olympic gold in 2012. She has since retired, working as an ambassador for Education First. Trotter has also found a passion for motivational speaking and gives talks around the world.
Lauryn Williams has the unique privilege of being one of just five athletes to win medals at both the Summer and Winter Olympics, being the first American to do so. Making a name as a 100m sprinter in the United States, Williams won a silver medal in Athens and a gold medal in the relay in London. Interestingly enough, Williams left the running track behind and began her career as a bobsleigh competitor. Her speed helped the United States win a silver medal in 2014 in the two-woman bobsleigh event.
In her first Olympic Games in 2008, Shalane Flanagan won a silver medal for the 10,000m event. She competed in cross country before transitioning into marathon running later in her career. She won a single silver medal but has won plenty of success as a marathon runner, winning the New York Marathon in 2017. After her many years of running, Flanagan decided to hang up her sneakers and retire in 2019 to focus her skill on her coaching career.
Kelly Holmes became a hero after her success at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, winning a double gold medal for the 800m and 1,500m events. In 2005, the middle-distance runner received the highest honor one can receive in England. The Queen made Holmes a dame and, in 2008, she founded the Dame Kelly Holmes Trust. The charity supports young athletes and helps the lives of young people facing disadvantage across the UK.
Angelo Taylor is one of the fastest 400m hurdle track athletes in the world. He won gold medals at both the Sydney and Beijing Olympic Games, and a silver in London. Along with his Olympic triumphs, Taylor is a three-time World Champion. The athlete was part of the American 400m relay team, and in 2012, the team won silver – the first time the USA Team hadn’t taken home gold since 1980. After retiring, Taylor worked as a youth coach but was suspended due to misconduct allegations.
British sprinter Linford Christie became a national hero after winning gold in the 100m dash in 1992. He is one of Britain’s most celebrated athletes, being the only British man to have won gold medals in the 100m at all four major competitions open to British athletes. Christie also became the first European to break the 10-second barrier in the 100m dash. Since his retirement, the former athlete has worked as a TV presenter for BBC as a TV, and in 2010 was featured on the reality show I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here!
For five years, Jeremy Wariner was number one when it came to 400m sprinting. The sprinter won three Olympic gold medals in 2004 and 2008 and a whopping five World Championship golds from 2005 to 2009. It seemed like Wariner was unstoppable, but then he failed to make the Olympic team in 2012, and despite his comeback in 2013, Wariner decided to retire from the sport. Despite his retirement, Wariner remains involved in sports, in 2018 he played flag football in the American Flag Football League.
British track and field athlete, Christine Ohuruogu specializes in 400m, the event for which she won her Olympic medals. She won the gold in Beijing and bronze the same year for the 400m relay. In the Olympic Games that took place in her home, London, the athlete took silver after losing to Sanya Richards-Ross. Ohuruogu decided to retire in 2017 when numerous injuries began affecting her speed. The growing commitment to her studies also began to take up more of her time.
Even though she won only one Olympic gold medal, Carmelita Jeter was one of the fastest women ever to run the 100m. Her second fastest ever speed was 10.64 seconds and held three of the top ten fastest times ever run in the 100m. Jeter’s moment of glory came at the 2012 Olympic Games when she won a gold, silver, and bronze medal in the 4 x 100m relay, 100m, and 200m. She ran until 2017 when she was forced to retire due to injury.
Overcoming an injury early on in her career was an obstacle Dawn Harper had to face on her way to becoming an Olympic champion. She tore her PCL and Meniscus before a sectional meet at her school, but still ran the race and ended up winning silver. Years later, she went on to win the gold at the Beijing Olympics. Following her marriage to Alonzo Nelson, Harper now competes under the name Harper-Nelson. Her wedding appeared on the reality show, Say Yes to the Dress.
Cathy Freeman became the first indigenous athlete ever to win an Olympic medal. The Australian runner’s main discipline was the 400m sprint, and after she won a silver in 1996, she was ready to earn gold at the next Olympics. Freeman brought home a gold medal in front of her home crowd at the 2000 Sydney Olympics and has become an Australian icon since. After hanging her running shoes up for good in 2003 in hopes of spending more time with her family, Freeman started the Indigenous Education Foundation to help children in need.
Everyone has heard of Shaun White – he has become more than an athlete, he is an icon. He debuted at the Winter Olympics in 2006 at the age of 20. Everyone knew that Shaun White was going to win a medal for snowboarding at every Olympic event he played. Of his four Olympics, White won a gold medal at three of them and shocked the world when he came home empty-handed in 2014. White is also known for being a pro skateboarder and the guitarist for the band Bad Things.
Sir Chris Hoy
Racing was Sir Chris Hoy’s destiny – he has been a winner for most of his life. At the 2000 Games in Sydney, he received a silver medal and won gold at the 2004 Olympic Games. After tasting success, Hoy kept his game strong. In total, he won six gold medals at the Olympics. After leaving his velodrome days behind, Sir Chris got behind the wheel of a race car, the need for speed was something he just couldn’t let go of.
Sir Steve Redgrave
Although it is a rare phenomenon, some athletes come back every four years and compete at the highest level – Sir Steve Redgrave is one of them. The rower earned his knighthood after taking home a gold medal in five different Olympic Games. He earned his first gold in 1984, and his last in 2000 at the Olympic Games in Sydney. He is considered one of the greatest male rowers of all time. He was given the BBC Sports Lifetime Achievement Award in 2011 and was a torchbearer at the 2012 Olympics.
One of the greatest Olympic athletes in United States history will go down as Jackie Joyner-Kersee. Along with the three gold medals she won throughout her career, she may best be remembered for her achievement in the heptathlon event. In 1986, Joyner-Kersee scored a world record of a total of 7,000 points at the Goodwill Games – her record still stands today. Joyner-Kersee started the Jackie Joyner-Kersee Foundation, a nonprofit that gives support to families affected by poverty.
The heavyweight boxing champion, George Foreman, put himself on the map after winning a gold medal at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City. That gold medal started his path to greatness, putting him on the radar of Muhammad Ali – the two boxers faced each other in “The Rumble in the Jungle.” Although he didn’t beat Ali in that contest, Foreman made his mark as a boxing legend. Since his retirement, he has become the face of the George Foreman Grill company, making 40 percent of the profit.
Birgit Fischer stayed at the top of her sport for longer than many people say they did. The German kayaker competed in a total of eight Olympic Games, making her both the youngest and the oldest to compete in the sports competition. Interestingly enough, Fischer retired from kayaking twice, but couldn’t stay away from the sport for long. Since retiring, Fischer found herself behind the lens – she is a photographer who displays her artwork through the Art of the Olympians Foundation.
The 1980 Soviet Union vs. the United States Olympic ice hockey game was set in stone – the Soviets were bound to win. Then, Team USA pulled off the most incredible upset that has been dubbed “The Miracle on Ice.” Mike Eruzoine is one of the American heroes from that team. Since retiring from hockey, the legend works with Boston University. In 2002, he lit the cauldron at the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics.
When you say the name Mia Hamm – the United States Women’s National soccer team comes straight to your mind. The two are intertwined, Hamm was a huge part of her team’s success both at the Olympics and World Cups. The soccer player earned two Olympic gold medals during her time playing for the team. She was named the Women’s World Player of the Year twice. Even after her retirement from the sport – her name has become synonymous with one of the biggest soccer franchises in the world, Barcelona.
Michael Jordan may be referred to as the greatest basketball player of all time. He won every medal there is to win in basketball, two Olympic gold medals, one in 1984 and his second in 1992. His NBA career is nothing short of fascinating, and Jordan became the first NBA player to become a billionaire – gaining this title in 2014. After retiring, Jordan continued developing his brand and is the principal owner of the franchise, Charlotte Hornets.
Apolo Ohno won a total of eight medals at the Winter Olympics two gold, two silver, four bronze, and and winning eight World Championships between 2001 and 2009. The short track speed skater was only 14 years old when he first became the American speed skating champion. After his winning streak, Ohno ended his career in 2013. In 2007, he was a contestant on Dancing with the Stars – winning the competition. In 2019, Ohno was inducted into the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame.
Bjorn Daehlie is one of Norway’s most-decorated Winter Olympic athletes, winning eight gold medals and four silver in cross-country skiing. He competed at the 1992 Winter Olympics, rising to fame in his home country. He has won a total of 29 medals in the Olympics and World Championships. Daehlie loves the thrill of competition and insists on competing in World Championships, going against his doctor’s recommendation to refrain from further competition. Interestingly enough, besides his athlete career, Bjorn is also an accomplished fashion designer.
Venus & Serena Williams
Sisters Venus and Serena Williams have made themselves stars, and what helped them launch their career into stardom was the Olympics. They competed together in doubles, winning three golds as a team. The sisters each have an individual gold to her name. Serena has won 23 Grand Slam singles titles, the most any woman has won in the Open Era. The unstoppable duo has been playing tennis together for decades and is not planning on stopping anytime soon. Serena, in particular, is still making headlines and is very active on social media.
French skier, Jean-Claude Killy, has made a name for himself in the sport of skiing and around the world. Killy competed at the 1968 Winter Olympics and took home three gold medals – making him the most accomplished French skier. The athlete was married to the late French actress, Danielle Gaubert – together they have had a daughter. Killy also adopted his late wife’s two children from a previous marriage. In addition to his outstanding ski career, Killy made two television series.
Basketball fans will most likely associate Charles Barkley with the NBA, what they may not know is that he is also an Olympic gold medalist. He played for the United States team in both 1992 and 1996 – winning in both tournaments. Barkley was the NBA’s MVP in 1993 and retired in 2000. Barkley has made a name as one of the best broadcast analysts in basketball. Since his retirement, he has written several books and showed an interest in politics.
The Ukrainian pole vaulter who represented the Soviet Union, Sergey Bubka took home Olympic gold in 1988. His achievements in pole vaulting are as impressive as they get and broke the world record 35 times throughout his career. Bubka was named Athlete of the Year by Track & Field news twice, and in 2012 he was inducted as an inaugural member of the International Association of Athletics Federations Hall of Fame. Since retiring, he has become the president of the International Association of Athletics Federations.
Tennis icon and Olympian Andre Agassi had ups and downs throughout his career, one that spanned over two decades. In singles, Agassi is an eight-time Grand Slam champion, and he took first place at the 1996 Olympic Games. He is remembered not only for his tennis abilities but for his bold fashion choices. Agassi retired in 2003, and along with his former tennis player wife, Steffi Graf, is enjoying life away from the competition.
Former American wrestler Rulon Gardner achieved greatness in his career. Competing in the heavyweight category, he won a gold medal in the 2000 games, defeating Russia’s Aleksandr Karelin. He won bronze at the 2004 Games and was unbeaten for 13 years in international competition. Gardner has had a tough life and uses his experiences in his motivational speeches. A couple of hardships he endured throughout his life are the separation from his friend after falling through ice on a frozen river and surviving being punctured by an arrow.
Kerri Walsh Jennings
Kerri Walsh Jennings is one of the United States’ most successful beach volleyball players thanks to her hard work and dedication. She has won three gold medals and is best-known for the bond she shares sith her long-term volleyball partner, Misty May-Treanor. The team competed in four Olympic Games together, from 2004 to 2016. Apart from her volleyball career, Jennings has also modeled and appeared on the reality TV show, Celebrity Wife Swap.
Aly Raisman was on the path to greatness even before the 2016 Olympics. She is considered a part of the “Fierce Five” and is the first American to win gold for the Individual Floor Routine in 2012. She is one of the more experienced members on the team but managed to find time for fun. While focusing most of her attention on being a part of the 2016 Olympic Team, Raisman found the time to compete in Dancing with the Stars between games.
Although she competed as Bruce Jenner – Caitlyn Jenner, is arguable one of the greatest American athletes of all time. Bruce was dubbed an “All American Hero” after winning the decathlon in 1976 and crushing what many consider to be the hardest Olympic sport. Now, as one of the most famous transgender people in the world, Caitlyn Jenner has inspired millions. Jenner’s name is synonymous with the Kardashians, and she was married to Kris Jenner. She now has her reality television show titled, Caitlyn.
Ronda Rousey may be best known for her career as a UFC fighter, but she has been competing for longer than most may know. She won a bronze medal in judo at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, beginning her career in mixed martial arts. After the 2008 games, Rousey began training in all forms of combat. She used her judo skills to become the UFC champion. She relied on those skills when it came to professional wrestling and appeared in WWE – becoming the Women’s Champion.
Alicia Sacramone began training when she was eight years old, and a few years later, she was already competing. It seems like gymnastics was always in the cards for her. When she was 20, she represented Team USA at the Beijing Olympics and won a silver medal in the event. She continued to compete until 2012 and has since become a CoverGirl spokesmodel. She married former NFL quarterback, Brady Quinn, and together they have two children.
Tonya Harding was one of the most controversial and accomplished ice skaters of her generation. She was considered the best ice skater until 1995 when she was accused of being involved in a sabotage attempt on her rival, Nancy Kerrigan. Tonya pleaded innocent as her ex-husband was the one who planned the attack – but her career was over. Harding got banned from professional skating for life by the United States Figure Skating Association. She has since geared her focus towards being a mother and wife and resides in Washington State.
Mary Lou Retton
Mary Lou Retton wowed the world with her individual all-around performance at the 1984 Olympics, which was another gold for the U.S. women’s gymnastics team. Her victory was the first time that an American woman won the all-around, and it has certainly not been the last. It was only a couple of years later when she retired, but she’s been keeping busy with TV appearances and various cameos. Most notably, she was a competitor on Dancing with the Stars in 2018, but she was eliminated early on.
Another one of the “Magnificent Seven” that Americans rested their hopes for gold on during the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, Kerri Strug didn’t disappoint. In fact, she injured herself during her routine right before the finals, yet she overcame that and took gold in the team event. This made her a national heroine, as the story of her overcoming this difficulty to help snag gold was one of the most memorable from the tournament that year. Now retired, she’s been an elementary school teacher, a correspondent for later Olympics, and more.
Nadia Comaneci made waves in 1976 when she competed at the Olympics in Montréal. She went down in history when the judges gave her a perfect score — the first time this had ever happened. She managed to snag a gold and a silver medal in both the 1976 and 1980 games, and is widely recognized to be among the greatest Olympians. Comaneci married American gymnast Bart Conner, who is also an Olympic gold medalist. Today, the couple runs their gyms and are involved in philanthropy.
Chad Le Clos
Chad Le Clos was a serious contender during the Michael Phelps era, and he made no secret of his desire to take the king’s crown. In the end, he managed to defeat his rival and win gold, bringing it back home to cheering crowds in South Africa. Although he retired that year, he returned in 2016 to compete again. It might not be substantiated, but rumors have it that’s the reason Phelps came out of retirement to compete, too.
People might forget how incredible it was to see Michael Phelps crushing Mark Spitz’s swimming records, but don’t forget that the ’70s American superstar athlete was considered untouchable for decades. Listening to him speak might seem as American as apple pie, but Russia was where he was born. He moved to America at the age of two, dipping his arms in the water and learning strokes for the first time in Hawaii. Later, he moved to Sacramento, California, and perfected his art. All in all, he won nine gold medals.
Gymnast McKayla Maroney became a worldwide sensation after pulling a funny face when taking silver at the 2012 London Olympics. The American athlete took the gold in the team all-around event in the same games. Unfortunately, Maroney had to cut her gymnastics career short due to an injury. Although she cannot compete, she is still very involved in the sport, she is a commentator and plans to start a music career soon.
Biles is considered one of the greatest gymnasts in the world, with four gold medals and a slew of other gymnastics medals that make her the most decorated American gymnast. Since bringing home those golds in Rio 2016, she took a break but couldn’t stay away from the sport forever. With the Tokyo Olympics postponed until 2021, there’s still uncertainty over what exactly will happen, but Biles will likely be the biggest face of those competing.
Matt Biondi was overshadowed in his generation by Mark Spitz, but only ever so slightly. Biondi has 11 Olympic medals and eight of those are gold, one less than Spitz. Although competitive swimming is what Biondi’s name will be most connected to, he also played water polo. He swam at the Olympic games from 1984 to 1992, yet he is another athlete who decided to stay in his craft. Coaching kids for the local swimming team keeps him connected, but Biondi’s main profession is a math teacher.
Alicia Schmidt is a 21-year-old hurdler and sprinter from Germany. You may recognize her from when she starred at junior level for her home country after she and her teammates claimed the silver medal in the 4×400 relay at the European Athletics Under-20 Championships in 2017. In 2019, she followed this up with a bronze in the same event. Most recently, Schmidt — who had been hoping to take part in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics prior to the world pandemic — has just competed in the 400-meter event. Aside from her undeniable talent, the young star athlete has been making headlines for her incredibly striking appearance…