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Strange Paths to Multiple Medals

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You might have seen gymnast Oksana Chusovitina pick up a silver medal for Germany in the women's vault final this weekend, an astounding feat for a 33-year-old mother in a sport dominated by girls half her age. Her age alone would make the story noteworthy, but the tale of Chusovitina joining Germany's team after leaving her native Uzbekistan to seek medical care for her young son is truly inspirational. Coupled with her gold team medal for the Unified Team at the 1992 Games, it also meant that she won an Olympic medal for a second country in her Olympic career, a rare occurrence. (American runner Bernard Lagat, who won medals for Kenya in 2000 and 2004 can do the same in the 5,000 meters later this week.)

Oksana Chusovitina is certainly not the only Olympian to travel an unlikely path to multiple medals. Here are some other notable athletes who either earned medals for multiple countries, won in both the Summer and Winter Games, or excelled in sport and art. (Yes, there used to be medals for stuff like city planning.)

Medals at Both the Summer and Winter Games

Picking up medals at both the Summer and Winter Games is obviously tough, since there's not much overlap between the two sets of events. Since the introduction of the Winter Games in 1924, four people have managed to medal at both sets of Games. (Five if you count Gillis Grafstrom, who won a figure skating medal at the final Summer Games to host the event in 1920 and then medaled in figure skating at the first three Winter Games.)

clara.jpgClara Hughes
Hughes, a Canadian, picked up cycling bronze medals in both the road race and the time trial at the 1996 Games in Atlanta. By 2002 she had returned to speed skating, her original sport, and wrangled a bronze in the 5000 meters at the Winter Games in Salt Lake City. As if that wasn't impressive enough, Hughes added a gold in the 5000 meters and silver in the team pursuit at the 2006 Winter Games in Turin. She's the only athlete in history to win multiple medals at both the Winter and Summer Games.

Christa Luding
There was a precedent for Hughes' cycling-speed skating double play, though. East German skater Luding was an absolute terror on the ice during a career that saw her rack up gold medals at both the 1984 Games in Sarajevo and the 1988 Games in Calgary. She also picked up a silver medal in Calgary. In 1988, Luding hopped on her bike and won a silver medal in the track cycling sprint at the Summer Games in Seoul to become the only person to ever win summer and winter medals in the same year. Not content with these achievements, Luding then returned to the ice to win a speed skating bronze medal at the 1992 Games in Albertville.

Jacob Tullin Thams
Norwegian Thams grabbed the gold in the individual large hill ski jump at the 1924 Games in Chamonix as part of an illustrious ski jumping career that also included a gold in the same event at the 1926 World Championships. He eventually turned his attentions to sailing, though, and at the 1936 Games in Berlin won silver as part of Norway's eight-meter yachting team.

Eddie Eagan
Although Eagan was born to a poor family in Denver, he managed to use his smarts to make it through college at Yale, law school at Harvard, and later study at Oxford. If anyone called Eagan a nerd, though, he could have made them regret it; he also won a boxing gold as a light heavyweight at the 1920 Games in Antwerp. Eagan became a successful lawyer, but his athletic itch persisted. He took up bobsleigh racing and won a gold as part of the American four-man team at the 1932 Games at Lake Placid. He's still the only person to win a gold medal in both the Summer and Winter Games.

Medal Winners in Sports and Arts

From 1912 to 1948, the Olympics weren't solely the home of athletic struggles; competitors also vied for the medals in various artistic disciplines. Artists could earn medals for their sports-inspired works of architecture, literature, music, painting, and sculpture. The art competition eventually met its doom when organizers realized the artists were professionals and thus not part of the amateur spirit of the Games, but two men managed to snag medals for both sports and arts before an art exhibit replaced the competitive scoring.

"¢ Russian-born, England-based American Walter Winans picked up a pair of medals at the 1908 and 1912 Games as a marksman in the running deer event. He was also serious about sculpture and took home a gold medal in 1912 for his bronze statuette of a horse entitled "An American Trotter."

"¢ Hungarian swimmer Alfred Hajos also pulled off this double. He won two swimming golds at the first modern Games in 1896, and dropped one of the better quips in Olympic history: when the crown prince of Greece asked Hajos where he learned to swim so well, the medalist pithily responded, "In the water." After the Games, Hajos returned to Hungary where he was a dominant track and field athlete and a forward on the national soccer team. He also learned about architecture, the discipline in which he and fellow Hungarian Dezso Lauber won a silver medal in town planning at the 1924 Games in Paris.

Medals for Multiple Countries

chen-jing.jpgNot many other athletes besides Oksana Chusovitina have won medals for multiple countries while their original nation continued fielding teams. One particularly impressive example is Chen Jing, who dominated women's table tennis at the 1988 Games for China, winning both the individual gold and the silver in doubles. She then switched her team allegiances to Chinese Taipei and won a silver in Atlanta and a bronze in Sydney for her new squad.

We'll be watching later this week to see if former Kenyan medalist Bernard Lagat can join the club as he runs the 5,000 meters for the United States.

Ethan Trex grew up idolizing Vince Coleman, and he kind of still does. Ethan co-writes Straight Cash, Homey, the Internet's undisputed top source for pictures of people in Ryan Leaf jerseys.

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10 Memorable Neil deGrasse Tyson Quotes
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Neil deGrasse Tyson is America's preeminent badass astrophysicist. He's a passionate advocate for science, NASA, and education. He's also well-known for a little incident involving Pluto. And the man holds nearly 20 honorary doctorates (in addition to his real one). In honor of his 59th birthday, here are 10 of our favorite Neil deGrasse Tyson quotes.

1. ON SCIENCE

"The good thing about science is that it's true whether or not you believe in it."
—From Real Time with Bill Maher.

2. ON NASA FUNDING

"As a fraction of your tax dollar today, what is the total cost of all spaceborne telescopes, planetary probes, the rovers on Mars, the International Space Station, the space shuttle, telescopes yet to orbit, and missions yet to fly?' Answer: one-half of one percent of each tax dollar. Half a penny. I’d prefer it were more: perhaps two cents on the dollar. Even during the storied Apollo era, peak NASA spending amounted to little more than four cents on the tax dollar." 
—From Space Chronicles

3. ON GOD AND HURRICANES

"Once upon a time, people identified the god Neptune as the source of storms at sea. Today we call these storms hurricanes ... The only people who still call hurricanes acts of God are the people who write insurance forms."
—From Death by Black Hole

4. ON THE BENEFITS OF TECHNOLOGY INVENTED FOR USE IN SPACE

"Countless women are alive today because of ideas stimulated by a design flaw in the Hubble Space Telescope." (Editor's note: technology used to repair the Hubble Space Telescope's optical problems led to improved technology for breast cancer detection.)
—From Space Chronicles

5. ON THE DEMOTION OF PLUTO FROM PLANET STATUS 

PBS

"I knew Pluto was popular among elementary schoolkids, but I had no idea they would mobilize into a 'Save Pluto' campaign. I now have a drawer full of hate letters from hundreds of elementary schoolchildren (with supportive cover letters from their science teachers) pleading with me to reverse my stance on Pluto. The file includes a photograph of the entire third grade of a school posing on their front steps and holding up a banner proclaiming, 'Dr. Tyson—Pluto is a Planet!'"
—From The Sky Is Not the Limit

6. ON JAMES CAMERON'S TITANIC

"In [Titanic], the stars above the ship bear no correspondence to any constellations in a real sky. Worse yet, while the heroine bobs ... we are treated to her view of this Hollywood sky—one where the stars on the right half of the scene trace the mirror image of the stars in the left half. How lazy can you get?"
—From Death by Black Hole

7. ON DEATH BY ASTEROID

"On Friday the 13th, April 2029, an asteroid large enough to fill the Rose Bowl as though it were an egg cup will fly so close to Earth that it will dip below the altitude of our communication satellites. We did not name this asteroid Bambi. Instead, we named it Apophis, after the Egyptian god of darkness and death."
—From Space Chronicles

8. ON THE MOTIVATIONS BEHIND AMERICA'S MOONSHOT

"[L]et us not fool ourselves into thinking we went to the Moon because we are pioneers, or discoverers, or adventurers. We went to the Moon because it was the militaristically expedient thing to do."
—From The Sky Is Not the Limit

9. ON INTELLIGENT LIFE (OR THE LACK THEREOF)

Perhaps we've never been visited by aliens because they have looked upon Earth and decided there's no sign of intelligent life.
Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/n/neildegras615117.html
Perhaps we've never been visited by aliens because they have looked upon Earth and decided there's no sign of intelligent life.
Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/n/neildegras615117.html

"Perhaps we've never been visited by aliens because they have looked upon Earth and decided there's no sign of intelligent life."

10. PRACTICAL ADVICE IN THE EVENT OF ALIEN CONTACT 

A still from Steven Spielberg's E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial
Universal Studios
"[I]f an alien lands on your front lawn and extends an appendage as a gesture of greeting, before you get friendly, toss it an eightball. If the appendage explodes, then the alien was probably made of antimatter. If not, then you can proceed to take it to your leader."
—From Death by Black Hole
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40 Fun Facts About Sesame Street
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Now in its 47th season, Sesame Street is one of television's most iconic programs—and it's not just for kids. We're big fans of the Street, and to prove it, here are some of our favorite Sesame facts from previous stories and our Amazing Fact Generator.

Sesame Workshop

1. Oscar the Grouch used to be orange. Jim Henson decided to make him green before season two.

2. How did Oscar explain the color change? He said he went on vacation to the very damp Swamp Mushy Muddy and turned green overnight.

3. During a 2004 episode, Cookie Monster said that before he started eating cookies, his name was Sid.

4. In 1980, C-3PO and R2-D2 visited Sesame Street. They played games, sang songs, and R2-D2 fell in love with a fire hydrant.

5. Mr. Snuffleupagus has a first name—Aloysius

6. Ralph Nader stopped by in 1988 and sang "a consumer advocate is a person in your neighborhood."

7. Caroll Spinney said he based Oscar's voice on a cab driver from the Bronx who brought him to the audition.

8. In 1970, Ernie reached #16 on the Billboard Hot 100 with the timeless hit "Rubber Duckie."

9. One of Count von Count's lady friends is Countess von Backwards, who's also obsessed with counting but likes to do it backwards.

10. Sesame Street made its Afghanistan debut in 2011 with Baghch-e-Simsim (Sesame Garden). Big Bird, Grover and Elmo are involved.

11. According to Muppet Wiki, Oscar the Grouch and Count von Count were minimized on Baghch-e-Simsim "due to cultural taboos against trash and vampirism."

12. Before Giancarlo Esposito was Breaking Bad's super intense Gus Fring, he played Big Bird's camp counselor Mickey in 1982.

13. Thankfully, those episodes are available on YouTube.

14. How big is Big Bird? 8'2". (Pictured with First Lady Pat Nixon.)

15. In 2002, the South African version (Takalani Sesame) added an HIV-positive Muppet named Kami.

16. Six Republicans on the House Commerce Committee wrote a letter to PBS president Pat Mitchell warning that Kami was not appropriate for American children, and reminded Mitchell that their committee controlled PBS' funding.

17. Sesame Street's resident game show host Guy Smiley was using a pseudonym. His real name was Bernie Liederkrantz.

18. Bert and Ernie have been getting questioned about their sexuality for years. Ernie himself, as performed by Steve Whitmere, has weighed in: “All that stuff about me and Bert? It’s not true. We’re both very happy, but we’re not gay,”

19. A few years later, Bert (as performed by Eric Jacobson) answered the same question by saying, “No, no. In fact, sometimes we are not even friends; he can be a pain in the neck.”

20. In the first season, both Superman and Batman appeared in short cartoons produced by Filmation. In one clip, Batman told Bert and Ernie to stop arguing and take turns choosing what’s on TV.

21. In another segment, Superman battled a giant chimp.

22. Telly was originally "Television Monster," a TV-obsessed Muppet whose eyes whirled around as he watched.

23. According to Sesame Workshop, Elmo is the only non-human to testify before Congress.

24. He lobbied for more funding for music education, so that "when Elmo goes to school, there will be the instruments to play."

25. In the early 1990s, soon after Jim Henson’s passing, a rumor circulated that Ernie would be killed off in order to teach children about death, as they'd done with Mr. Hooper.

26. According to Snopes, the rumor may have spread thanks to New Hampshire college student, Michael Tabor, who convinced his graduating class to wear “Save Ernie” beanies and sign a petition to persuade Sesame Workshop to let Ernie live.

27. By the time Tabor was corrected, the newspapers had already picked up the story.

28. Sesame Street’s Executive Producer Carol-Lynn Parente joined Sesame Workshop as a production assistant and has worked her way to the top.

29. Originally, Count von Count was more sinister. He could hypnotize and stun people.

30. According to Sesame Workshop, all Sesame Street's main Muppets have four fingers except Cookie Monster, who has five.

31. The episode with Mr. Hooper's funeral aired on Thanksgiving Day in 1983. That date was chosen because families were more likely to be together at that time, in case kids had questions or needed emotional support.

32. Mr. Hooper’s first name was Harold.

33. Big Bird sang "Bein' Green" at Jim Henson's memorial service.

34. As Chris Higgins put it, the performance was "devastating."

35. Oscar's Israeli counterpart is Moishe Oofnik, whose last name means “grouch” in Hebrew.

36. Nigeria's version of Cookie Monster eats yams. His catchphrase: "ME WANT YAM!"

37. Sesame's Roosevelt Franklin ran a school, where he spoke in scat and taught about Africa. Some parents hated him, so in 1975 he got the boot, only to inspire Gob Bluth’s racist puppet Franklin on Arrested Development 28 years later.

38. Our good friend and contributor Eddie Deezen was the voice of Donnie Dodo in the 1985 classic Follow That Bird.

39. Cookie Monster evolved from The Wheel-Stealer—a snack-pilfering puppet Jim Henson created to promote Wheels, Crowns and Flutes in the 1960s.

40. This puppet later was seen eating a computer in an IBM training film and on The Ed Sullivan Show.

Thanks to Stacy Conradt, Joe Hennes, Drew Toal, and Chris Higgins for their previous Sesame coverage!

An earlier version of this article appeared in 2012.

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