11 People You May Not Have Known Were Olympians


For many, competing at the Olympics is the dream of a lifetime. But these accomplished athletes found success both inside and far beyond the Olympic stadium, as movie stars, politicians, famed generals, and Darth Vader's stunt double.


 Dr Benjamin Spock, noted for his ideas on child-rearing, on a visit to Britain.
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Dr. Benjamin Spock (1903-1998), author of the bestselling Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care (1946), was the authority on child rearing in Baby Boomer America. But long before he became a pop culture icon, Spock rowed with Yale's crew team and made the men's eights team for the 1924 Paris Olympics. He won a gold medal at age 21 and continued rowing for the rest of his life—even placing third in a 4-mile contest at age 84.


Hillary Wolf of the United States moves in for the attack against San Hui Kye of Korea in the Womens 52 kg Judo match at the Sydney Exhibition Centre during the Sydney Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia.
Andy Lyons, Getty Images

When she wasn't playing a teasing sister in 1990's Home Alone ("Kevin, you're completely helpless!"), Hillary Wolf was honing her judo skills. The child actress, who began practicing martial arts when she was 7, quit acting full time in 1991 to focus on her fighting career. The move paid off: Wolf became a four-time U.S. national champion, and made it to both the 1996 and 2000 Olympic games in Atlanta and Sydney, Australia.


American actors Johnny Weissmuller as Tarzan and Maureen O'Sullivan as Jane.
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Johnny Weissmuller (1904-1984), the most famous actor to play Tarzan, was a star in the pool long before he hit the big screen. Before cementing his place in the Hollywood beefcake hall of fame, Weissmuller was an Olympic swimmer who won five gold medals between the 1924 Paris and 1928 Amsterdam games (as well as a bronze with the men's water polo team). Playing Tarzan came naturally to him, he once said, because "there was swimming in it, and I didn't have much to say."


Professional wrestler and actor Toshiyuki 'Harold' Sakata wearing a suit and bowler hat, walking down a street in London, March 10th 1965.
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Harold T. Sakata's (1920-1982) steel rimmed hat and karate skills made him dangerous as the memorable James Bond villain Oddjob in 1964's Goldfinger, but in real life the Hawaiian-born athlete was a professional wrestler and weightlifter. He scored a silver medal for weightlifting at the 1948 London Olympics, years before Hollywood producers "discovered" him in the 1960s after catching one of his wrestling matches on television.


Oxford's Winklevoss twins, Tyler Winklevoss and Cameron Winklevoss of the USA (centre right) in action during Tideaway Week on The River Thames ahead of the Xchanging University Boat Race on March 30, 2010 in London, England.
Richard Heathcote, Getty Images

Perhaps most famous for being bitcoin billionaires and for suing Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg, Cameron Winklevoss and Tyler Winklevoss (known collectively as the Winklevoss twins) were also collegiate rowers at both Harvard and Oxford. In 2008, they competed in men's pair rowing at the Beijing Olympics, placing sixth overall.


Summer Sanders attends the Woman's Day 8th Annual Red Dress Awards at Jazz at Lincoln Center on February 8, 2011 in New York City.
Neilson Barnard, Getty Images for Woman's Day

Summer Sanders spent four seasons sliming contestants on Nickelodeon's Figure It Out, but before getting gooey on national television, the host won four Olympic medals—including two gold—at the 1992 Summer games in Barcelona, Spain. Sanders retired from swimming when she was 22, paving the way for her future career as a game show host and sports commentator/reporter.


U.S. President George W. Bush shakes hands with Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-CO) during a ceremony in the East Room at the White House.
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Ben Nighthorse Campbell, the former Colorado senator who served two terms from 1993 to 2005, became the first Native American to serve in the U.S. Senate in more than 60 years following his election in 1992. But long before he became interested in politics, Campbell served as captain of the first American judo team at the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo. Unfortunately he tore his ACL in the second round, which ended his athletic career but allowed him to pursue his other interests, like jewelry-making.


August 1944: General George S Patton (1885-1945), Head of the 3rd Army, talks to Allied war correspondents in Normandy.
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General George S. Patton (1885-1945), the storied World War II officer who led the U.S. Third Army on the Western Front, was famous for his foul mouth, rousing speeches, and tenacious leadership. He was also a great athlete who placed fifth in the inaugural modern pentathlon (swimming, riding, fencing, running, shooting) at the 1912 Olympic Games in Stockholm, Sweden.


A Star Wars lightsaber battle

You likely don't know Bob Anderson's (1922-2012) name or face, but you certainly know his light saber skills. The British stunt double performed Darth Vader's fighting scenes in both The Empire Strikes Back (1980) and Return of the Jedi (1983), and competed as a pro fencer when he wasn't wearing an electronic helmet. Right before representing Britain at the 1952 Olympic Games in Helsinki, Finland, Anderson got his big break in the film industry when he was recruited to work as Errol Flynn's fencing coach and stunt double opponent in the 1953 film The Master of Ballantrae. He spent much of career as the go-to Hollywood sword-fighting choreographer, working on films like The Princess Bride, The Mask of Zorro, and the Lord of the Rings trilogy.


Former Maryland representative Tom McMillen and his wife,  Dr. Judith Niemyer.
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Tom McMillen, the Democratic U.S. Congressman who represented Maryland's Fourth District from 1987 through 1993, left a towering legacy: Standing at 6 feet 11 inches, he's believed to be the tallest person to ever serve on Capitol Hill. Not surprisingly, McMillen is also a former professional basketball player who competed with the U.S. team at the 1972 Olympics in Munich, Germany. It was possibly the most controversial gold-medal event ever—the final three seconds were replayed over and over again until the Soviet team went ahead by one point. The U.S. team refused to accept their silver medals.

2018 Winter Olympics By the Numbers: Which Country Was the Big Winner in Pyeongchang?

The closing ceremony of the 2018 Winter Olympics was held on Sunday, February 25, concluding more than two weeks of history-making figure-skating jumps and listening to curlers yell at each other. But if you're someone who tunes in to the Olympics only to see your country win, you may have been left feeling confused. There was no official winner announced at the end of the event, so how are you supposed to know which nation dominated the Winter Games? Judging solely by medal count, these are the countries that skied, skated, and slid their way to the top in Pyeongchang.

According to Bloomberg, Norway came out of the games as the most decorated country. The Scandinavian nation of 5.3 million took home 11 bronze, 14 silver, and 14 gold medals, bringing the total to 39. That makes Norway the biggest single nation winner at any Winter Olympics, breaking the prior record of 37, which was set by the U.S. at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver. Norway was represented by about half the number of athletes competing on Team USA, but it was bolstered by a few advantages—like long winters (making training for cross-country sports easier), universal healthcare, and a culture that encourages young athletes to play sports for the sake of play rather than for the sake of winning.

Germany tied Norway for the most golds with 14, but earned 10 silver and seven bronze medals, landing them in second place with 31. Canada ranked third with 29 medals overall, 11 of which were gold, and the United States came in fourth with a tally of 23 medals, including nine golds. The Netherlands, Sweden, South Korea, Switzerland, France, and Austria round out the top 10.

Teams used to spending a lot of time on the podium may strive for that top slot, but placing in any event is impressive. The majority of teams that competed went home without any medals to show for their efforts. Fortunately, they have until 2022 to prepare for the next Winter Olympics in Beijing.

[h/t Bloomberg]

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The Most Decorated Winter Olympians in History
Lars Baron/Getty Images
Lars Baron/Getty Images

For most athletes, winning a medal at the Olympics would be the pinnacle of their career. But these athletes didn't stop at just one. They excelled under pressure and earned themselves a spot in the annals of their respective sports as the Most Decorated Winter Olympians.

1. Marit Bjørgen, 14 Medals

Country: Norway
Sport: Cross-country skiing

Marit Bjørgen
Clive Mason/Getty Images

Bjørgen became the most decorated athlete at the 2010 Vancouver Games with five medals. She added three gold medals in 2014 to bring her lifetime total up to six golds, three silvers, and one bronze—making her the most successful female Olympian. With a gold, silver, and two bronze medals in PyeongChang, she became the most decorated Winter Olympian of all time.

2. Ole Einar Bjoerndalen, 13 Medals

Country: Norway
Sport: Biathlon

Ole Einar Bjoerndalen
Quinn Rooney/Getty Images

Bjoerndalen won two gold medals at Sochi in 2014—in men's sprint biathlon and in the first Olympic mixed relay biathlon—to give him the lead in career-medal count. His hardware collection now includes eight gold medals, four silver, and one bronze. The 44-year-old failed to qualify for the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics.

3. Bjorn Daehlie, 12 Medals

Country: Norway
Sport: Cross-country skiing

Bjorn Daehlie
Bob Martin/ALLSPORT/Getty Images

When Bjoerndalen won his 13th career medal, he surpassed fellow countryman Daehlie, who had held the record for most Olympic medals since his dominance in the '90s. Over three Winter Games Daehlie won eight gold and four silver medals before sustaining a career-ending injury as a result of a roller-skiing accident in 1999.

4 (tie). Raisa Smetanina, 10 Medals

Country: Russia
Sport: Cross-country skiing

Osetrov Yuri/ITAR-TASS/Landov

Although Bjørgen and Belmondo (below) have since matched her, Smetanina was the first woman to win 10 Olympic medals. Her final, a gold medal, came at her fifth Olympic Games in Albertville in 1992. She was 39 years old—at that time the oldest woman to win a Winter Olympic gold.

4 (tie). Stefania Belmondo, 10 Medals

Country: Italy
Sport: Cross-country skiing

Stefania Belmondo

Belmondo's Olympic career spanned a decade—from the 1992 Albertville Games through the 2002 Salt Lake City Games—despite a devastating injury in 1993. She ended her career with two gold medals, three silver, and five bronze.

6 (tie). Lyubov Yegorova, 9 Medals

Country: Russia
Sport: Cross-country skiing

REUTERS/Mal Langsdon

Yegorova only made two Olympic appearances: at Albertville in 1992, and two years later at Lillehammer. She managed to squeeze nine medals out of those Games—six gold and three silver—before her career came to an end due to a doping scandal at the 1997 FIS Nordic World Ski Championships.

6 (tie). Claudia Pechstein, 9 Medals

Country: Germany
Sport: Speed skating

Claudia Pechstein
Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

Pechstein is the most successful Olympic speed skater—male or female—in the world, and also the most successful German Winter Olympian of all time. That said, she missed the chance to set herself even further apart in the 2010 Games after getting slapped with a two-year ban from the sport in 2009 for doping accusations.

6 (tie). Sixten Jernberg, 9 Medals

Country: Sweden
Sport: Cross-country skiing

1964 Winter Olympics in Innsbruck
Central Press/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Jernberg (right) was a blacksmith and a lumberjack before beginning his career as a cross-country skier. Over three Olympics in the 1950s and '60s, he earned four gold, three silver, and two bronze medals, never finishing lower than fifth.

6 (tie). Uschi Disl, 9 Medals

Country: Germany
Sport: Biathlon


This five-time Olympian is the owner of two gold medals, four silver and three bronze, and the 2005 title of German Sportswoman of the Year. She has been the most successful women’s biathlete at the Olympic Games, although she never won a gold in an individual event.