Superstars You Didn’t Know Were Olympians

Ladbrokes is not a sponsor of the Olympic Games, any Olympic Committees or teams.

Every Olympics there is somebody that goes from a nobody to a household name in a matter of moments.

Some athletes finish their time at the Olympics how they started, still relatively unknown, but there is another even smaller group of Olympians that finish the games with a low public profile before completing exploding in the years to come.

Some of the stars on this list you might not know even competed at the Olympics, but all nine were definitely Olympians before they were famous.

Ronda Rousey

Before Ronda Rousey went on to become a global superstar in the mid-2010’s, she was a Juduoka competing at the 2008 games.

After winning the Bronze in Beijing, Rousey used her judo skills to make a successful transition into Mixed Martial Arts before putting the acting skills she learned in the Entourage movie towards a stint with the WWE.

Floyd Mayweather

Floyd Mayweather may have never suffered a loss in his professional boxing career, but that was not the case as an amateur.

A baby-faced Mayweather represented the United States Of America at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta in the Featherweight Division and he was one of the favourites to win gold, but he lost in the semi-final after a very controversial decision.

Mayweather made his professional debut shortly afterwards and is yet to lose a bout!

Kurt Angle

Kurt Angle spent his entire professional career boasting about how he was the only Olympic Gold Medallist in WWE history, so you probably have a fair idea that he was an Olympian.

Angle’s Olympic story was fairly remarkable – he won the gold medal at the 1996 Olympic Games with a broken neck and was the first American to win the gold in the Heavyweight Division – but it wasn’t until he made his WWE debut at the end of 1999 that he became an absolute megastar.

Not that he talks up his medal win with a broken neck.

Mark Henry

The world’s strongest man Mark Henry has now been in the WWE for 20 years, but before he was signed by the wrestling organisation, he was one of the most successful powerlifters and weighlifters in the history of the United States.

After making his Olympic debut in Barcelona in 1992, Henry was named captain of the United States Weightlifting team and became the largest athlete in the history of the Olympics.

Unfortunately, he suffered a back injury in the middle of the competition and could finish no better than 14th.

Johnny Weissmuller

Johnny Weissmuller was the star performer of the 1924 Olympics in Paris – winning three gold medals – and the 1928 Olympics in Amsterdam, but it wasn’t until the end of his sporting career that he became a genuine star.

After the 1928 Olympics, Weissmuller got into acting and he became one of the biggest movie stars in the world when he played Tarzan in a host of movies during the 1930s and 1940s.

It was Weissmuller that created the distinctive Tarzan yell!

Muhammad Ali

Muhammad Ali is arguably the most famous athlete in the history of sport, but when he won a gold medal at the 1960 Olympics in Rome when known as Cassius Clay he was just like any other athlete.

Ali quickly turned pro following his triumph at the 1960 games and he won his first 19 fights before he beat Sonny Liston in 1964 to win the World Title for the first time.

Ali returned to the Olympics arena lighting the torch in the Atlanta games in 1996.

He finished his career with a record of 56-5, but the influence he had on the world far defied anything that he did in the boxing ring.

Daniel Cormier

Daniel Cormier is now the UFC Light-Heavyweight Champion and one of the biggest name in the UFC, but before he came to prominence he was an Olympic wrestler.

Cormier represented the United States in the 2004 Olympics in Athens and he made it to the semi-finals, but he lost to Khadzhimurat Gatsalov from Russia and the bronze medal bout to Alireza Heidari from Iran.

Cormier left wrestling to starting Mixed Martial Arts in 2009 and he has lost just the one fight since.

Dolph Lundgren

Dolph Lundgren is best known for playing Soviet Union Boxer Ivan Drago in Rocky IV, but what most people don’t know is that he actually went to the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta as a member of the United States team.

While he did not actually compete, he got to live out the entire Olympic experience as the leader of the US Modern Pentathlon team.

No word on whether or not they used his catchphrase “I must break you” when near opponents.

Lundgren was actually the European Heavyweight Karate Champion in 1980!

The Winklevoss Twins

The Winklevoss Twins – Cameron and Tyler – were made famous as the bad guys in The Social Network, which was based on their real-life legal battle with the guy who got the credit for founding Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg

During their legal wrangling with Zuckerberg, the Winklevoss twins still managed to find time to row and they represented America in the Coxless Pairs at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, an event that was won by the Australian pair of Drew Ginn and Duncan Free.

Harold Sakata

You might not know him by name, but put Harold Sakata in a morning suit and ask him to throw a hat and you have Oddjob in the James Bond movies.

This is what he looked like underneath his suit.

On top of that, Sakata even wrestled for a brief period of time.