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The Olympics seem to fly by in an instant, but they leave an indelible impression. Who could forget Mary Lou Retton’s beaming face after capturing gold in 1984? Or the fragile hush that fell over the world when Greg Louganis hit the diving board in Seoul? And can’t you just see the Dream Team posing for the cameras in all their undefeated glory?
We picture our heroes as they were then, in their shining moments on the international stage. A snapshot in time. Ever wonder what they look like now? We found out.
Click through our album of Olympic icons as you remember them—and as you might never have seen them before.
Mary Lou Retton
Then: Mary Lou Retton vaulted U.S. gymnastics into the gold club during the 1984 Summer Olympics. At just 16 years old, she scored a perfect 10.0 on the vault to become the first American gymnast to clinch an all-around gold. She won four other medals during those games—the most won by any Olympic athlete that year.
Mary Lou Retton
Now: Retton retired from gymnastics in 1986 and began more than two decades of work with Children’s Miracle Network hospitals. In 2008 she launched weight loss website Mary Lou's Weigh, where she sells a reinvented bathroom scale that tracks fluctuations without ever saying how much you actually weigh. She’s still cute as a button.
Then: At the 1968 Winter Olympics in Grenoble, France, 19-year-old figure skater Peggy Fleming stole our hearts and bagged the U.S.’s only gold medal in the Games. The doll-faced favorite beat out her nearest competitor by 88.2 points and became an instant icon in her chartreuse dress. (Good thing that the Olympics were broadcast in color for the first time that year.)
Now: Fleming retired from competition after Grenoble to skate professionally, and spent 28 years as a skating commentator for ABC. In 1998, 30 years after spinning to gold in France, Fleming was diagnosed with breast cancer. Early detection saved her life. She and her husband launched a line of wines called Victories to raise money for breast cancer research. They have donated over $45,000 since 2004.
Then: Michael Phelps wasn’t even a twinkle in his father’s eye when a mustachioed Mark Spitz won a record-setting seven gold medals at the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich. Like Phelps, who topped the record in 2008, Spitz became an instant celebrity with a roster of lucrative endorsements.
Now: After stints on TV and in the real estate business, Spitz now gives speeches on topics like world events and being a Jewish athlete. He also paints abstracts and “mindscapes,” which can be browsed on MarkSpitzArt.com. Oh, and sorry, ladies—as you can see, he’s clean-shaven nowadays.
Then: Jackie Joyner-Kersee leaped over, ran past and threw out her competition in the 1988 and ’92 Olympic heptathlons, a series of seven events including hurdles, high jump, long jump, javelin, shot put and sprints. She won the gold medal both years and set the world record for points—7,291—a score that’s still untouched.
Now: The First Lady of Track and Field co-founded the Athletes for Hope charity with 11 other sports pros, including Lance Armstrong, Mia Hamm and Muhammad Ali, to help guide athletes in their philanthropic efforts. She is a board member of U.S.A. Track and Field, the governing body for the sport, and is an activist for making healthy food more available.
Bart Conner & Nadia Comaneci
Then: Bart Conner and Nadia Comaneci are indubitably the world’s most decorated (and we bet most flexible) gymnastics power couple, with a combined seven gold medals at home. They’ve also got a bronze and a trio of silvers, earned between 1976 and 1984. The Romanian phenom and the American record-holder married in 1996 in a lavish ceremony in Bucharest.
Bart Conner & Nadia Comaneci
Now: Still together (and probably still really flexible), Comaneci and Conner run a stable of businesses including their Perfect 10 TV production company, The Bart and Nadia Sports and Health Festival in Oklahoma City, gymnastics supplies and apparel and the Bart Conner Gymnastics Academy.
Earvin “Magic” Johnson
Then: During the 1992 Summer Olympics, Magic Johnson dribbled with the Dream Team (as team co-captain with Larry Bird) in the first Games to invite NBA players onto the court. The team schooled the whole world, winning all eight games by an average of 44 points. Only eight months earlier, after 13 seasons with the L.A. Lakers, Johnson announced that he was HIV-positive and retired from basketball.
Earvin “Magic” Johnson
Now: In the same year he revealed being HIV-positive, Johnson created the Magic Johnson Foundation to provide social, educational and healthcare services to urban areas, with an emphasis on HIV and AIDS prevention. His company, Magic Johnson Enterprises, brings chains such as Starbucks, Lowes Cinemas and T.G.I. Fridays to underserved communities. This year, Johnson launched Aspire TV, a new channel on Comcast, and bought the L.A. Dodgers.
Then: For 10 years, Michelle Kwan sketched her name in ice. Between 1995 and 2005, she won 43 female figure skating championships, including a silver Olympic medal in 1998 and a bronze in 2002, nine U.S. National Championships, and five World Championships. Through her career, she received 57 perfect scores in major competitions, a feat that no American skater—man or woman—has overshadowed.
Now: Kwan has gone from international fame to international influence. She was appointed America’s first Public Diplomacy Envoy by the State Department in 2006 and is an International Board Member for the Special Olympics. She got her master’s degree in International Studies from Tufts University last year and is a member of the U.S. Women’s Sports Diplomacy Council, an honor given by Hillary Clinton.
Then: For track and field star Michael Johnson, nothing less than gold would do. The 1999 ESPN-awarded Male Olympian of the Decade brought home five Olympic gold medals between 1992 and 2000, along with 14 other international golds, with nary a silver or bronze in sight.
Now: The Michael Johnson Performance center in Dallas, Texas, hosts training for the Dallas Cowboys, the Dallas Stars NHL hockey team and the FC Dallas pro soccer club, as well as youth and college programs. Through Michael Johnson Motivation, the speedster gives corporate lectures for companies like Microsoft, Sony and Procter & Gamble.
Then: Seoul 1988: You’d be hard-pressed to forget the dive heard ’round the world—or the two gold medals Greg Louganis won the next day. After hitting his head on the board in preliminaries, Louganis went on to best the competition in both platform and springboard diving. And did we mention? He won double gold in the 1984 Games, too.
Now: Louganis has kept pretty dry over the years, trading the platform for the lectern, speaking on youth concerns like drugs, alcohol and bullying. He’s also done some theater, movies and television. Last year, Louganis became the athlete mentor for the U.S. Olympic diving team, helping young divers prepare for the pressures of competing on the world stage. He’s in London with them now, should they need him.
Then: Kristi Yamaguchi made a name for herself taking first place at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships in 1989 and ’90 with her skating partner, Rudy Galindo. She focused on singles skating after that, winning the World Championship in 1991 and scoring her own personal gold at the 1992 Olympic games.
Now: Since coming out on top at the Olympics 20 years ago, Yamaguchi has established the Dream Big Foundation for children’s charities, written two children’s books and released a workout DVD. She also won season six of “Dancing with the Stars.” Keep an eye out for Tsu.ya, Yamaguchi’s line of women's activewear, launching this fall.
Then: Picabo Street popped onto the scene in 1994 with a silver-medal performance in downhill skiing at the Lillehammer Olympics. The next year, she took home America’s first-ever World Cup title in downhill skiing. Then the second a year later. Over the next two years, a torn ACL and a nasty crash threatened her career, but the Triumph, Idaho, native (fitting, huh?) bucked the odds, winning gold in the Super G at the ’98 Games in Nagano.
Now: A member of the United States Olympic Hall of Fame, Street has been called the greatest downhill skier in U.S. history by ESPN. Today, she parlays her skill and notoriety into charity, hosting the annual Picabo Ski Challenge to raise money for children’s advocacy. And for those who miss her cheerful face in those ChapStick ads, fear not. She’s due to appear in the upcoming NBC reality series “Stars Earn Stripes.”
Then: In 1970, the impish Cathy Rigby snagged America’s first medal at the gymnastics World Championships. The two-time Olympian helped put gymnastics on the national stage—then retired and set her sights on the theatrical stage. She acted in musicals for 10 years before landing her iconic role of Peter Pan and earning a Tony nomination.
Now: Calling Neverland! Cathy Rigby is back as Peter Pan, and, indeed, she looks like she hasn’t grown up. Turning 60 at the end of this year, the still spritely Rigby has played the title role in more than 3,000 performances. The current revival will continue through next year, with a dozen dates scheduled across the country.
Then: At the 1976 Olympics in Montreal, Bruce Jenner broke a world record in the decathlon, which combines three races, hurdles, javelin, discus, shot put, pole vault, high jump and long jump. The win launched him immediately into national renown.
Now: From the Wheaties box to the E! Channel, Jenner has managed to keep his face in the spotlight. (Never mind that it isn't exactly the same face.) Jenner runs a whole new kind of decathlon these days: The father of ten tests his speed and endurance keeping up with the Kardashians.
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