One of the biggest highlights of each successive Summer Olympics are the fantastic routines presented by the competing gymnasts. Many have become legendary for the gravity-defying acrobatics they perform, but what have these athletes been doing since their wins?
Shannon Lee Miller-Then
At Shannon’s first Olympics in 1992, she took home more medals than any other athlete, and she was only 15! She returned in 1996 with the ‘Magnificent Seven,’ determined to finally earn a gold medal, which she did, along with the rest of the team.
Shannon Lee Miller-Now
Shannon’s final competitive appearance at the Olympics took place in 1996, though she made an attempt to make the team going to Sydney in 2000, but ended up sustaining an injury that took her out of the running. After retiring from competitive gymnastics, Miller studied for a degree in entrepreneurship and marketing, which she then followed up with law school. Miller is one of the founders of a company selling dietary supplements, and she published a memoir about her gymnastics years in 2015.
When Nadia Comaneci first took to the mat under the Romanian flag, she completed a routine that absolutely stunned both the judges and onlookers, earning a number of perfect scores. At only 14 years old, Nadia quickly established herself as one of the most dominant forces of gymnastics at the time. She set several records during her Olympic years, including being the first Romanian gymnast to win gold as an all-around gymnast, as well as for being the youngest athlete to earn the title.
Shortly after competing in the 1980 games in Moscow, Nadia found herself the victim of the repressive regime in her home country, as a result of her coaches failing to return from their tour in the United States. Nadia would eventually follow in their footsteps in order to find a reprieve from the constant state-imposed oversight. Following her move, fellow gymnast Bart Conner offered to help her get settled, and the two fell in love. They currently run a gym together.
Shawn Johnson’s gymnastics prowess was obvious from the start when she became the 2007 all-around World Champion. With one of the best rookie seasons of all time, she captured gold after gold in every major competition she entered. Her sheer aptitude on the mat proved promising ahead of the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, and Johnson certainly delivered. She easily captured the gold on the balance beam, in addition to earning three silver medals, one for her team, one as the all-around medalist, and one for her floor routine.
Shawn decided to retire from competitive gymnastics very shortly before the start of the 2012 Olympics in London due to a knee injury that still hadn’t healed. Johnson moved from the mat to the camera, as she saw her popularity skyrocket following the 2008 games, which included a number of big endorsement deals, including one for Nike. These days, Johnson spends her time vlogging on YouTube with her husband, where they have a following in the hundreds of thousands. She was also a recent contestant on MTV’s The Challenge.
Mary Lou Retton-Then
Capturing the heart of millions with her thousand watt smile, Mary Lou Retton became the hero of the U.S. women’s gymnastics team in the summer of 1984. Retton triumphed over her Romanian rival, Ecaterina Szabo, in her last event of the games, earning a slate of perfect 10s, despite having undergone knee surgery only a month before the start of the games. Retton earned the title of all-around gymnast, a gold medal that the United States hadn’t won in two decades.
Mary Lou Retton-Now
After her Olympic win, Retton found herself flooded with endorsement deals, but the most important one happened to be Wheaties, as she was the first female athlete to be pictured on the cereal box. She has continued to stay involved with the gymnastics world as a television commentator for gymnastics competitions. Retton has been open about the fact that her family comes first for her, emphasizing that she puts her role as a mother to her four children above any other opportunities that may arise.
Bart Conner first made an Olympic bid in 1976 and was the youngest of all of his teammates. His youth showed as he failed to earn any medals at those games, but Conner was undeterred. Four years later, he made the team that was headed to the games in Moscow, only to find that the US would boycott the Olympics that year. It was until 1984 that he had the chance to become the legendary athlete that won the gold medal on America’s own turf.
With an Olympic gold medal around his neck, Bart was finally ready to retire from competition and earn a college degree. He moved to Oklahoma for university, which is where he would eventually open his own gym where he and wife, Nadia Comaneci, are involved with training a new generation of Olympic gymnasts. The pair has also been deeply involved with a variety of different charities, several of which they established themselves, as well as the Special Olympics.
When Dominique Dawes arrived at the 1996 Olympics, she came ready to win. The team that year is best known as the Magnificent Seven, and Dawes herself had been given the nickname, ‘Awesome Dawesome.’ Dominique broke new ground in the gymnastics world when she medaled as an artistic gymnast, as no other African-American woman had done so before. She also became the first black gymnast to win a gold medal in an Olympic gymnastics event. Dawes competed in three separate Olympics, managing a win with each one.
When Dawes was ready to retire from competition after the 2000 games, she had a different sort of performance in mind. Dawes transitioned into a career fueled by acting and modeling jobs, which included appearances in music videos for acclaimed artists like Prince and Missy Elliot. Dawes also had the opportunity to appear on Broadway when she was cast in the Grease revival. Most recently, Dawes appeared in a commercial for Tide alongside a few other acclaimed gymnasts. The commercial was shown leading up to the 2016 games.
Born in Minsk, while Belarus was still a part of the Soviet Union, Vitaly Scherbo’s talent was apparent from an early age, after which he was sent to train at a state boarding school for athletes. His Olympics legacy is one of the most highly regarded for a male gymnast, winning six of eight possible gold medals. Early in his career, he bucked expectation by becoming the only male gymnast to win a world title in every event possible.
Vitaly took a shot at the 1996 Olympics, though he was underprepared having focused on nursing his wife Irina back to health after a serious accident. Scherbo had moved to the United States not long after his incredible display in Barcelona, finding Belarus too dangerous. These days, Vitaly is running a well-regarded gymnastics school in Las Vegas, Nevada, where he is personally coaching some of the brightest prospects, some of whom he firmly believes will compete in the 2020 games.
Svetlana Khorkina has created a legacy for herself as an Olympian that continues to endure to this day. Making her first Olympic appearance in 1996, she was on the Russian team that lost out to the Magnificent Seven. However, that just made Khorkina even more determined to win. With three all-around World Championship titles to her name, the first woman to manage such a feat, as well as her seven Olympic medals from three separate games, Khorkina is nearly unparalleled.
Svetlana made her final Olympics appearance in Athens in 2004 but was ultimately bested by the American, Carly Patterson, a decision which Khorkina still maintains was a political slight. She retired from competition shortly after but wasn’t staying away from gymnastics. Of course, she has nothing to worry about, as she has eight gymnastic moves bearing her name. Svetlana became the vice-president of the Russian Artistic Gymnastics Federation in 2005, a tenure which she continues to hold, even during her foray into politics.
Mitch Gaylord cemented his legacy early on during the 1984 Olympics, where he managed to break record after record, not only leading his team to a gold medal but also becoming the first American to earn a perfect 10. Though either China or Japan was favored to win the team medal, the American underdogs prevailed, which is the only time the men’s team has managed to take the top honors, even since then. Mitch rounded out his medals with a silver medal and two bronze medals.
After his Olympic triumph, Mitch and his team had the opportunity to go on a victory tour of the United States. Though he never returned to the Olympics, he continued to put his acrobatics skills to use in other ways. Mitch became an actor and stunt double, with a starring role in the film American Anthem that depicted him as a gymnast training for the Olympics. The past several years, Mitch has operated a line of gyms and works in real estate.
Alexei Nemov began competing for Russia when he was only 16 years old, though it would take him another year until he began to earn medals. By the time the 1996 games in Atlanta rolled around, Nemov was prepared to conquer his competition, and he came away with six medals, including two gold. When he reached the games in Sydney in 2000, Nemov won the coveted all-around competition. However, four years later, he would be deeply disappointed with the way the judges scored his performance.
Nemov was just one of the competitors who was dismayed by the judging at the 2004 Olympics, and his fans caused a massive uproar because of it. Two years later, the rubric was changed, to Alexei’s satisfaction. He since retired from competition but didn’t stray very far from that world. He made headlines in 2016 for getting into a fight with an activist in Moscow. He also continues to organize gymnastics shows in Russia that specifically highlight the talent of Russian gymnasts.
Gabby Douglas made history several times over when she joined the women’s gymnastics team for the 2012 Olympics in London. She was part of the winning combination that helped the U.S. win their first team gold medal since the Magnificent Seven in 1996. Gabby also distinguished herself by winning the all-around gold medal, becoming the first woman of color from any country to earn that achievement. Gabby didn’t manage to defend her title in 2016, though she contributed to yet another team gold.
Gabby’s profile rose significantly after her 2012 performance with the Fierce Five, especially given her gold medal win, which led to a parade of media fanfare. She released an autobiography of her experience shortly after. Her triumphs also led to the production of a biopic about her by Lifetime channel, in addition to being offered a reality show, which debuted in 2016. In 2017, Gabby was honored again when she was chosen to be one of the judges for the Miss America pageant.
When Peter Vidmar first qualified for the Olympics, the excitement would end up being dampened by the United States’ decision to boycott the games that year. Vidmar finally got his shot at the gold four years later, when the Summer Games were hosted in Los Angeles. Vidmar was another integral member of the success of the men’s team at those games, which also saw him take home a gold medal for the vault and a silver medal for all-around gymnast.
Vidmar didn’t get the chance to compete in the Olympics a second time, but he was still happy to continue his involvement with the sport, even after retirement from competition. He worked as a gymnastics commentator for several channels, including CBS and ESPN. Vidmar acted as chairman of the U.S. Gymnastics Board of Directors from 2008 to 2015, before stepping down in order to accept a position as a mission president in Australia for the Church of Latter Day Saints.
When Larisa Latynina began competing for the Soviet Union’s women’s gymnastics team n 1956, she was a force to be reckoned with. Latynina had an impressive competitive career which spanned three separate Olympics. By the time she retired, she had received a total of 18 medals for all of her performances. Larisa held the record as the single most decorated Olympian until Michael Phelps bested her record in 2016. Even so, no other gymnast has managed to surpass her record, which includes a staggering nine gold medals.
In 1966, Larisa made her final competitive showing in the West German city of Dortmund, where the World Championships were taking place. Larisa successfully transitioned from competitor to coach, leading three Soviet teams to the Olympics. When she finally retired from coaching, the Soviet gymnasts had won gold medals at every single one of the Games she took them to. Larisa was an integral cog in the organization of the Moscow Olympics in 1980. The 83-year-old still lives in Russia.
The incredible Carly Patterson made history at the Athens games in 2004, given that she dominated the field of competition in order to be the first American woman to take the all-around title at a non-boycotted Olympics. Carly’s incredible gymnastics skills also contributed to winning a silver medal with the American team, as well as winning an individual silver for the balance beam. Her all-around first place finish was even more impressive given that she was neck and neck with Svetlana Khorkina.
Soon after the conclusion of the games, Carly discovered that she was suffering from back pain that was the result of bulging discs. While she intended to return to competition after a short break, she ended up retiring without ever competing again. Carly transitioned to a career in singing, releasing a solo album in 2008. After earning her degree in 2014, Patterson has recently found a new role in life, that of mother, as her first child was born in 2017.
One of the most memorable male gymnasts who ever took on the Olympics, Sawao Kato first began competing for the Japanese team in 1968, when the games were held in Mexico City. That year, he took home three gold medals, one with his team, one the all-around and one for the floor. He also took bronze on the rings that first year. Kato continued his gold medal winning streak with his next two consecutive Olympic appearances at 1972 in Munich and in Montreal in 1976.
Kato has one of the most impressive Olympic records around and certainly tops the competition as a gymnast. All in all, he took home 12 medals, one of the most decorated Olympians in history, with eight of those being gold. No other Japanese athlete has won as many gold medals as Kato, though only one has earned more total medals. Since 2010, Kato has been lecturing at the University of Tsukuba, where he still holds the position of professor emeritus.
Kerri Strug shot to fame during the 1996 Olympics when she competed with the team that was dubbed Magnificent Seven. Kerri’s legacy was cemented when she continued to press on through the competition, despite having sustained an injury during the team competition. The U.S. was in fierce competition with the Russian team for the gold medal, which meant that Kerri needed to vault a second time, even though she was injured. She stuck a perfect landing, before collapsing in pain, but the U.S. was victorious.
Due to her severe ankle sprain, Kerri was forced to drop out of the individual events in which she’d qualified, but her contribution to the U.S. team did not go unnoticed. Kerri tried out a few different sports after her gymnastics retirement but ultimately decided that she would like to educate America’s youth, and became an elementary school teacher. She also held positions in both the White House and the Justice Department, though these days Kerri has been more focused on raising her children.
Tim Daggett got into gymnastics as a pre-teen, and would eventually go on to compete at the collegiate level. Despite his national success, Daggett only won medals from his performances during the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles. He was a part of the winning team that took the gold medal for the first time in American history. Daggett also found some success with his pommel horse routine, which earned him a bronze medal. Tim made it to the 1988 Olympics but struggled due to injury.
Tim’s gymnastics career was plagued by severe injuries, which often hit him in quick succession, and nearly ended his career several times. Despite all of the adversity he faced, Daggett was determined to hang on until the end, and ultimately retired from gymnastics after the 1988 Games. He found work like many others as a gymnastics analyst for several different sports channels, and is now running a gym in Massachusetts that caters to all levels of gymnasts, from toddlers to competitive teams.
Dominque Moceanu was always one to show off her personal flare during her gymnastics routines. Her sheer spunk helped her to become one of the Magnificent Seven, where she contributed to the team’s gold medal. Sadly, she fell several times during her balance beam routine, and didn’t earn any other Olympic medals. Moceanu continued to compete, earning the all-around gold at the 1998 Goodwill Games, where she beat Svetlana Khorkina. Moceanu then took a hiatus from competition, only returning again in 2006.
Moceanu is another Olympian who found her medal record frequently affected by injury, which caused her to underperform or withdraw from many competitions in which she’d been expected to fare well. Moceanu’s gymnastics career also proved detrimental to her home life, as she struggled with her parents to gain control of the money she was earning. These days, Moceanu has become a gymnastics coach, who works at a gym in Ohio, though she is also available to travel for private lessons and clinics.
Aly Raisman is a two time U.S. women’s gymnastics captain, under whose leadership the team has positively thrived. During her first Olympic showing in 2012, Raisman led her team to a gold finish, before earning her own gold for her floor routine. With a bronze medal for the balance beam. Raisman earned the distinction of earning the most medals of any American gymnast that year. She returned in 2016, as much a leader as ever, and earned another team gold, plus two silver medals.
Raisman’s performance and leadership have been celebrated throughout the U.S. since she first joined the U.S. team in London. She and Gabby Douglas are the only two Americans who have been a part of consecutive team gold medals. Raisman has also been at the forefront of the court case against the former team doctor, bravely standing up to him on the stand. This spring, Raisman will be one of the featured models in the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition.
One of the brains behind the coining of the name ‘Fierce Five,’ McKayla Maroney was an integral part of the U.S. women’s gymnastics team gold in 2012. Maroney’s greatest strength was on the vault, however, and to her disappointment, she underperformed in the event. Maroney ended up gaining widespread internet fame after the photo of her disappointed look on the podium was discovered, often accompanied with the caption, “McKayla is not impressed.” Even so, she earned a silver medal for her vault.
McKayla joined the rest of her team on a national gymnastics tour following the games, but ended up suffering a leg injury which forced her to take a break. Maroney wasn’t ready to retire from competition just yet, until she discovered that she needed surgery on one of her knees. In the aftermath of her gymnastics career, Maroney is attempting to make her name as a rap artist, even posting several videos of her new persona on her Instagram.