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How to make it in Hollywood as a retired Olympian

USA TODAY logo USA TODAY 24-08-2016 Maeve McDermott
Simone Biles. © AP Photo/Dmitri Lovetsky, File Simone Biles.

So you’re an Olympic athlete, walking away from the Rio Games with a medal or two in tow, wondering what your next career step should be. Michael Phelps is the most notable American competitor to announce that this summer’s Olympics will be his last, though other famous names will likely follow in the coming days and months.

Once the golden glow of talk-show appearances and big-name endorsements fades, what comes next? We review some of the best, and worst, post-Olympic career options in the entertainment business. 

Join Dancing With The Stars

The Olympics are barely over, and already Simone Biles is reportedly being chased to appear on season 23 of Dancing With The Stars. Biles would add her name to a long list of athletes who parlayed their Olympic success into a stint on the DWTS dance floor — including her teammate Aly Raisman, who joined the top-rated show after the 2012 Games. Notable Olympians who won the DWTS competition include Apolo Ohno, Kristi Yamaguchi and Shawn Johnson.

Write a memoir

The autobiography game isn’t only for retired athletes — just look at Gabby Douglas, whose memoir Grace, Gold, and Glory: My Leap of Faith came out in 2012. (We’d really like for her to write an addendum after her controversial Rio games this year.)Though Olympians' memoirs generally tell the story of their athletic success, we'd read a few tell-alls dishing on teammates and frustrations with the Games. 

Get your own reality show

The #Lochtegate scandal brought to light one career path that certain fame-minded Olympians may choose to pursue: reality TV. What Would Ryan Lochte Do?, which premiered in 2013, followed the swimmer’s life as he trained, partied, dated and said “Jeah!” a lot. Though we'd advise going the route of Gabby Douglas’ inspirational show Douglas Family Gold, or like Aly Raisman’s appearance on Lifetime’s Gold Medal Families. And keep dating lives off-screen. 

Go into politics

Not a typically Hollywood path per se, but for activism-minded competitors who'd like to use their stardom to help a pet cause, entering the political arena is a solid option. In June 2010, President Obama appointed former gymnast Dominique Dawes, who won gold in 1997 as part of the Magnificent Seven team, to serve as co-chair of the President's Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition. And gold-winning figure skater Michelle Kwan was named a public diplomacy ambassador by Condoleezza Rice in 2006, before working extensively with Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton.

Become an Olympic commentator

Who better to announce the Olympics for viewers at home than former Olympians? There are the consummate professionals who play it straight, like the wonderful gymnastics commentators who we heard on this year’s stream. And then there are Johnny Weir and Tara Lipinski, who see narrating the Olympics as another way to perform.


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