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Life after the Olympics

"An entire way of life was gone — all at once." That’s how swimming gold medalist Donna de Varona describes her retirement after the 1964 Olympics.

She’s not alone. We talked to eight Olympians, all of whom struggled when they came home from the games. Some wrestled with health problems and financial woes. Some faced public anger or disdain for their politics. Some confronted anxiety, depression, and self-doubt.

But these are not stories of defeat — they are ultimately about renewal and reinvention. Click on the links below to read these athletes' stories in full.

John Carlos

Track and field, bronze medal

Mexico City, 1968


"If you're famous and you're black, you have to be an activist." Read More

Jennie Finch

Softball, gold and silver medals

Athens, 2004
Beijing, 2008


"To this day, every time I bring out the silver medal, it still stings." Read More

Jim Ryun

Track and field, silver medal

Tokyo, 1964
Mexico City, 1968
Munich, 1972


"I was disappointed and angry. Angry at the officials as well as at myself. But my wife and I made a promise to each other: We didn’t want our lives to end there." Read More

Natasha Kai

Soccer, gold medal

Beijing, 2008


"Your place on the national team is always precarious; it's like every day is a new tryout." Read More

Greg Louganis

Diving, four gold medals, one silver

Montreal, 1978
Los Angeles, 1984
Seoul, 1988


"Knowing that my story has affected others, even in a minuscule way, keeps me passionate." Read More

Maritza McClendon

Swimming, silver medal

Athens, 2004


"Waving an Olympic medal in front of the human resources receptionist doesn’t mean you can skip over the experience section on job applications." Read More

Nick Delpopolo

Judo

London, 2012
Rio de Janeiro, 2016


"The International Olympic Committee discovered that I tested positive for marijuana. How could I let this happen?" Read More

Donna de Varona

Swimming, two gold medals

Rome, 1960
Tokyo, 1964


"Back then, only male athletes were offered sports scholarships." Read More


Editorial director: Eleanor Barkhorn
Photographer: Anna Harris
Project manager: Susannah Locke
Artistic director: Johnny Harris
Copy editor: Tanya Pai
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