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1 year ago
5 Olympic Medalists From Past Games Share What They're Up to Now

Post-Olympic games, we're imagining that Michael Phelps is on a snuggle-bender with Boomer, while simultaneously chowing down on cheese fries. The Final Five have probably planted their (rock-solid) booties on the beach and are likely responding to 6,000 unread texts. Because after years of grueling workouts, strict diets, and early bedtimes, the athletes are probably in serious need of some chill time.

But what happens when they’ve quit the competition for good? We spoke to five former Olympians about dealing with identity crises, changing bodies, and the newfound freedom to do whatever you damn well please. (Rio retirees—take notes.)

life after olympics
1/5 Clive Rose/Staff/Getty Images
Swimmer Jessica Hardy

Gold and bronze medalist in the 2012 games.

"Right after the London games there were parades, VIP tickets, and everyone wanted to touch my medal. Then my definition of life kind of changed. I took about a month off to reflect, sleep in, eat ice cream, drink wine, and see friends—all the stuff I had sacrificed during the years of having a crazy-structured lifestyle. Then I started getting back into training for the 2016 trials, though I didn't make the Rio team.

RELATED: 17 Times the Women of Team USA Made History at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games

"But now that I’m done competing for good, it’s been crazy to see how my body has changed. I’m growing boobs, and I’ve reduced muscle mass. I’ve smelled like chlorine my entire life (I would even sweat out chlorine),  so I’m learning what my own body odor smells like for the first time! My hair and eyebrows are growing back, too. (Chlorine burns off some of your hair and the cap causes breakage.) I love staying super-active, so I’m doing everything I couldn’t do when I was worried about getting injured. I work out at Orange Theory, I go paddle-boarding, surfing, and I’m trying golf. One of the hardest things is that my appetite didn’t really change, so my hunger levels are still way up!"

life after olympics
2/5 Doug Pensinger/Staff/Getty Images
Gymnast Dominique Dawes

Competed in the 1992, 1996, and 2000 Olympics. Medal count: one gold, three bronze.

"I’m turning 40 in a couple months, so I can look back on things with a different perspective now. When the Sydney games came to an end, I was fearful. I was a gymnast for 18 years and labeled as such. So finding my identity outside of the leotard was filled with a lot of prayer, exploring different avenues, and surrounding myself with people who were honest with me. The effects on my body from training are lasting: My ankles are still constantly swollen, probably from years of sprains and stress fractures. That sort of regimented training puts a delay on your body. I really didn’t go through puberty until I was 21 years old, and I grew an inch at age 23! I was lucky that I found my passion after the games.

"Today I’m focused on being the best mom I can to my two young girls, while still working as a motivational speaker and serving as co-chair to the President's Council on Fitness, Sports, and Nutrition. I stay super active chasing my kids around and that keeps me in decent shape. I’ll get on the monkey bars and go down the slides with them. People come up to me at the grocery store or in a public restroom and say, ‘Can you still do a flip?’ I tell them, 'Yes, I can!'"

life after olympics
3/5 Alex Livesey/Staff/Getty Images
Snowboarder Gretchen Bleiler

Silver medalist in 2006, competed again in the 2010 games.

"I think snowboarders have a unique experience when it comes to the Olympics because we have a pretty frequent competition circuit in addition to the games. So it’s not a sport where your big moment is just once every four years. That takes some of the pressure off of retirement. Finding a deeper purpose and bigger picture behind what you’re doing helps with perspective, too—banking everything on one contest is unsustainable.

RELATED: The 11 Most Swoon-Worthy Olympic Hunks in Rio This Year

"Competing and watching guys like Joey Cheek in 2006 donate his Olympic earnings to charity inspired me to start thinking early about how I could use the platform for something bigger. I’ve been focusing on two charities I’m involved with: Protect Our Winters (POW), an advocacy group that's mobilizing the outdoor sports community to act on climate change, and LoveYourBrain, a foundation that’s raising awareness around traumatic brain injuries and concussions. I’ve had cumulative concussions and realized that’s something you carry with you."

life after olympics
4/5 YURI KADOBNOV/Staff/Getty Images
Figure Skater Sasha Cohen

Silver medalist in 2006. 

"I continued to skate in a touring capacity after my Olympic career was over, but the hours I put into competitive training went way down. That's when I started to travel more and moved to New York to attend Columbia University, studying political science. School felt like a vacation after 20 years of training. Sitting, reading, and exploring all these interesting topics was a novelty. Once in a while, someone at school would recognize me from the Olympics, but my experience overall was super low key. I graduated in May, and now I’m working for a media start-up and getting married! I just discovered barre classes and I love the group energy and social element of the class. I always say I was kind of built like a 13-year–old-boy, so my body isn’t that much different, but I’m definitely not as cut or toned. My life is more about having a glass of wine and seeing friends now!"

life after olympics
5/5 Photograph courtesy of Alicia Quinn
Gymnast Alicia Sacramone Quinn

Silver medalist in 2008. 

"Once I officially retired after the 2012 Olympic trials, I had a mini quarter-life crisis. At 24 years old, I was leaving my little gymnastics bubble and going into the real world—and I was terrified! I never had a real job because training and appearances took up most of my time. The first year post-gymnastics wasn't too bad—we had a post-Olympic gymnastics tour that kept me busy for a few months, but once that was over, I had a lot more free time on my hands. I enjoyed time with family and friends, but I got bored. That pushed me to try to find new hobbies. I started coaching gymnastics in southern Florida part time, which was a great way for me to stay connected to the sport I loved without putting a leotard. I also decided to enhance my overall fitness credentials and got certified in personal training.

"I thought all of the aches and pains I accrued over the years would stop nagging me once I hung up my leotard, but I was wrong. I developed arthritis at the ripe old age of 24, so there are mornings where I wake up feeling like a 75-year-old lady. I still do some of my old gymnastics conditioning, hot yoga, weight lifting, dance classes, and [I did] swimming while I was super pregnant and riding my bike. Staying active has honestly been the best way to keep my energy up."

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