Pop Culture

From Olympic glory to reality TV gold: Athletes steal the show

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Kristi Yamaguchi, Johnny Weir and Bruce Jenner all went from the Olympics to reality TV.

They spent countless hours training, made it through tough qualifying trials, and competed in the ultimate competition. They are, in short, the very best of the best. They’re ... reality TV stars?!

Well, they didn’t start out that way, but more than a few memorable Olympians traded their medal-worthy accomplishments for small-screen fun once the games were over.

As the 2012 Olympic hopefuls go for the glory in London and move on to their own reality TV efforts, let’s take a look at some of the athletes who’ve already paved the primetime way and the shows that gave them a shot.

'Dancing With the Stars'

No reality show can boast as big a list of Olympic participants as the ballroom bash. Gold, silver and bronze medalists, "DWTS" has had them all, and several have even moved on to mirror-ball trophy glory. Speed skater Apolo Anton Ohno was the season-four champ, figure skater Kristi Yamaguchi dominated season six and gymnast Shawn Johnson triumphed in season eight. (Both Apolo and Shawn will be competing in the "All Stars" edition this fall.) Other Olympians who have shown off their fancy (and sometimes not so fancy) footwork include Misty May-Treanor, Maurice Greene, Natalie Coughlin, Evan Lysacek, Sugar Ray Leonard and Hope Solo.

'Keeping Up With the Kardashians'

When thinking about Olympic athletes on reality TV, the "world's greatest athlete," Bruce Jenner, immediately springs to mind. The man not only won a gold medal for the U.S. at the 1976 Olympics in the decathlon, he also set a world record with his 8,634 points. Since 2007, Bruce -- married to Kardashian matriarch Kris -- has been featured on the E! network's popular reality show as well as its spin-offs. He's shown mostly playing dad, but from time to time, offers tales and words of wisdom from his days as an Olympian. But Bruce isn't the only person on the show and its spin-offs who's competed in the games. His son-in-law/basketball star Lamar Odom -- Khloe's husband -- played at the 2004 games and helped the team win bronze.

'Biggest Loser'

A lot of hard work goes into getting ready for an event like the Olympics -- then again, there is no other event like the Olympics. That’s why when the world’s premier athletes take the field, they’re usually in the finest physical form of their lives. After the games? Things can change. That’s a fact Rulon Gardner, the man who took the gold for the U.S. in Greco-Roman wrestling in 2000 and the bronze for the same event in 2004, knows well. In 2011, after weighing in at 442 pounds, he found himself in need of the sort of training that he could get on "The Biggest Loser" ranch. While there, he lost more than 140 pounds before distinguishing himself as the very first player to quit the competition. Another past Olympian starred on the show too. Former "Loser" trainer and retired pro tennis player Anna Kournikova competed in the 1996 games on the Russian tennis team.

'Be Good, Johnny Weir'

Sure, some Olympians sign on to appear in established reality shows when the competition wraps, but then there’s figure skater Johnny Weir, who followed up his 2010 Winter Olympics performances with his very own show. The Sundance Channel’s eight-part docuseries "Be Good, Johnny Weir" followed the life of the charismatic ice star. But that’s far from Weir’s only reality TV experience. In fact, he’s just as much of a workaholic on the small screen as he is in the rink. He gave comedian Kathy Griffin skating lessons on "My Life on The D-List," was as a regular pro panelist on ABC’s short-lived "Skating With the Stars," served as a guest judge on "RuPaul’s Drag Race," and appeared on "The Rachel Zoe Project" and "Say Yes to the Dress." Whew!

'Celebrity Apprentice'

Summer Sanders, who won several medals for swimming at the 1992 Summer Games, like Johnny, didn't limit herself to just one reality show. Since her Olympic days, the swimmer has participated in three reality programs. Of her stints competing on TV, she lasted the longest on season three of "Celebrity Apprentice." Going up against the likes of Bret Michaels, Sharon Osbourne and Rod Blagojevich, she ended up lasting eight weeks on the show and raised $45,000 for her charity. She also cooked on Team Rachael for Food Network's "Rachael vs. Guy: Celebrity Cook-Off," and was eliminated in episode four of six.  Summer also hosted Fox's "Skating With Celebrities" in 2006.

Which of today's Olympic athletes would you like to see on reality TV tomorrow? And what kind of show should they be on? Share your thoughts on our Facebook page! 

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