More than 30 African-American athletes left the 2012 Summer Olympic Games in London with new gold medals, including fan favorites like gymnast Gabrielle Douglas and runners Allyson Felix and Sonya Richards-Ross.
While some of the Black gold medalists may show up in future Olympic Games, others will never share another Olympics spotlight. for a chance to win more medals, other know their place in the Olympic spotlight has gone forever. But while they may never grace another Olympic podium, their success this summer may thrust them into a lifetime of fame and fortune. Douglas is already a prime example of how a gold medal can instantly boost an Olympian’s financial status. She recently inked a multi-million dollar endorsement deal with Kellogg’s.
But what about the African-American gold medalists past? Where are they now? The AFRO reviewed some of the former legendary Black athletes to see how they did after the cheering stopped:
Dominique Dawes – She made history during the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta when she became the first Black gymnast to win a gold medal. Dawes was only 19 years-old when she earned her gold medal as a member of the U.S. women’s gymnastics team, but retired two years later. She later graduated with a bachelor’s degree from the University of Maryland, College Park, and has developed a career in acting, modeling and television production.
Dawes also became, in 2004, the youngest president of the Women’s Sports Federation. According to sesamestreet.org, she’s on the advisory board of Sesame Street’s “Healthy Habits for Life” program and is a motivational speaker. She is co-chair of the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition.
Vonetta Flowers – She is the first Black person to win an Olympic gold medal during the Winter Games as she won the two-woman bobsled event during the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. According to VonettaFlowers.com, she originally attempted to qualify to compete in Summer Olympic Game events as a sprinter, but after a few failed attempts she decided to focus on bobsledding. At 26, Flowers would eventually find her niche as the No. 1 brakewoman in bobsledding.
The University of Alabama’s athletics website noted that Flowers, 40, was inducted into the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame in 2011 as the first Alabaman to win a Winter Games gold medal. A graduate of UAB, she returned to the university six years ago and is an assistant coach for the track and field team there. She also wrote Running on Ice: The Overcoming Faith of Vonetta Flowers.
Michael Johnson – Before Usain Bolt, U.S. sprinter Michael Johnson was considered the “Fastest Man on the Planet.” He won four Olympic gold medals from 1992 through 2000 and in 1996, set the world record time in the 200-meter at 19.32.
Johnson was elected into the U.S. Track and Field Hall of Fame in 2004. Three years later, he opened the Michael Johnson Performance training facility in McKinney, Texas, which serves both young and adult athletes. It is used by the Dallas Cowboys.
Johnson, 44, currently serves as a BBC sports analystand writes for the Daily Telegraph.. Recent remarks linking slavery and athletic superiority triggered controversy.
Marion Jones – She captured America’s heart with a five gold-medal performance at the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia, earning the label “Fastest Woman on Earth.” But life after track proved tumultuous. In 2007 she admitted using performance-enhancing drugs during the 2000 Games. She was stripped of her medals and sentenced to six months in federal prison for i lying about drug use and for lying about her involvement in a check-fraud scheme. She later declared bankruptcy.
After prison, Jones, 36, wrote On the Right Track detailing her rise and tragic fall in the world of track and field. A former college basketball star at North Carolina, she also played briefly for the Tulsa Shock of the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA).
Jackie Joyner-Kersee – Joyner-Kersee rose to fame as a silver medalist in the women’s heptathlon during the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles. She won gold medals in the 1988 Summer Games in Korea in the heptathlon and the long jump. She won a third gold medal during the 1992 Games in Barcelona.
After retiring from competition, she has engaged in philanthropy through the Jackie Joyner-Kersee Foundation, which provides training for youngsters and adults. She is a member of the board of directors for USA Track & Field (USATF), the national governing body of the sport. Carl Lewis – Considered by many to be among the greatest U.S. track and field Olympian, Lewis won nine gold medals from 1984 through 1996. He was selected in 1984 by the National Basketball Association (NBA)’s Chicago Bulls and by the National Football League’s (NFL) Dallas Cowboys. However, he never played for either team.
His star as a media personality rose and fell, though, with failed attempts at acting and singing including an off-key performance of the national anthem at the start of a nationally-televised NBA game. His image recovered recently and he was a TV analyst during the Olympic Games in London.
Tommie Smith and John Carlos – The two sprinters will forever be remembered for racial activism during the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City. Smith had won gold in the 200-meter dash with a time of 19.83, the first time the event had been run in less than 20 seconds. Carlos had won bronze in the same event. As they stood on the Olympic podium, both men raised black-gloved fists in the “Black Power salute” in protest of the racially segregated conditions of the U.S. at the time.
The athletes’ protest led to a suspension from the U.S. Olympic team. They received no endorsement offers, only death threats. However, among many Blacks, they were seen as heroes.
After retiring from track, Carlos tried to play in the NFL as a receiver but was hampered by a knee injury and was out of the league a year later.
Smith was inducted into the U.S. National Track and Field Hall of Fame in 1978. In 1996, he was named to the California Black Sports Hall of Fame.. He later taught, first at Oberlin College and later at Santa Monica Community College, where he was a sociology professor, track coach and interim athletic director, according to the Santa Monica College information office.
Both have written books. Smith’s Silent Gesture was published in 2007. The John Carlos Story: the Sports Moment That Changed the World was released in 2011.
Leon and Michael Spinks – Boxers Leon and Michael Spinks made history in the 1976 Summer Games in Montreal when they became the first pair of brothers to win gold medals in the same sport at the same Olympics games. Leon competed as a light heavyweight, Michael as a middleweight.
Both brothers boxed professionally. Leon Spinks beat famed heavyweight and gold medal winner Muhammed Ali in his eighth pro bout to take the world title. Seven months later, Ali retook the title, the first in a series of defeats from which Leon Spinks never recovered. He ended his career with a record of 26-17-3, according to media reports. For some time, Leon Spinks was homeless. He has sustained himself doing odd jobs and working around boxing training facilities. His son, Corey, is a former boxing champion.
Michael enjoyed greater success. He made history as a light heavyweight when he took the title, fighting as a heavyweight, from Larry Holmes. He retired after a bout in 1988 when Mike Tyson knocked him out in a minute and a half, the only loss of the 32 he fought as a professional. Unlike many fighters, Michael Spinks, who was inducted into the Boxing Hall of Fame in 1994, retired healthy and wealthy. He lives in almost-seclusion near Wilmington, Del.