These Olympic Athletes Turned To Very Normal Careers

Making an Olympic team requires years of hard work and dedication. While we all know that, on some level, few people likely realize just how much time these top-level athletes dedicate to their training. At the height of his career, Michael Phelps revealed to CNN that he "spent three to six hours in the pool" every single day, on top of dry land workouts four to five times a week. In the lead-up to the Tokyo Olympics, Simone Biles told Jimmy Fallon on "The Tonight Show" that she was spending seven hours a day, six days a week in the gym. And an independent study released in 2012 found that the average athlete had spent 10,000 hours working out in the four years leading up to the Olympic Games.

When it's all said and done, preparing for the Olympics is, for most athletes, a full-time job. But for some, it's not their only full-time job. Many Olympians maintain careers outside of their sports, whether to supplement the meager winnings and sponsorships their sport provides or to prepare for life after the games (and their athletic careers) are over. Below, we've rounded up 14 Olympians from all different sports and countries, who have regular jobs on top of their training schedules. If you weren't already impressed by their abilities, you certainly will be once you're done reading!

Jackie Dubrovich

Born in Paterson, New Jersey, Jackie Dubrovich got into fencing at the tender age of 8. She told NBC 10 Philadelphia that she didn't care for the sport all that much at first, especially because she had to endure a good amount of teasing from her classmates, who openly ridiculed her unique choice of extracurricular activity. But, finding she had a natural talent for it, she stuck it out, going on to become the captain of the nationally ranked Columbia University fencing team for two years. In 2020, Dubrovich's talents won her a spot on the U.S. Olympic fencing team. Her efforts in Tokyo earned her a 21st place finish individually and helped her team take the 4th spot overall.

Dubrovich has managed to reach this level of success in her sport while also maintaining a 9-to-5 job. According to her LinkedIn profile, she has worked as an account strategist at Criterio since 2020, seemingly putting her education in psychology, human rights, and Russian literature and culture to good use. In the aforementioned NBC 10 Philadelphia interview, Dubrovich admitted that balancing training and an adult career hasn't always been easy, but told the outlet, "Looking back on it I don't remember all those tough times. I just really think about the end goal and how I've been able to accomplish it."

Pete Fenson

In 2006, Pete Fenson helped bring home the United States' first Olympic medal in curling. The skip for Team USA, Fenson was the team's captain and was responsible for determining the strategy they used to win. It was a role he'd been training for his entire life — his father, Bob Fenson, was a national champion in the sport, and taught his sons "the ins and outs" of the game from an early age. The younger Fenson told PMQ, "curling is a family sort of game," attributing much of his success to the fact that he grew up surrounded by it in his hometown of Bemidji, Minnesota.

Curling wasn't the only thing Fenson fell in love with in Bemidji. It's also where he met his wife, Roxanne, and tried his first slice of Dave's Pizza. Opened in 1958, Dave's Pizza is something of a local staple, and when it went up for sale in the late '90s, Dave and Roxanne decided to buy it. For the last 25 years, the couple has continued to run the pizzeria, expanding the number of locations and adding in a host of new and exciting flavor options. Juggling the two demanding roles can't be easy, but Fenson has demonstrated he's equally as capable of keeping his cool on the rink as he is in front of a 500-degree pizza oven.

Nikole Barnes

A native of the Virgin Islands, Nikole Barnes grew up surrounded by water. So it should come as no surprise, really, that she fell in love with sailing at an early age. The Virgin Islands Consortium reported that she began taking sailing lessons as soon as she turned 6 and that by the time she turned 12, she was competing at championships around the world. The training was intense — the outlet revealed that for most of her teen years, she practiced five days a week with some sessions reaching eight hours in length. In the end, the commitment paid off, and Barnes earned a spot on the United States' 2020 Olympic team.

Her love for sailing also informed her adult career, inspiring her to apply for the Coast Guard Academy. After being accepted, she quickly joined the Coast Guard Academy's sailing team, where she won a number of awards for her achievements on the water. In 2017, she graduated from the academy, and, as of this writing, is a career military officer. When she competed in the Tokyo Games in 2021, she became the first active-duty Coast Guard officer to compete in an Olympic Games. She placed 12th in her event, the women's 470, alongside her sailing partner, Laura Dallman-Weiss.

Ibtihaj Muhammad

Compared to many other Olympians, Ibtihaj Muhammad came to her sport late. The Wall Street Journal wrote that the athlete tried out a number of games in her childhood, including volleyball and softball, but it wasn't until she reached high school that she discovered fencing. It didn't take long for her raw talent to become evident, and the saber-wielding teenager was promptly promoted to captain of her school's team. She continued on to compete at Duke University — where she was named to the All-American team three times — while earning a double major in African-American studies and international relations. Then, in 2016, she made the U.S. Olympic team, representing the country at the Rio Games.

While at the games she made headlines not only for her athletic prowess (she took 12th place in the individual competition and helped her team bring home a bronze medal), but also for the fact that she was the first American athlete to compete in a hijab. As a Muslim woman, modesty is extremely important to Muhammad (it was actually the fact that fencers are so completely covered that inspired her to try the sport in the first place), and it's this tenet of her faith that inspired her to pursue her adult career. In 2014, she launched Louella, an affordable fashion brand that fills a gap in the market for on-trend, modest clothes.

Michelle Carter

A three-time Olympian, Michelle Carter competed in the shot put event in the 2008, 2012, and 2016 Games. Like many other athletes who find success in these more niche sports, Carter was introduced to the track and field event through a family member, namely, her father, who won a silver medal himself in shot put at the 1984 Olympics. According to the Texas Sports Hall of Fame, she took up the sport as a junior in high school, going on to win multiple state titles and a full-ride scholarship to The University of Texas. At her third games in Rio, Carter finally claimed the biggest prize of them all — a gold medal. She also set an American record with her winning throw, surpassing 67 feet.

A self-confessed beauty junkie, Carter's look on the field often garnered just as much attention as her athletic accomplishments. After all, her bold red lips, perfectly polished fingernails, and big hoop earrings stood out in a sea of sameness. In 2015, her love of all things hair and makeup inspired Carter to start her own beauty business, called Shot Diva. A licensed cosmetologist, she does clients' glam for everything from weddings to events. While her two passions may seem at odds, Carter told the Today Show that she holds strongly to the belief that a woman shouldn't have to choose between looking good and feeling athletic.

Gerek Meinhardt

The official Olympics website describes Gerek Meinhardt as "something of a fencing prodigy." He first picked up a foil at the age of 9, and less than a decade later, at the age of 16, he became the youngest-ever national champion. He's since been to four Olympics, in 2008, 2012, 2016, and 2020, winning bronze medals in both individual and team competitions along the way. As of this writing, Meinhardt remains the youngest man to ever make a U.S. Olympic fencing team.

His brilliance, however, extends well beyond the strip. Inspired by his wife, Lee Kiefer, who is also a nationally ranked fencer and Olympian, Meinhardt enrolled in medical school at the University of Kentucky in 2020. Keifer, who comes from a long line of doctors, is nearing the end of her own medical studies at the same university. For Meinhardt, who's getting a much later start at the age of 30, a Doctor of Medicine degree won't be his only upper-level diploma — he already holds an MBA from the University of Notre Dame. How he finds time to balance it all, we'll never understand.

Hubertus Von Hohenlohe

Perhaps the most unusual character on our list, Hubertus Von Hohenlohe is a German prince who was born in Mexico City. Having spent most of his life in continental Europe, where cold-weather mountain ranges abound, the prince has become an accomplished Alpine skier. So accomplished, in fact, that he qualified for seven Olympic Games — though only attended six, as Mexico decided not to send a delegation to the Turin Games in 2006. In regards to his odd choice of competing for Mexico (after all, he lives and trains in Austria), Deadspin wrote "it's naturally easier to qualify for the Olympics as the only half-decent winter Olympian in the country."

Given the size of the family fortune, Von Hohenlohe doesn't need to work (strictly speaking) and could occupy his time with training alone if he so chose. Regardless, he's pursued a handful of more adult careers over the last 60 years. When he's not flying down the slopes, the prince works as a photographer (one of his shows exclusively featured pictures of himself), a singer (he's released albums under the names Andy Himalaya and Royal Disaster), and a fashion designer (he frequently designs his own racing costumes, including the iconic mariachi getup he wore in Sochi).

Jeff Isaacson

Another Olympic curler with ties to Bemidji, Minnesota (he received a Bachelor's of Science degree from Bemidji State several years back), Jeff Isaacson competed in both the Vancouver Games in 2010 and the Sochi Games in 2014. A Minnesota native, he likely fell into curling the same way Pete Fenson did, through family and community ties. While less is known about his amateur experience, we do know — per Time — that by the 2014 Games, he was good and experienced enough to be named vice-skip (the second most important position on a curling team).

But, just like Fenson, curling isn't Isaacson's only job. At the time of the 2014 Olympics, he was a junior high chemistry teacher at Eveleth-Gilbert Jr. High, according to Yahoo! His students, he told the outlet, are equal parts impressed and indifferent about their teacher's double life, hating when he's out of the classroom for competitions but always eager to hear his stories when he returns. Like many teachers in the U.S., it seems Isaacson is also supplementing his meager income with a second job. According to the Chaska Curling Center website, he's also the curling center's manager, where he surely puts his breadth of knowledge about the sport to good use.

Kazuki Yazawa

If Hubertus Von Hohenlohe is the most unusual character on our list, then Kazuki Yazawa is the most interesting. Since 2006, the athlete has competed at an international level in slalom canoeing. He was inspired by his father, a recreational canoer, to pick up the sport, and found that he was naturally adept at racing. So far, he's represented Japan at three Olympic Games: 2008, 2012, and 2016. His highest finish in any of these events was 9th place in London.

But it was another canoer, Kenei Koyama, who inspired Yazawa to pursue his more adult career as a Buddhist priest. A fellow priest, Koyama encouraged Yazawa to pursue monkhood after the 2012 Games ended and he found he was unable to financially support himself through sponsorships and winnings. When he donned the black robes, Yazawa told Firstpost, "I never had the intention of balancing the two. When I started as a Buddhist priest, I had decided that my main job would be as a priest and my life as a canoeist would be done in my spare time." However, success at the national level kept competitive canoeing on his mind. And although it may not seem like it, Yazawa maintains that the pursuits are complementary, telling the official Olympic website that success in each of his endeavors is "all down to the effort you put in." 

Lanni Marchant

Born in London, Ontario, Lanni Marchant first took up running as a way to cross-train for her primary sport, ice skating. It wasn't until her sophomore year of high school, when she joined a cross country team, that she realized running had become her true passion, leading her to give up winter sport for good. It all worked out in the end, though, when Marchant made the Canadian team in 2016, running both the 10,000-meter race and the marathon at the Rio Games.

Injuries have sidelined Marchant for now — she was unable to compete at the Tokyo Olympics due to a series of broken bones in her lower body and chronic illnesses — but she hasn't fully ruled out a comeback, as she told Canadian Running in 2021. Although she's taken a break from pounding the pavement, Marchant's remained plenty busy working as a criminal defense attorney in Chattanooga, Tennessee. An accomplished lawyer, she earned law degrees from both the University of Ottawa and Michigan State University. On her personal website, Marchant wrote that both of her careers give her "an amazing double life that [she takes] great pride in."

Jared Ward

Jared Ward wasn't an immediate talent like some of the other athletes on our list, but tireless effort and dedication helped him hone his skills as a long-distance runner. He told Universe Sports he started running as a young kid, but his diminutive size kept him from being a contender in those early days. Still, he had the heart for the sport, and, with the encouragement of a good coach and plenty of hard work, he helped lead his high school's track and cross country teams to state titles his senior year. He went on to run cross country for Brigham Young University in Utah, before running the marathon for Team USA in the 2016 Olympics.

It turns out BYU was more than just a place for Ward to get some competitive experience. He graduated in 2015 with both a bachelor's and master's degree in statistics and went on to secure an adjunct professor position in that same department. When he's not training with the current BYU team for the 2024 Paris Olympics, he teaches classes, holds office hours, and mentors younger runners who want to follow in his footsteps.

Alex Naddour

Both of Alex Naddour's careers — gymnastics and real estate — are dynastic. His dad, Mike Naddour, who owns the USA Youth Fitness Center in Gilbert, Arizona, put the younger Naddour in classes at his gym as soon as he was eligible. Then, when Alex showed signs of promise, Mike promoted him to the competitive team and became his primary coach. Together, the duo made it to the 2012 Olympic Games (where Alex was an alternate) and the 2016 Games, where Alex brought home the bronze medal in the pommel horse, becoming the first American man to win an international medal in the event in 31 years, per Time.

Gymnastics is famously hard on the body, and Alex knew that he wouldn't be able to compete forever. So he followed in his mother's footsteps and obtained his Arizona real estate license. The athlete surely appreciates the flexibility of the job, which allowed him to earn money around his five-hour practices, packed competition schedule, and various tours. Now, as a retired gymnast, Naddour's LinkedIn profile reflects that he continues to sell homes in the hours he's not coaching in the gym. Talk about balance!

John Landsteiner

A third-generation curling lead, John Landsteiner began competing in local bonspiels at a young age. A natural at the icy game, it wasn't long before he was invited to bigger and bigger curling tournaments, and, eventually, offered a spot on the U.S. National team. A two-time Olympian, Landsteiner competed in both the 2014 and 2018 games, where, in the latter competition, he helped the men's team bring home the gold. He's slated to take part in the 2022 Beijing Games as well, where the veteran team is a favorite to bring home a medal.

For the better part of two decades, Landsteiner has devoted hours to training and traveling for curling competitions, but has still somehow managed to hold down a full-time job. As of this writing, he works as a civil engineer for Lake Superior Consulting, managing energy pipeline projects across the upper midwest. Rather than being concerned that his passion takes him out of the office so often, it seems that Landsteiner's employer is supportive of his athletic ambitions. Following a 2018 Curling World Cup win, the athlete tweeted, "Big thanks to my employer, Lake Superior Consulting, for supporting our league team. They have been supportive of all of my competitive curling through the last six years of working there."

Nina Roth

Finally, there's Nina Roth. Yet another midwestern curler, the Wisconsin native was the skip for the 2018 women's Olympic team (they finished in eighth place), a role she's set to reprise at the 2022 Games in Beijing. She found the sport at age 10, when, according to ESPN, her Girl Scout troop took a field trip to a "local curling club." She told the outlet, "I just fell in love with it. I knew from a very young age that I wanted to be an Olympian and I dedicated a lot of my time to get there."

But the bizarre mix of "shuffleboard, bocce, and chess" isn't Roth's only passion. She also loves helping people, and, to that end, has a separate career as a nurse. For the past decade, she's worked at a Wisconsin hospital caring for "long-term patients" who had experienced serious trauma. Speaking to WKOW after her last Olympics, Roth said, "I'm very lucky to have found two big passions in my life — curling and nursing. And it's so nice to be able to get back and focus on that other passion that I've kind of put to the side a little bit while focusing on curling." So, no matter how successful she is in bringing home a medal this time around, don't expect her to give up her day job.