Tonight’s opening ceremony of the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi will officially kick start 17 days of competitions among 85 nations, with an estimated 3 billion people around the world projected to watch the Sochi Games. The U.S Olympic Team is bringing 230 athletes, consisting of 106 returning Olympians and including 13 Olympic champions. There will be winners and missed chances, dreams achieved and dreams crushed. But regardless of the rank, score or place of these athletes, they will dazzle us with their talent and determination.
But where do they go when they have reached the pinnacle of their training, when the luster of a gold, silver or bronze medal wears off? Only upwards and onwards to their next goal; the pursuit of a college degree. Check out below which U.S. Olympians just didn’t quit, whether it’s on the ice, the uneven bars or the classroom.
Considered one of the all-time greatest players in women’s tennis, only outranked by younger sister Serena, Venus Williams grand slammed her way to four gold medals in the 2000, 2008 and 2012 Summer Olympic games. But she doesn’t rest on past laurels, or titles; in 2007 Williams received an associate’s degree in Fashion Design, and in 2011, enrolled in an online program to pursue a bachelor’s degree in business. A self-proclaimed long-time lover of learning, she’s stated that her ultimate goal is to earn her MBA in the next four years.
Considered one of the greatest figure skaters of all time, Michelle Kwan won a silver medal and a bronze medal at the 1998 Nagano Olympics and the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics, respectively. In pursuit of a college degree since 1998, Kwan graduated in 2009 with a bachelor’s degree in international studies and a minor in political science. She then went on to pursue a master’s degree in international relations, graduating in 2011.
Well known for her dramatic performance with an injured ankle and subsequently carried to the podium to receive her medal, Kerri Strugg won the gold that year in women’s gymnastics at the 1996 Atlanta Games. Shortly after, Strugg announced her retirement from the sport, earned her bachelor’s degree and received a master’s degree in sociology.
Appearing only in the 2002 Salt Lake City Games, Sarah Hughes did walk away with a gold medal in women’s figure skating. A year later, in 2003, she enrolled in college and graduated in 2009 with a bachelor’s degree in American studies.
She may have begun her studies as a traditional college student from 1980-1985, but Joyner-Kersey took a year off to train for the 1984 Los Angeles Summer Olympics in the heptathlon. After winning the silver medal that year, she returned to finish her undergraduate degree, going on to receive several more medals at four different Olympic games to become one of the greatest female athletes of all-time.
Apolo Anton Ohno
Emerging as a superstar Olympian in the 2002 Salt Lake City Games, Apolo Anton Ohno won his first gold medal that year at just 20 years old. Since then, he has received seven more medals to become the most decorated American Winter Olympic athlete of all time, while going on to earn a business degree.