11 Sep 2017
Olympian to politician: five athletes who swapped sport for politics

Parliamentary debates may seem a world away from the Olympic stage, but many former athletes have gone on to enjoy political careers. Here, we highlight some of those who have made the transition

Ryoko Tani

Ryoko Tani (née Tamura) burst onto the international judo scene in the early 1990s, winning a silver medal as a 16-year-old at the Olympic Games Barcelona 1992. She went on to win another silver medal at the Olympic Games Atlanta 1996, before claiming successive gold medals in 2000 and 2004, becoming the first female judoka to win two Olympic titles. A bronze medal at the Olympic Games Beijing 2008 secured her legendary status in Japan, and in 2010 she used her public profile to successfully run for a seat in the country’s House of Councillors, where she has worked towards improving Japanese sport.

Bill Bradley

Bill Bradley was part of the USA basketball team that won the gold medal at the Olympic Games Tokyo 1964 and went on to enjoy a hugely successful career in the NBA, winning two championships during his 10 seasons with the New York Knicks. After retiring from basketball in 1977, Bradley turned his attention to politics and served three terms as the US Senator for New Jersey from 1979 to 1997, before unsuccessfully challenging for the Democratic Party’s nomination for President in the 2000 election.

Nova Peris

Nova Peris became the first Indigenous Australian to win an Olympic gold medal when she was part of the country’s triumphant hockey team at the Olympic Games Atlanta 1996. She subsequently switched her focus to athletics, winning gold medals in the 200m and 4x100m relay at the 1998 Commonwealth Games and qualifying for the semi-finals of the 400m at the Olympic Games Sydney 2000. Not content with successful careers in two sports, Peris then stood as a candidate for the Australian Senate in 2013, eventually becoming Australia’s first Indigenous woman elected to federal parliament.

Romario

Romario’s stellar football career took off when he was top scorer at the Olympic Games Seoul 1988, helping Brazil to the silver medal, and also saw him win the 1994 FIFA World Cup, two Copa América titles and the 1994 FIFA World Player of the Year award. The winning didn’t stop with Romario’s sporting career, however, as he went on to win a seat in Brazil’s Chamber of Deputies during the 2010 general election before becoming a federal senator for Rio de Janeiro in 2015.

Sebastian Coe

As an athlete, Sebastian Coe dominated middle distance running in the late 1970s and 1980s, winning two Olympic gold medals and setting several world records. After retiring from competitive athletics in early 1990, he was elected as a Member of the British Parliament in 1992 and served until 1997. He then went on to play a key role in the Olympic Games London 2012, serving as Chairman of the Organising Committee.

 

Visit the IOC Athlete Career Programme’s online resources on Education, Life Skills and Employment at https://www.olympic.org/athlete-career-programme.