10 Most Famous Winter Olympic Athletes
The 10 most famous Winter Olympic athletes found a balance of greatness both in sport and away from it.
1. Eric Heiden. The American speed skater became the only Winter Olympian to win five gold medals at one single Games. One of the most famous Winter Olympic athletes of all time, Heiden won gold in the 500 meters, 1,000m, 1,500m, 5,000m and 10,000m in 1980 at Lake Placid.
2. Katarina Witt. This German bombshell and famous Winter Olympian may be more well known for her off-the-ice career. Sure, Witt won back-to-back golds at the
1984 and '88 Winter Olympic Games, but it wasn't until a decade later when she hit her popularity peak. She shed the skimpy skating outfit and went completely
nude for Playboy in 1998.
3. Sonja Henie. This Norwegian figure skater won three consecutive gold medals in 1928, '32 and '36. She drew worldwide attention for her personal connections to the Nazi party and Adolf Hitler himself, even giving him a Nazi salute before the '36 Games in Berlin. Some might remember her, though, for her grace on the big screen. This famous Winter Olympic athlete headed for Hollywood after the 1936 world championships. She starred in such films as "One in a Million" and became one of the highest-paid actresses.
4. Tara Lipinski. At age fifteen, this 5-foot-1 American figure skater became the youngest gold medalist in Winter Olympic history when she performed a flawless long program in Nagano in 1998. She defeated long-time rival and fellow American Michelle Kwan.
5. Apolo Ohno. This American short track star became the country's most decorated Winter Olympian at the 2010 Games in Vancouver. He also became just one of three Americans to win three medals at a single Games. He won eight total medals (two gold, two silver, four bronze) while competing in 2002, '06 and '10. He became one of the most lucrative and famous Winter Olympians off the ice, inking sponsorship deals with Vick's, Coca-Cola and McDonald's.
6. Jim Craig. This American goaltender is the face of the Miracle on Ice when the U.S. men's ice hockey team defeated the powerful Soviets in the semifinals at the 1980 Games. Craig stopped 36 shots in a 4-3 win that sparked the phrase, "Do You Believe in Miracles?" The U.S. then went on to defeat Finland for the gold medal.
7. Jamie Sale. This Canadian pairs figure skater, along with partner David Pelletier, was embattled in one of the biggest Olympic scandals in history at the 2002 Games. The defending world champions skated a near perfect long program but were awarded a silver medal behind the Russians, much to the chagrin of those in attendance. A day later, a French judge fessed up to making a deal to place the Russians first in exchange for a first place vote for the French in the ice dancing competition. After the scandal was exposed, Sale and Pelletier were awarded gold.
8. Sidney Crosby. Sid the Kid was already the most famous hockey player in Canada when he took the ice for his home country at the 2010 Games. The 22-year-old, though, only added to his lore to become one of the most famous Winter Olympic athletes in the gold-medal game, netting the game-winner in overtime to defeat the U.S., 3-2.
9. Nancy Kerrigan. To many, Kerrigan was America's sweetheart entering the 1994 Games in Lillehammer. She won a bronze at the '92 Games and won the U.S. Figure Skating Championships in '93. She never got a chance to defend her national title in '94, though, after she was brutally attacked Shane Stant while exiting the ice after a practice session in January of that year. Kerrigan eventually battled back, was given an exemption to the Olympic Games and won the silver medal.
10. Tonya Harding. Kerrigan's Olympic teammate, Harding actually masterminded the attack on Kerrigan, along with ex-husband Jeff Gilloly. Without Kerrigan on the ice for the 1994 U.S. Figure Skating Championships, Harding skated to gold. Karma's a you-know-what, though, and Harding finished eighth in Lillehammer after stopping in her program to repair her skate lace.