February 13, 2018 | 6:20pm |Updated February 13, 2018 | 8:11pm
With the Winter Olympics in full swing, we’re here to remind you of past Olympic gold medalists who, once the games were over, transferred their sudden star power to the world of prime-time television — with mixed results.
Here’s a snapshot look at where America’s best made their mark on the small screen, ranging from the occasional guest spot to season-long reality shows:
Bruce Jenner — now known as Caitlyn — had the conventional, all-American good looks that made the decathlon gold medal winner a natural choice for stunt casting in mainstream network shows where no one was knocking themselves out in the acting department. In 1981, the athlete had a recurring role as Officer Steve McLeish on the campy cop drama “CHIPs.” Jenner played family man Zak Farrell on “Murder, She Wrote” in 1985, and, in the gold medalist’s most iconic guest spot, Jenner played a celebrity wrestler known as Lover Boy Bob on “The Love Boat” in 1986.
The 1968 figure skating gold medalist with the effortless grace of a ballerina exuded such star power that she appeared in TV specials with Bob Hope and Gene Kelly and on popular series such as “Sesame Street,” “Newhart” and “Diagnosis Murder.” One of her most memorable appearances came on “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” in 1982 where she invited the cardigan-clad PBS mainstay to come out on the ice with her and learn some basic moves.
The youngest skater to win the Olympic gold medal at age 15 in 1998, Lipinski has had an active acting career, beginning with roles on the long-running soap “The Young and the Restless” and the inspirational prime-time series “Touched by an Angel” in 1999. Guest spots followed on shows as diverse as “7th Heaven,” “Still Standing” and “Malcolm in the Middle.” Two years ago, she played herself on an episode of NBC’s “Superstore.”
The four-time gold medal winner in diving, who came out in 1994, was the subject of a 1997 TV movie “Breaking the Surface,” in which he was played by “Saved by the Bell’s” Mario Lopez, of all people. In recent years, Louganis has appeared as himself on the FX series “Portlandia” in 2012 and in the 2015 film version of the HBO series “Entourage” as Lloyd’s (Rex Lee) fiance.
Besides being the greatest female tennis player in history, Serena Williams is an Olympic gold medalist, having won the top prize four times. She also acts when she’s not winning Grand Slam events, going out of her comfort zone to appear on the NBC hits “Law & Order: SVU” (2004) and “ER” (2005) and the comedy “Drop Dead Diva” in 2012.
DANCING WITH THE STARS
The ABC reality-show contest has been a gold mine for Olympic medalists. It wasn’t that surprising when figure skating champ Kristi Yamaguchi won in 2006, but speed skater Apolo Anton Ohno shocked a lot of people when he showed he could cha-cha with the best of them, scooping up the top prize, the disco mirror ball, on his 25th birthday in 2007. Other gold medalists who appeared on the show include gymnast Shawn Johnson, who won the mirror ball in 2012, and figure skater Evan Lysacek, who came in second place in Season 10.