Two days have passed since the Fab Five won their gold medals in the Olympic gymnastics team competition. Yet I still have not tired of watching McKayla Maroney’s goosebump-inducing vault. If I could stop blogging and watch it all day, periodically switching between regular motion and slow-mo, I would.
The team’s powerful victory and the participation of members Aly Raisman and Gabby Douglas in Thursday’s all-around finals ensure that these young women will be remembered for their extraordinary athletic achievements. That’s as it should be.
But as I previously noted in this piece on the celebrity-anointing powers of the Olympic games, once the big event ends, all kinds of opportunities — including some in the entertainment realm — will likely come to these now-famous young ladies with the jaw-dropping capacity to stick to their landings. How have previous female gymnastic contenders handled such opportunities?
Let’s look back at five notable cultural moments in U.S. Olympic gymnasts’ history and find out.
Cathy Rigby is Peter Pan
In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Rigby was the first female gymnast to become a legitimate mainstream star, a stardom she eventually parlayed into acting. She has played many roles on screen and stage but the one she’s best known for is Peter Pan because — at age 59 — she is still playing it. Seriously, like, tonight, in West Palm Beach, Fla.
Mary Lou Retton guest stars on “Baywatch”
Fine, the perpetually youthful Retton wasn’t quite as successful at acting as Rigby was. But as the clip below reveals (starting at the 6:05 mark), that she was almost as good on “Baywatch” as was Hasselhoff .
Dominique Dawes appears in a Missy Elliott video
The Silver Spring, Md., native and member of the team that won gold at the 1996 Olympics did the only natural, post-Olympics thing a champion can do: appear as a gymnastics coach in a Missy Elliott video. She showed up in the clip for “We Run This,” which also happened to be the theme song to the little-seen gymnastics movie “Stick It!”
Carly Patterson does “Celebrity Duets”
The gold and silver medalist from the 2004 Athens Games launched a music career post-Olympics. And one of her steps on that path involved appearing on a reality show that most of us probably forgot existed: Simon Cowell’s “Celebrity Duets.” Here’s Patterson doing “I Hope You Dance” in her celebrity duet with LeeAnn Womack, then receiving sound advice from three judges who presumably were not paid Mariah Carey money: Marie Osmond, Little Richard and David Foster.
Shawn Johnson wins “Dancing With the Stars”
Before she showed up in those ubiquitous commercials for Matthew Perry’s new NBC comedy “Go On,” the gold medal winner won season eight of “Dancing With the Stars.” She was so good, in fact, that she’s been invited back for the upcoming all-stars season of “Dancing With the Stars.” Something tells me she won’t be the last Olympic gymnast to receive such an invitation.