CLERMONT, Fla. - Olympic gold medalist Shawn Johnson made headlines recently, after she announced she was retiring from gymnastics-at age 20! So where do the pros go when there are no games left or matches to win? Now two Olympians share how they found some of their biggest successes when their playing days were over.
Hits, flips, and fame…for Dot Richardson and Brandy Johnson, the memories are etched in gold.
"Imagine standing on that Olympic podium and all of a sudden you turn and you see the American flag being raised above all others. I started balling my eyes out," said Dot Richardson, M.D., a two-time Olympic gold medalist.
"Knowing that I was in another country competing for my country it was probably the best feeling I could ever have," said Brandy Johnson, a former Olympic gymnast.
It's a pinnacle that Richardson reached twice.
"27 years since I had that childhood dream and I was standing up there and living it!" Richardson said.
But for most, the dreams remain just that.
One survey found the average Division 1 athlete spends 44 hours a week on their sports, but those full-time gigs rarely pay off. Of the 420,000 NCAA athletes, 99 percent will go pro in something other than sports.
"It is a difficult transition sometimes you lose your identity to really know where to go and what to do," Johnson said.
And for those who make it, the reality of retirement can come quick. The average career for a pro athlete lasts between three and five years.
Brandy was 17 when she hung up her leotard.
"I took it as long as I could, I mean 39 years of age. Then I realized it's time to get into my career and get married," Richardson said.
That meant developing a passion while playing.
"I was playing while I was giving a thesis paper, and got no sleep which prepared me obviously for medical school," Richardson said.
And narrowing her focus through trial and error.
"That's what sport teaches. Who here is never made an error? Who here has never struck out," Richardson said.
Her top advice is don't wait until you graduate.
"Everyone will fill their time with something so fill it with productive meaningful things," Richardson added.
After TV and movie stints, Brandy landed the perfect gig.
"They're like whoa you know an Olympian? I'm like yeah she's my coach," Aja Sims, a gymnast said.
The gig allows her to balance her career and family.
"I named her Sydney after the Sydney Olympics," Brandy said.
"It makes me want to really follow in her footsteps," Sydney Johnson, Brandy's daughter said.
From her medical career to numerous degrees, Richardson found success in a few other areas too.
"When it comes to studying and just giving it all you have that's all it takes to become who you want to be," Richardson said.
Both are proving there can be success after the hits, flips and fame have faded.
"I never strayed too far from what I loved so my advice would be to find what you love and stick with it," Johnson said.
"I've learned she who fails to prepare, prepares to fail. I'm where the Lord wants me to be and it's great impacting lives in this way," Richardson said.
Richardson now oversees all of the activities at The National Training Center, a sports, health, fitness and education campus that trains world-class athletes. Brandy trains national champion gymnasts at her gym, including her 11-year-old daughter who currently holds the highest all-around score for a level 9 gymnast in the country.