But here’s one thing we really should pay attention to: how they give back. Many Olympic athletes use their fame as a platform for good, starting foundations, and helping to bring light to important global issues. (There is even an organization, Athletes for Hope, that connects athletes, including Olympians, to charitable causes.) As the 2014 Olympic games begin in Sochi this week, here is a look at some of our favorite Olympic do gooders, past and present:
Hannah Teter: After winning a gold medal on halfpipe (snowboarding) in the 2006 Olympics, Teter started a foundation called Hannah’s Gold that raises money for an impoverished village in Kenya – by selling maple syrup. Sweet!
Sarah Hughes: The American figure skater and 2002 gold medalist is known off the ice for her work with breast cancer awareness. Her inspiration for getting involved is her mother, Amy Pastarnack, a survivor. Hughes has skated in several events to help raise money for breast cancer research.
Gemma Spofforth: She swam for the United Kingdom in the 2008 and 2012 Olympics, then she decided to give back. So she joined other Olympians in advocating for Swim Across America, an organization that raises money for cancer research, prevention, and treatment by holding swim events across the US.
Shaun White: The gold medal-decorated US snowboarder has been involved with many philanthropic efforts, including working with St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, Boys & Girls Club of America, the Make-A-Wish Foundation, Target House and Stand Up for Skateparks.
Evan Lysacek: After winning gold in 2010 as a US figure skater, Lysacek has gone on to support many charities, including A Time for Heroes, the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, and Figure Skating in Harlem.
Shannon Miller: Remember the Atlanta Olympics in 1996? If so, you likely remember gymnast Shannon Miller, who was part of the “Magnificent Seven” US team, and winner of almost too many medals to count. Later, she started The Shannon Miller Foundation, which is dedicated to fighting childhood obesity.
Mia Hamm: After taking home the gold as part of the US Olympic women’s soccer team in 2004, Hamm founded the Mia Hamm Foundation, which has two missions: to raise money and awareness for families in need of a bone marrow or cord blood transplant, and to develop increasing opportunities for women in sports.
Who is your favorite Olympic do gooder? Let us know in the comments or by tweeting us at @repairtheworld.