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Tarnished gold

Feb 21 2013 11:41
*Angelina Jennifer
STRUGGLING with debt? You're in good company - even being an Olympic gold medalist doesn’t ensure that you will never contract debt illness.

Olympic athletes have limited opportunities to make substantial earnings by playing the sports they love. Although winning gold does improve your economic prospects, it is a once in a lifetime thing.
Here are 10 classic examples of gold medallists who fell into the debt trap:

1. Marion Jones

Marion Jones is a celebrated track and field athlete, winning a record five women’s medals at the Olympics. However, even with the multiple prize winnings (up to $80 000 a race in her prime) and multi-million dollar endorsements, she had to declare bankruptcy.
In 2006, Jones faced a foreclosure on her North Carolina mansion (amounting to $2.5m). The next year she also faced charges of involvement in a cheque counterfeiting scheme. 

Eventually she had to liquidate two properties - including her mother’s house - to settle her debts.

2. Dorothy Hamil

The American skater won gold at the 1976 winter Olympics. She has married and divorced twice and also contracted breast cancer.

In 1993, she purchased the Ice Capades company that featured ice skating shows.

Attendance remained low, and after a couple of years, she had to declare bankruptcy and ultimately sell the ice show.

3. Sheryl Swoopes

Dubbed as the “female Michael Jordan”, Sheryl Swoopes has won three Olympic gold medals and was the first player to be signed in the women’s NBA. She even has a product named after her, Nike’s Air Swoopes.
But even with her dominance in women’s basketball during the 1990s, she had to file for bankruptcy in 2004, owing more than $710 000, with substantial amounts in tax evasions as well.

4. Leon Spinks

After winning the 1976 Olympic gold medal in the light-heavyweight, Leon Spinks achieved legendary status by defeating Muhammad Ali for the undisputed heavyweight championship.

Now he keeps a low profile and claims to live a “comfortable” life.

The legendary athlete had to work various odd jobs during the 1980s. He now works for McDonalds. This is because by 1986, Leon had more than $300m in debt.

Ultimately, he filed for bankruptcy.

5. Ryan Lochte

This American swimmer has made record after record at the Olympic Games, winning an impressive 11 medals, five of them gold. He currently holds the world record in the 4x200 metre freestyle relay (long course).
And this is only a synopsis of Lochte’s accolades. However, success comes at a price, and it was disclosed last year that Ryan’s parents had to face a foreclosure on their Florida property.

This was due to the expenses incurred during their son’s training. Hopefully Lochte’s earnings in the UK will help his parents to consolidate debt.

6. Sugar Ray Seales

Sugar Ray Seales was the only American boxer to win a gold medal in the 1972 summer Olympics. In 1980, he got a serious retinal tear during a fight, causing him to retire from boxing after being declared legally blind.

In 1986, Seales had to file for bankruptcy, after listing debts totalling $160 000. Most of these debts were incurred during several operations to treat his eyesight.

7. Rulon Gardner

This wrestler had an impressive gold medal victory at the Sydney Olympics, when he defeated Aleksandr Karelin to end his 13-year long undefeated streak in international competition.

However, due to a failed resort building deal, he ended up bankrupt in 2007.

8. Gabby Douglas

Winning gold in both 2011 and 2012, Gabby Douglas has become the first African-American gymnast to become an individual all-round champion at the Olympics.

However, just like Ryan Lochte’s parents, Douglas’ mother also had to file for bankruptcy in 2012.

9. Jesse Owens

Jesse Owens created history at the 1936 summer Games by winning four gold medals in various track and field events. After the Olympics, he went to work at a gas station and even ran a dry cleaning business.

Ultimately he had to file for bankruptcy, and later he was also tried for tax evasion.

10. Scottie Pippen

Last up we have Scottie Pippen, who won gold medals in basketball as part of the US team in 1992 and 1996 successively.

As part of the Chicago Bulls, Pippen is credited with popularising NBA worldwide. Eventually he lost $120m in career earnings, which hardly comes as a surprise cosidering he was known for purchasing private jets worth $4m.

So in conclusion, it’s high time to learn how to avoid and consolidate debt, as it doesn’t spare the best of us. 

View the gallery.

 - Fin24

*Angelina Jennifer is  former amateur basketball player. With a background in economics and finance, she helps middle-aged people to consolidate debt.



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