Former U.S. Olympic Figure Skaters You Wouldn't Recognize Today

With the Winter Olympics just around the corner, many of us are excited to see the U.S. figure skating team take to the ice. There's always something breathtaking about watching a sport that's simultaneously so challenging and so elegant. These skaters train for years, and it all comes down to just a few minutes to prove themselves on the ice.

Now that the 2022 team is ready to go, it's the perfect time to look back at our favorite skaters from the past. Athletes like Nancy Kerrigan, Michelle Kwan, Dorothy Hamill, and Randy Gardner wowed us all when they competed in the games years ago. But a lot of time has passed since we first saw them skate. If you ever wonder where they are now, we've tracked down some of the most beloved Olympic figure skaters from years past to find out just that. Many of them have been through hardships and big changes since the games. You might not even recognize some of them!

Kitty and Peter Carruthers were happy with their silver medal

Kitty and Peter Carruthers are adopted siblings who competed as a pair throughout their figure skating careers. In 1984, their teamwork earned them a silver medal in the Winter Olympics. After their time in the Olympics, the pair turned to professional skating, winning the Challenge of Champions in 1985, 1989, and 1992. In 1992, they told the LA Times that they had no plans to return for the 1994 Olympics. They were both satisfied with what they'd already accomplished. "The '84 (medal) was our dream come true," Kitty told them. "I don't think we can top that emotionally."

According to Olympedia, Kitty now lives in Houston, Texas, with her husband and three children. Just like her own parents adopted her and her brother, Kitty adopted two children, and has one biological child. Her brother, Peter, has worked on television as a skating analyst. Their career earned them a spot in the United States Figure Skating Hall of Fame in 1999. And the pair still skate together at times, most recently reuniting on the ice in 2013 for "P&G & Walmart Tribute to American Legends of the Ice."

Debi Thomas has gone through a lot of hardships

Debi Thomas became internationally famous at the 1988 Winter Olympics. Not only did she perform wonderfully, but she was also a trailblazer in the sport. When she earned the bronze medal that year, she was the first African-American athlete to place in the Winter Olympics, and she became an inspiration to many as a result.

Sadly, since that time, Thomas' life hasn't gone how you might expect. When The Washington Post interviewed her in 2016, Thomas was bankrupt and living in a trailer. After her time at the Olympics, Thomas graduated from Stanford, went to medical school, and became an orthopedic surgeon. For a time, it seemed all her hard work was paying off. But, in 2014, she declared bankruptcy, and her medical license expired.

So, what went wrong? Well, according to Thomas, nothing. Speaking to The Washington Post, she claimed, "I'm trying to change the world." However, from the outside, her vision is hard to follow. At the time of her interview, she was living in Richlands, Virginia, an old coal-mining town, engaged to an unemployed coal miner, and recruiting people for "Karatbars," a company that specializes in the sale of gold bullion and operates similarly to an MLM. But, Thomas believes the investment in gold will help her and others against future financial catastrophe. According to The Washington Post, she seems to have bought into many conspiracy theories.

Nicole Bobek turned her life around after a drug charge

Fans of figure skating were shocked to see former Olympic Skater Nicole Bobek's mugshot in 2009. It was jarring see the figure skater, who had once amazed audiences, look so different. According to the Chicago Tribune, after pleading guilty to "level two conspiracy of manufacturing/distributing/dispensing crystal methamphetamine," Bobek thought she'd be doing jail time. But, she got a second chance when she was only given five years probation.

Bobek said her downward spiral began after she was let go from performing with the Champions on Ice tour. Soon after that blow, she also lost a close family friend and her former coach. But, Bobek added, "I take full responsibility for my actions. Not everyone falls into a substance because of the loss of a job or the death of a loved one."

Since that low point, Bobek has worked hard to rebuild her image. Speaking of when she hit rock bottom, Bobek said, "It is very scary. I am thankful every day I am alive. And I feel more alive than ever, because I am not behind bars." She's been open about telling her story in the hopes that it helps others going through addiction. While telling her story she said, "I am renewing precious relationships, I've learned to skate again, and I'm loving life more than ever."

If you or anyone you know is struggling with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

Tai Babilonia has overcome her struggle with alcoholism

Another figure skater who struggled with addiction was Tai Babilonia. Watching Babilonia skate in perfect harmony with her partner, Randy Gardner, no one would have imagined the hardship she would have to overcome in the following years. The two were huge successes, but after Gardner suffered an injury that caused them to miss the 1980 Olympics, Babilonia started skating professionally. She told CBS2 that was when her problems really began. "The parents are gone, the coach is gone. We weren't protected anymore ... I didn't know I was allowed to say: 'No, I'm tired,'" Babilonia said.

The skater started drinking to manage the pressure, even having a drink before taking to the ice: "I thought it was helping me get through that night's show." Eventually, it all got to be too much, and Babilonia tried to take her own life. However, from that low point, she was able to get sober and turn things around. Babilonia now volunteers with The Teen Project, a nonprofit for young women recovering from substance abuse. Speaking about the girls she works with, Babilonia said, "They are so not alone. I'm so there with them. I understand it. And it's not easy. Anything is possible. You have to want it for yourself and you have to want it from the heart."

If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline​ at​ 1-800-273-TALK (8255)​.

Randy Gardner shows pride in his story

Randy Gardner was famous for his pairs figure skating career with partner Tai Babilonia. Sadly, eleven years of training and dreaming of the Olympics were cut short before their biggest performance. At the 1980 Olympics, the pair, who were favorites to win, had to drop out of the competition due to Gardner badly pulling his groin muscle. His injury was a big blow to Gardner's figure-skating career, and having it happen right before such an important moment made it even harder.

Fortunately, Gardner has been able to move forward with his life, and even came out with a movie, "Go Figure: The Randy Gardner Story," about his career in skating and his personal life. According to an interview from U.S. Figure Skating, the film was based around a play that he and playwright Joshua Ravetch developed. The film explores Gardner's journey to becoming open about his sexuality. The story shares that at the height of his and Babilonia's popularity, he was secretly dating British figure skater Robin Cousins. "When my parents found out [about Cousins], they took me to something called reparative therapy," Gardner shared in a clip from his play. However, now Gardner is able to be open about his story in the hopes he can help others going through similar experiences.

Nancy Kerrigan had children after struggling for years with infertility

The story of Nancy Kerrigan was one of the most dramatic events to rock the skating world. Before the 1994 Olympics, Kerrigan was attacked at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Detroit, Michigan. The attacker was hired by her rival Tonya Harding's ex-husband, Jeff Gillooly, and the injury meant she could not compete in the Olympic trials. However, the United States Figure Skating Association still named her to the U.S. Olympic team, and she went on to win a silver medal in the competition.

After the Olympics, Kerrigan skated professionally, and even had an endorsement from Walt Disney World. She went on to star on FOX's show "Skating with Celebrities," and appeared in the 2007 film, "Blades of Glory." In 2017, she competed on "Dancing with the Stars." While on the show, Kerrigan shared the painful experience she'd had with miscarriages. After giving birth to her first son in 1996, Kerrigan and her husband wanted more children, but over the years, she had six miscarriages. She said, "It was really hard. It almost felt shameful I think, because I couldn't do it on my own" (via ABC News). However, after undergoing fertility treatment, Kerrigan had her second son, Brian, in 2005, and her daughter, Nicole, in 2008.

Today, Kerrigan still enjoys figure skating, and recently shared a video of herself on the ice on her Instagram. And in January, she participated in a meet-and-greet skate session for Olympic Day.

Tonya Harding's story was revived by 2018 film

The rivalry between Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan was quite sensationalized at the time, but the story received new attention in January 2018 due to the release of "I, Tonya," a film starring Margot Robbie that explored Harding's life. Prior to the film's release, Harding sat down with ABC News to discuss her perspective on the events. At the time of the attack on Kerrigan, Harding always maintained that she had nothing to do with it. However, during the 2018 interview, she admitted that she "knew something was up."

In her ABC interview, Harding said she still gets angry thinking about how she was painted as the villain. "The media had me convicted of doing something wrong before I had even done anything at all, before I had talked to anyone, before I get out of bed." Despite maintaining that she didn't plan the attack, Harding did plead guilty to conspiring after the attack. She had to pay a$160,000 fine and was banned from the U.S. Figure Skating Association for life.

Despite losing her figure skating career, Harding said she's been able to move forward thanks to her family. "It's my faith in myself and in my father that comes back to me and makes me get back up off my butt and be something worth being proud of," she said. "I get my second chance at life to be loved and be happy."

Michelle Kwan entered politics

Although Michelle Kwan is celebrated as one of the world's top figure skaters, she was never able to win Olympic gold. In 1998, she took home the silver medal, and in 2002 she earned bronze. Then she had to withdraw from the 2006 Olympic games due to an injury. Speaking to U.S. Figure Skating, Kwan said, "After those 2006 Olympics, if I had been 22, then maybe I would have tried to make it to 2010, But I was 26, and I had other interests, like going back to school and pursuing a master's degree in foreign policy. I had many chapters of my life ahead of me and it felt like it was time to turn the page."

Leaving competitive skating behind was far from the end of Kwan's success. She graduated in 2009 with a bachelor's degree in international relations from the University of Denver's Josef Korbel School of International Studies. Kwan started pursuing a career in politics, and after getting her master's in 2011, she was made senior advisor for the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. She also worked as an advisor to Secretary Clinton's U.S.-China Women's Leadership Exchange and Dialogue. Now, she's working for the Biden administration as the ambassador to Belize.

Kristi Yamaguchi promotes child literacy

Kristi Yamaguchi overcame a lot to become an Olympic athlete. She told Working Mother that she was born with clubbed feet and had to go through corrective treatment as a child that included wearing shoes connected by a brace. "I was lucky they corrected it when I was so young. Skating wasn't assigned to me, but when I wanted to skate, the doctors said it would help," Yamaguchi said (via CNN). From then on, Yamaguchi worked tirelessly on the rink, eventually earning herself a gold medal at the 1992 Olympics.

During the Olympics, Yamaguchi also first met her future husband, Bret Hedican, an ice hockey player. The two met again a few years later, and married in 2000. After having her two daughters, Yamaguchi was ready to stop skating. "I'd done everything I ever wanted to do in skating. I'd toured with Stars on Ice for ten years. I was ready to hang up the skates, unpack my suitcase and not pack it for a very long time," she said.

Along with motherhood, the former athlete has also stayed busy promoting child literacy. Her program, Always Dream, works to ensure children in low-income homes have access to books and resources to engage with reading.

Tara Lipinski became an Olympic commentator

Tara Lipinski was an impressive skater from a young age, and at the 1998 Olympics, she broke the record for the youngest skater to take home gold for an individual event. At 15 years and 255 days old, she was two months younger than the former titleholder, Sonja Henie, was when she won.

After winning the Olympics, Lipinski continued to compete in professional skating for a time. But even after she officially hung up her skates, Lipinski still wanted a challenge and competition. She told CNBC Make It, "I don't think that I could wake up and just be happy without having something to work toward. It's fun, even if it doesn't always go your way." Her next goal was to become a sports commentator. There were lots of other established commentators in the field, and Lipinski said, "Why I ever thought that this was something that was going to be my next goal is beyond me." But, whatever the reason, Lipinski put her competitive spirit and work ethic to the task, and is now a figure skating analyst for NBC Sports.

Sasha Cohen hosts a podcast for Team USA

Sasha Cohen became someone to watch in competitive skating when she placed second at the 2000 U.S. Championships. She had to sit out most of 2001 due to a stress fracture, but she came back strong in 2002, again taking second in U.S. Nationals and coming in fourth at the Olympics. In 2006, she was considered a front-runner at the Winter Olympics and earned the silver medal. Though she's done some shows since 2006, she stopped skating competitively after the Olympics. So, what's she doing now?

Well, the answer is: quite a bit. According to her LinkedIn, Cohen graduated magna cum laude from Columbia University in 2016 and is currently working in investment management in New York City. Cohen also hosts a podcast, "Sasha Sessions: A Team USA Podcast." On the podcast, Cohen speaks to authors, entrepreneurs, and other athletes about moving forward following failures or successes on an international platform. Speaking to Fanzone U.S. Figure Skating about how she relates to the subject, Cohen said, "As a teenage athlete, you're hyper-focused on making and winning the Olympics, then often forced to retire at an early age. You go from being really good at something in the spotlight ... to being somebody of yesterday." She continued, "I thought a podcast that touched on some of those themes would be an opportunity to explore how people find a sense [of] meaning."

Dorothy Hamill shared her battle with depression and cancer

When Dorothy Hamill won gold at the 1976 Winter Olympics, she became a national sensation, even inspiring a generation of girls to ask hairstylists for "the Dorothy" to copy the figure skater's iconic bob. After winning the Olympics, Hamill surprised many by returning to World Championships. She'd come in second the year before, and years later she told "Today" that she knew she'd "always regret it" if she didn't try again for gold. She won first place and invented a new move, coined the "Hamill Camel" in the process. Hamill then went on to skate professionally, spending several years with the Ice Capades and winning an Emmy for "Romeo and Juliet."

In her personal life, Hamill went through three marriages. She told "Today" that before her current husband, she "didn't know how to have a real relationship." Because she was constantly on the road, it was challenging to maintain a healthy relationship. Hamill has also been an advocate, sharing her own experiences with mental health and breast cancer. In her memoir, "A Skating Life: My Story," she discussed her battle with depression, and since beating breast cancer, she's been a supporter of breast cancer organizations and spreading awareness. She told USA Today that after going through successful cancer treatment, her energy has returned. She's even been able to return to the ice, though she added she won't be performing: "It's nice to be able to go around and be in the cool air, which is what I love."