We often talk about athletes who failed in their retraining or did not know what to do after their career because there are a lot of them, but there are others who have bounced back very well. Very often in the cinema, certain former athletes are better known for their role as actors than for their practice of high-level sport. Like what, there are people who are really gifted everywhere. Well more or less what
1. Yannick Noah
The first person that obviously comes to mind is none other than Yannick Noah. Generally, to try singing after having been sporty is very risky (and it doesn’t pay too much). Yet Noah is as well known as a singer as a tennis player. He is the only Frenchman to have won a Grand Slam tournament in the Open era (Roland Garros anyway). He turned to music at the end of his sports career and enjoyed great success in the 2000s, notably with hits like Saga Africa, and later Metisses in duet with Disiz la Peste. A business well done my faith.
2. Chuck Norris
You probably didn’t know it but before becoming the legendary actor of Walker Texas Ranger, Chuck Norris was 7 times world karate champion. He is also a black belt in Tangsudo and Taekwondo. Not the kind of guy you want to mess with and that’s also what inspired all the jokes about him.
3. Dwayne Johnson
You will see that many successful conversions concern former athletes who practiced combat sports and converted to action films. This is also the case of Dwayne Johnson, who had a great career as a wrestler, The Rock, as we know him. As popular in wrestling as in the cinema, Dwayne knew how to ensure in all areas (well after he is a bit confined to a single role, but it suits him so well).
4. Terry Crews
Terry Crews is a former American footballer, he played several seasons in the professional league (the prestigious NFL) for San Diego, the Washington Commanders (former Redskins, but as the name was very racist they finally changed it) or the Eagles.
He started acting in the 2000s and gained great notoriety with his role in the hit series Brooklyn Nine-Nine.
5. Jackie Chan
We obviously know Jackie Chan as an actor, but you can imagine that if little Jackie is able to perform all his stunts on his own, it’s not for nothing. Jackie Chan, wanting to follow in the footsteps of Bruce Lee, was initially a fan of martial arts. He is also a black belt in Hapkido and has great skills in Jeet Kune Do, the martial art created by Bruce Lee. Jackie quickly becomes a stuntman and his career in the cinema is much more important than his career as a sportsman (although the two are linked). So it’s not really a reconversion but rather a logical continuation.
6. Vinnie Jones
Vinnie Jones was a Welsh footballer who played in the Premier League for a long time with a reputation for being particularly violent. After a long stint in the Wimbledon club, he ended his career at the age of 33 to try out in the cinema. He therefore embodies roles that go well with his personality on the ground, villainous or bad boy characters, in series like 60 seconds chrono, or big productions like X-men: the final confrontation.
7. Eric Cantona
Eric Cantona, after being a renowned footballer and a legend at Manchester United, first converted to beach soccer with success. He made the sport popular in France and notably coached the French team for a few years. Under his command, the French team won its first world championship title, finished 3rd at the 2006 World Cup and was vice-champion of Europe. A not disgusting track record.
Then Cantona tried his hand at the cinema with a small success all the same. He stood out in the film Happiness is in the meadow by Etienne Chatilez, and then appeared in about twenty films. Oh, and he also paints and is a collector. In short, the guy does pretty much everything in the end.
8.Jean Claude Van Damme
So as not to change the register too much, Jean Claude Van Damme also has a great sporting past, and that’s not really surprising given the build of the guy.
JCVD started the sport very early, at the age of 6, with martial arts, and he quickly obtained his black belt in karate. He then turned to classical dance (yes, I’m serious) which he practiced for several years, he also affirms that it is probably the most difficult discipline he has practiced. He then embarked on bodybuilding and it is in this area that he will perform the most. He won the title of Mister Belgium in 1978. After this success he became interested in cinema and left for the United States in the hope of breaking into Hollywood. He struggled quite a lot in his early days, but his bodybuilder physique and his practice of martial arts opened up a lot of doors for him in action films and martial arts films.
9. Arnold Schwarzenegger
Like JCVD, Schwarzenegger too was a top bodybuilder before becoming an actor. He notably won the title of Mister Universe 1969 and he won Mister Olympia 7 times, so it’s not nothing, he had a real career. He therefore made himself known thanks to his physique and the directors immediately thought of him for their action films (he did not struggle as much as JCVD). We obviously know him best for his iconic role in Terminator, and you should know that Arnold has had a career in politics since he was governor of California twice, in 2003 and 2006.
10. Amelie Mauresmo
Amélie Mauresmo’s post-career is not the most original since she remained in the field of sport and tennis, but if we talk about it it is because this reconversion was particularly successful. Mauresmo quickly became a consultant to various media such as France Télévisions or Eurosport. She was subsequently named captain of the France team for the 2018 Davis Cup and became the first woman in history to be named. She is also appointed in 2021 director of Roland Garros and is the first woman appointed to this function. So yes, Mauresmo is someone.
11. Christine Lagarde
So there we end in style, because I’m pretty sure you didn’t know that Christine Lagarde had a past as a high-level athlete. And yet Christine Lagarde did synchronized swimming at a high level. She was part of the French team in her teens and also finished third in the French championships. Well finally she prefers politics (we don’t know why) and the rest you know her, she becomes minister and president of all kinds of money-related stuff like the IMF, the European Central Bank and all that bullshit. We would have preferred to see her do tricks at the Olympics, but everyone has their own choices.