A decade on, Aussie medallists have moved on to parenthood, gelati stores, the speaking circuit – and even protecting the Prime Minister.
Chain-smoking rebel Jai Taurima has become the picture of respectability as a protective security officer with the Australian Federal Police in Canberra.
The long jump silver medallist watched over PM Julia Gillard when she was in town and has also served under Kevin Rudd and John Howard in his past six years on the job.
“I’m in the PM’s suite. I used to train in Canberra and I’d see Parliament House every day, but I didn’t think I’d ever be inside,” he said.
“I have one of the best jobs in Australia, I think.”
Taurima, 38, was expected to earn millions from his quirky profile, but was hurt in a car accident in the months after the Sydney Games and shunned the spotlight.
“I didn’t do it for money. I did it for myself, my family, my friends who have put in the hard yards looking after me,” he said.
Pole vaulter Tatiana Grigorieva, 34, captivated the country when she took silver in Sydney.
Now she helps run her cafe and gelati shop at Hamilton in Brisbane’s inner north, and just celebrated the birth of her second child, Sophia.
“Everything is good and she is already out of hospital and at home,” partner Plamen Milanov said.
Taekwondo gold medallist Lauren Burns, a naturopath who has been raising 18-month-old son Mac while writing a cookbook, is due to have her second child soon.
“Leading up to the Games I was doing about seven hours’ training a day. Now Mac’s 12kg and he’s my training,” Burns, 36, of Melbourne, said.
The daughter of entertainer Ronnie Burns remains a popular motivational speaker.
“Everyone said it would die out after a year, so make the most of it,” Burns said.
But the bookings are still coming in.
She said she was often asked whether there were times she had wanted to give up taekwondo.
“Everyone is going to have challenges in their life. It’s what you do that creates future opportunities or makes you who you are,” Burns said.
On motherhood, she said: “It’s the best thing I’ve done, without a doubt.”
Madame Butterfly Susie O’Neill, who won gold in the 200m freestyle in Sydney, still dons her swimming togs. But now it is more for leisurely laps at her local pool.
Training for her first triathlon as she raises daughter Alix, 6, and son Bill, 4, with eye surgeon husband Cliff Fairley, she said being an elite athlete was “easier” than being a mother.
“Life’s a lot busier than it was back then. I seemed to have lot of spare time,” O’Neill, 37, said.
“It was a real shock, especially as a former elite athlete when everything was about me.”
Occasionally she missed the thrill of competition, but knew if she wanted the buzz she had to put a lot of pain and work into it.
“I do a little bit of exercise at the moment and as soon as I feel a bit of pain I know I don’t want to go back there,” O’Neill said.
“I probably swim once or twice a week. I don’t swim as long obviously, just 2km or 3km. I like the feeling, I like the silence – it’s almost meditative.”
Angie Lambert, who was 19 when she won gold in Sydney with the Hockeyroos, competed at two more Olympics before retiring in 2008.
She now teaches at Brisbane Girls Grammar.
Lambert, married to former Kookaburras goalie Stephen Lambert, is on maternity leave after the birth of Lucia.
“We still appreciate how great we had it, travelling the world with a bunch of our friends playing a sport we love … but reality eventually has to set in,” she said.
Source: Herald Sun