The competitive window for most Olympic athletes is small. Luckily for some of these individuals, they found a second way to represent their country as politicians. The following eight athletes took their competitive attitude from Olympic venues to public service.
Ralph Metcalfe: Track, Los Angeles 1932 (bronze in 100, silver in 200), Berlin 1936 (silver in 100, gold in 4x100)
U.S. House of Representatives from Illinois' 1st district, 1971-1978
Jesse Owens is remembered as one of the greatest Olympians of all time and a trailblazing civil-rights activist. Metcalfe was right there with his lifelong friend, finishing second in the 100 meters in front of the Nazi hierarchy in Berlin. Metcalfe went on to serve four terms in the U.S. House of Representatives from Illinois. Metcalfe also won a silver medal in the 200 in 1932, but said in an interview, "I have never been convinced I was defeated. It should have been a tie."
Bob Mathias: Decathlon, London 1948 (gold), Helsinki 1952 (gold)
U.S. House of Representatives from California 18th district, 1967-1975
The late Bob Mathias was 17 when he won the decathlon gold in 1948 while setting a world record with 912 points. In 1952 he became the first person to successfully defend an Olympic decathlon title. After retiring from the decathlon, he played football at Stanford, then joined the U.S. Marine Corps, where he served for two and a half years and was promoted to the rank of captain. He served four terms as a Republican in the House of Representatives.
Wendell Anderson: Hockey, Cortina d'Ampezzo 1956 (silver)
Governor of Minnesota, 1971-1976; U.S. Senator from Minnesota, 1976-1978
Anderson won a silver medal, losing out to the Soviet Union, which won its first ice hockey gold medal in 1956. After the Olympics, Anderson served in the army for two years. He went on to pursue a career in politics, serving in the Minnesota State Senate before running a successful gubernatorial campaign. After Walter Mondale was elected vice president in 1976, Anderson resigned as governor to finish Mondale's Senate term. After completing it in 1978, he retired.
Bill Bradley: Basketball, Tokyo 1964 (gold)
U.S. Senator from New Jersey, 1979-1997
One of the more distinguished athletes and politicians on this list, Bradley earned a gold medal in the 1964 Games. He was one of three chosen unanimously for the Olympic team, the youngest chosen and the only undergraduate. He led the team to its sixth consecutive gold medal. After an impressive NBA career with the New York Knicks -- he was an All-Star and two-time champion -- Bradley was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1979. He served three terms before running an unsuccessful presidential campaign in 2000.
Ben Nighthorse Campbell: Judo, Tokyo 1964 (no medal)
U.S. House of Representatives from Colorado's 3rd district, 1987-1993
U.S. Senator from Colorado, 1993-2005
Campbell won a gold medal in the 1963 Pan-American Games. However, an injury in Tokyo one year later kept him off the podium in his only Olympics. Campbell had many professions after his sports retirement, including deputy-sheriff in Sacramento County, coach of the U.S. National Judo Team, high school P.E. and art teacher and jewelry manufacturer. Campbell served three terms in the House of Representatives and two terms in the Senate, representing Colorado.
Jim Ryun: Track, Tokyo 1964, Mexico City 1968 (silver 1,500), Munich 1972
U.S. House of Representatives from Kansas' 2nd district, 1996-2007
As a 12-year-old, Ryun was cut from his church baseball team and junior high basketball team. With no other recourse, he turned to running. At 17, he debuted in the Olympics. He remains today the youngest American male track athlete to compete in the Olympics. In 1968, battling the high altitude of Mexico City, Ryun ran the 1,500 meters in 3:37.8. He was narrowly defeated by Kenya's Kip Keino, and took home silver. Ryun waited 24 years before pursuing a career in politics. He was a five-term congressman from Kansas. In 2006, the National Journal rated Ryun the nation's most conservative member of Congress.
Tom McMillen: Basketball, Munich 1972 (silver, refused).
U.S. House of Representatives from Maryland's 4th district, 1987-1992
McMillen was the sixth-leading scorer on the U.S. team in Munich. Led by Doug Collins (currently announcing basketball games in Rio), the team lost in a controversial final to the Soviet Union. After an unsuccessful appeal of the game, the players refused their silver medals. After an 11-year NBA career that concluded with a three-year stint as a Washington Bullet, McMillen, a Democrat, served three terms before losing to Republican Wayne Gilchrest.
Michelle Kwan: Figure Skating, Nagano 1998 (silver), Salt Lake City 2002 (bronze).
Public Diplomacy Ambassador: 2006-present
Kwan, one of America's most decorated figure skating icons, hasn't sought elected office like the others on this list. But after a successful skating career, Kwan switched to politics. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice named her a public diplomacy ambassador in 2006. Her task was to globally represent American values, especially to young people and sports enthusiasts. Her diplomatic efforts as an envoy continued in the Barack Obama administration, where she worked extensively with Vice President Joe Biden, and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. In 2014, Kwan's husband, Clay Pell, lost the nomination to be the Democratic candidate in the Rhode Island governor's race.
Follow Jack Minton on Twitter @jackminton95.