Associated Press

These LDS Olympians ran, wrestled, swam and played their way into Olympic history. But what is it like when the lights of the cameras stop flashing and the medals are hung on the wall? The Deseret News asked LDS Olympians to reflect on their life-changing moments in the Olympic spotlight. Note: This list is not all-inclusive.

Ambrose 'Rowdy' Gaines IV
Associated Press

Olympics: 1984 Los Angeles
Event: Swimming
Medals: Three Gold

What is your favorite memory from the Olympics?
"One of my favorite Olympic memories is waiting in the ready room before my race. I was very nervous and I kept going over my career in my mind and feeling like no matter what happens I feel like I've had a great career. The competitors for the 100 meter freestyle final race walk out onto the deck of the pool, and remember, this Olympics took place in Los Angeles, California, in 1984, and the welcome from the crowd that we received when we walked out upon the deck made me feel so warm inside and so proud to be an American that I immediately felt at ease and was just so happy to be at the Olympic Games."

How would you describe the feeling of being at the Olympics as an athlete?
"I would describe being an athlete at the Olympic Games as one of the most exciting moments in my life. As a swimmer, the Olympic Games are like the Super Bowl and only happen every four years."

How has being an Olympic athlete changed your life?
"First, being an athlete has taught me to work hard, to dedicate myself and make a commitment to something that I wanted to be good at. I started out in swimming with the hopes of receiving a collegiate scholarship to pay for my college education. I quickly discovered along the way that I was blessed with a talent for the sport, which helped shape me into the athlete that I became. I also must let you know that I am grateful to my coach and mentor, Richard Quick, who believed in me as an athlete and helped me to achieve my dream of becoming and Olympic athlete and winning three gold medals. That same work ethic that I learned as a competitive athlete molded and shaped me and prepared me for the work force after the Games ended."

What are you doing now? (Job, Family, etc.)
"I am currently employed by Central Florida YMCA as the Vice President of Aquatics. I have a passion for my sport, so I am very happy to stay connected to the sport and to teach children in particular about the health benefits of swimming and also the safety aspect of swimming. It is critical that children learn how to swim. The statistics of childhood drowning is staggering in the U.S. and I want to continue to help bring awareness to this issue and concern by spreading the news about the benefits of swim lessons. Swimming is for all ages. You are never too old to learn how to swim! I also am an ambassador for the USA swimming foundation whose message is, 'Saving lives and building champions.'

"I am currently in Rio covering my 7th Olympic Games for NBC as the color analyst for the swimming events. Being a part of the Olympic movement is incredible! The triumph of the human spirit is on display each night as you watch, the stories of overcoming challenges and the thrill of victory is something we can all relate to.

"I am blessed with a wonderful wife, Judy, to whom I have been married for the last 27 years. We are the parents of four lovely daughters. Our oldest daughter Emily and her husband Tyrone live in Ogden, UT. They are the parents of Bella and Ruby. Madison lives and works in Denver, Colorado. Savanna is a college student, and Isabelle just started her senior year of high school."

Marsha Mark-Baird
Associated Press

Olympics: 2000 Sydney; 2004 Athens
Event: Heptathlon

What is your favorite memory from the Olympics?
"My favorite memory was walking into the stadium for my first Olympics in Sydney, Australia in 2000. It was the most amazing track experience I’ve ever had. Seeing all those people, the flashing of lights and knowing they are cheering for you. The roar that came when I entered the stadium was also part of it."

How would you describe the feeling of being at the Olympics as an athlete?
"The feeling is one you cannot replicate. I can compare it to having your first baby. You can’t really explain the joy to someone unless they have gone through it. You thoroughly feel on top of the world. You are among the best and you have done your best. I felt like this is it. I have made it to the top of my track career."

How has being an Olympic athlete changed your life?
"Being an Olympic athlete has changed my life in ways that help me impact the life of others. I’ve been able to inspire people to do things they never dreamed of doing. It’s given me confidence to do the impossible. My dreams as a kid were to go watch the Olympics one day, not compete in it. So I went...beyond my wildest dream."

What are you doing now? (Job, Family, etc.)
"My baby starts first grade, so I just applied for a job in a school district as a School Social Worker and I’m just waiting to hear if I got the job. I’m still competing and will have my last meet this fall in Perth Australia at the World Masters Games. Life continues after the Olympics and it gets busier every year."

Jack Yerman
Associated Press

Olympics: 1960 Rome (Italy)
Event: Track and Field
Medal: Gold

What is your favorite memory from the Olympics?
"My favorite memory is probably receiving the gold medal, because then the stress was all over. Then the crowd was another good memory. It was such a big crowd with so much excitement. It was fun. Also, I got kissed by the president of Italy!"

How would you describe the feeling of being at the Olympics as an athlete?
"It’s absolutely an honor to represent your country. It’s almost a single spirit of excitement that runs through the entire place. Everyone is proud to be there from many countries. It’s a brotherhood and sisterhood, especially in track and field, because In track and field there aren’t really enemies, there are only competitors. We were very supportive of each other. You pulled for your competitor to do the best they can."

How has being an Olympic athlete changed your life?
"That's hard to say because I don’t know what my life would be like without it. It does open doors. People are curious and want to talk about it. They like to hear stories about the Olympics. It’s like being at the top anything you do; people want to know about it. It has opened doors and my son wrote a book about my experiences in the Cold War Olympics."

What are you doing now? (Job, Family, etc.)
"I’m 77-years-old, so I don’t do the normal stuff I used to like to do. I’m not running much, but my family is in town so grandkids take up a lot of my efforts, and I go to ball games and stuff while trying to be a good granddad. My whole life has been crazy and lots of fun, and it still goes! I’m restoring a bunch of old cars right now, which takes up some of my time. My wife recently died, so I’m kind of adjusting right now. I was proud of her."

Jessika Jenson
Associated Press

Olympics: 2014 Sochi
Event: Women's slopestyle (snowboarding)

What is your favorite memory from the Olympics?
"My favorite memory from the Olympics, besides competing, would be walking in the opening ceremony. The stadium was huge! I couldn’t pick out a single face in the crowd. It was funny to see team USA in all matching Ralph Lauren sweaters."

How would you describe the feeling of being at the Olympics as an athlete?
"Being an athlete competing in the Olympics was such an amazing opportunity and privilege to represent our country! It was a dream of mine after watching the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City. The Olympics were very unique compared to any other event I have competed in. It was a team effort."

How has being an Olympic athlete changed your life?
"Now that I am an Olympian I have so many fun fans that look up to me! I love being a role model to the upcoming generation! I love motivating kids to follow their dreams."

What are you doing now? (Job, Family, etc.)
"Right now I am training for the upcoming 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea for Big Air and Slopestyle! Wish me luck!"

Guard Young
Deseret News Archive

Olympics: 2004 Athens
Event: Gymnastics
Medal: Silver

What is your favorite memory from the Olympics?
"I think my favorite memory is actually making the team because that is such a long and hard process. It doesn’t just happen overnight. We had a qualification process where you had to qualify at the U.S. championships and then at the Olympic trials. The year I went to the Olympics, we had a selection camp. They named four of the six members of the team after the Olympic trials, and then they brought the remaining 10 of us to the Olympic training center in Colorado Springs for a weeklong camp, where we trained and had inner squads and practice leagues. It was behind closed doors, no media. From there, the remaining team, two of us, got the last two spots. So that was a really long process. I remember landing my parallel bar routine at one of the inner squads, and looking up and seeing my dad up in the stands. That to me was the combination of all the hard work and sacrifice and support that I had from family, friends and coaches throughout the years."

How would you describe the feeling of being at the Olympics as an athlete?
"I equate my Olympic experience to riding your favorite roller coaster. You spend all this time and money, the time to get there, and you wait in line. Meanwhile, you’re so excited to ride it. You finally get to the front of the line and you sit down in that car, they strap you in, then it starts going up that hill. Then you have that little bit of doubt like 'What did I do? What did I get myself into?' But it’s too late; you can’t get off that ride. Then you get to the top of that hill, you pause for a second, you look out and see everything—and you’re awestruck. Then what comes next? That huge drop, then it flips and turns and then the rides over before you even know it."

How has being an Olympic athlete changed your life?
"Some people go into the Olympics telling themselves it’s just another gymnastics meet. Well, that’s not the case. The Olympics are way bigger. I struggled with the pressure because I competed after college four extra years. I did it for myself—I represented Guard Young. The minute I made the Olympic team, I felt the pressure of the entire country on my shoulders. I really struggled with that and it was really hard to overcome. I don’t think if I had a second Olympics I would have been much more prepared for that, so you really do feel that pressure of the Olympics of representing your country."

What are you doing now? (Job, Family, etc.)
"I tried out for the Olympics in 2000, which was supposed to be my Olympics. I went to the trials in Boston and came away 10th place. I was pretty upset I didn’t make the team, but looking back I could definitely say I wasn’t ready. My high school coach had just gotten the head coaching job at the University of Oklahoma. He called me back and said, ‘Why don’t you come here and help me coach this team and you can train for the Olympics.’ I had a great experience there. It got me into coaching. Because I was there as an assistant coach, it gave me good experience. I coached high school kids in California, then Oklahoma brought me back to be another assistant coach, then last year I was offered the head-coaching job at BYU coaching gymnastics. I went straight from being an athlete to coaching. I don’t know what my life would be like without gymnastics. I’m still in the gym every day, just under a different capacity."

Amy Palmer
Deseret News Archive

Olympics: 2000 Sydney
Event: Track and field (hammer throw)

What is your favorite memory from the Olympics?
"I was able to have so many people come over with me to the Olympics: my husband, my coach, his wife, my mom. my dad, my older sister, a cousin and my mother-in-law. So when I think of the Olympics I think of my experience as an athlete, that’s what comes to mind first—I had so many people there supporting me. We were able to go do some touring of Sydney and do some fun things together as a family. We sat down and ate dinner at night together as a family, which are some of my favorite memories. It was awesome."

How would you describe the feeling of being at the Olympics as an athlete?
"It's hard to explain, because unless you have been the one training and competing for all of those years, you just can’t imagine it—it’s the pinnacle of my sport. To be able to get to that goal that you’ve been working for literally for years, you kind of get overwhelmed. You’re excited, you’re nervous—there are just so many emotions that go into that, it’s hard to sum it up. It was an amazing experience—one that I will never forget and nobody can take it away from me. There are just so many emotions that go into being an athlete. You feel nervous, you feel pressure, you’re worried about how you’re going to perform and how you’re going to represent your country. It’s hard to explain. You’re totally pumped, yet there’s work to do."

How has being an Olympic athlete changed your life?
"It started way back, not just being an Olympian, but the work ethic that I needed to have to start at such a young age, has been a part of developing me to be that athlete. I think it started at such a young age, I don’t think it’s something that changes you. You develop along the way into this person, this athlete and the Olympics are just the pinnacle of that—this is the finished product. But then those work ethics transfer into other aspects of your life. I’m a motivated person. I’m very goal-oriented. I work hard at everything I do. I don’t do anything halfway. I think those strengths that I developed as I trained have also spilled over into the rest of my life. I’ve got the rest of my life—what am I going to do with it?"

What are you doing now? (Job, Family, etc.)
"My life is crazy. I have three daughters; they are all named after American Presidents (Reghan, Tailor, Kennedie). I actually went back to school. I always knew I wanted to be a schoolteacher, but when I went to BYU I took the easy way out to get an easy degree to focus on athletics. I ended up going back to school to get my teaching certificate and I’m still in the process of finishing that up. Last year was my first year of teaching. I teach fourth grade at Copper Canyon Elementary School in Tooele. So, I’m teaching school, I’m a soccer mom that takes my kids to competition soccer, and we have a super busy, crazy life. My husband works for his family’s business and we grow a sod farm. We just have lots going on. Life is good, and watching these kids develop and decide what they want to do is great. My rule is that they have to do a sport, and they have to do a musical instrument. They just are figuring out what they like doing. I’m not sure if they will be into sports, but that’s up to them if they choose to or not."

Werner W. K. Hoeger
Deseret News Archive

Olympics: 2002 Salt Lake City; 2006 Torino
Event: Luge

What is your favorite memory from the Olympics?
"There are so many and it’s difficult to pick a favorite. Two right near the top are: One, racing alongside my son Christopher in the Salt Lake City Olympics; and two, in a sport where it isn’t too difficult to make the highlights of 'the agony of defeat,' crossing the finish line at the end of the fourth run in 2002 and realizing that we had both had the fastest four runs we ever had on the Salt Lake (Park City) track."

How would you describe the feeling of being at the Olympics as an athlete?
"My Olympic dream started in 1968 during the Mexico Olympic Games. I waited 34 years to realize this dream. The feeling of taking that first run and finally becoming an Olympic athlete is beyond description. No one can ever take that away from the athlete."

How has being an Olympic athlete changed your life?
"It has not really changed my life. It was a personal goal, rewarded with the companionship of my son, but I am still the same person I was prior to the Olympics. It did teach me not to ever give up on life’s worthwhile goals. 'If there is a will, there is a way,' and one never knows when the opportunity will present itself to work hard, exercise discipline and fulfill life-long goals."

What are you doing now? (Job, Family, etc.)
"I continue to work on my lifetime fitness and wellness college textbooks. I have published 62 editions. Athletically, these days I stick to much safer tracks! I am racing in master’s track and field events. In 2011, I raced in the World Masters Track and Field Championships in Sacramento, California. It was a new experience for me, since I have accelerated my training. Last year I finished third in my age group at the USA Indoor Track and Field Championships in the mile and finished third and fourth respectively at the USA National Senior Games in the 800 and 1500 mts respectively. I have been able to achieve USA Track and Field All-American status in 2012. 2014, 2015, and this year as well. I have also won several medals at the Huntsman World Senior Games."

Tiffany Lott-Hogan
Associated Press

Olympics: 2004 Athens
Event: Track and field

What is your favorite memory from the Olympics?
"My favorite memories of the Olympics have to be competing with my training partner Marsha Mark-Baird (Trinidad and Tobago), having my personal coach be the USA coach, and having most of my family (husband and siblings) there to support me. I also loved hearing strangers chanting USA whenever you were near them.

"What I will remember most of my competition will be that during one of my seven events I was unprepared for the starting commands. The starter started the race anyway and the competitors left me in the blocks while I looked around bewildered."

How would you describe the feeling of being at the Olympics as an athlete?
"The feeling of being an athlete at the Olympics is a pretty amazing feeling. There is an overwhelming sensation of pride to represent your country, school, state, family, religion, and self. I tried for three teams and didn’t make it until the third time. This gave me a feeling of relief and accomplishment after trying for 10 years. In my sport (track and field) there are not many times you get to compete in front of tens of thousands of people. At the Olympics I got to experience that, and it was exciting."

How has being an Olympic athlete changed your life?
"I was not a medal winner, so my life has not been impacted as much as if I had brought home some hardware. I have spoken to groups more than had I not been to the Olympics. It has helped me in my coaching at the collegiate level because of the knowledge I gained and the sacrifices I made. I can use these things to teach and counsel the athletes I have under my care. Having gone to the Olympics in Greece, I now have a love for Greece and Greek things that I probably would not have had. Competing at the level it took to be an Olympic athlete taught me valuable lessons: sacrifice, efficiency, work ethic, respect, humility, and overcoming injuries. I went to the Olympics as a mom of a 3-year-old. Nothing was harder in my life as an athlete than coming back from pregnancy."

What are you doing now? (Job, Family, etc.)
"I am now the mother of three kids that all enjoy being active in whatever activity is before them. I am active in my church and church responsibilities. I am also coaching track and field at Weber State University and helping athletes prepare for their future careers by teaching them the lessons that come through sports."

Mark Schultz
Associated Press

Olympics: 1984 Los Angeles
Event: Wrestling

Olympics: 2004 Athens
Event: Track and field

What is your favorite memory from the Olympics?
"My favorite memory is winning the gold. It was like a relief, because I expected to win. Losing would have been horrible; winning was like a release. I trained for three hours a day maybe. But it’s not so much the time you put in, it’s the intensity. It’s like the 100-yard dash. You can’t maintain a lower intensity than what you really want so you have to raise your intensity level to where you’re actually training like you’re going to compete."

How has being an Olympic athlete changed your life?
"The gold medal has changed my life. The fact that I’m able to call myself an Olympic champion for the rest of my life, is quite a unique thing to be able to say."

Christian Niccum
Deseret News Archive

Olympics: 2006 Torino, 2010 Vancouver; 2014 Sochi
Event: Men's luge

What is your favorite memory from the Olympics?
"My favorite Olympic moment is not my moment, but that of another. I remember watching the '88 Soul Games, and Derek Redmond, a 400m sprinter, pulled his hamstring in a qualifying race. As he was limping 200m to the finish line, Derek’s father passed security to be on the track with his broken son. Derek was determined not to give up, so his dad said 'OK then we’ll do it together.' With tears in Derek’s eyes, he crossed the finished line with his father right next to him."

How would you describe the feeling of being at the Olympics as an athlete?
"The best feeling I’ve had at the Olympics is at the cafeteria in the athletes village. There you have the top athletes in their sports from all over the world. Everyone is able to eat together and enjoy each others company. You hear of all the differences we have in the world, but in that cafeteria it is plain to see that we have much more in common than not."

How has being an Olympic athlete changed your life? What are you doing now? (Job, Family, etc.)
"I wouldn’t say that being an Olympic athlete has 'changed' my life because I have been involved with it for most of my life. The change is not having it in my life now. Since retirement after the 2014 Games, I have been able to be in the Seattle area. I’ve only left on few short weekend trips out of the area. This is a complete turnaround to how it was while training and competing. I used to be on the road well over half the year, living out of a suitcase. It was an amazing adventure chasing down the Olympic dream, but there is a huge time and travel investment. With all the travel I’ve been fortunate to have done I can confidently say that there is no place like home."

Bill Schuffenhauer
Deseret News Archive

Olympics: 2002 Salt Lake City; 2006 Torino; 2010 Vancouver
Event: Bobsled
Medal: Silver 2002

What is your favorite memory from the Olympics?
"Oh goodness there are so many. I would say it’s a combination. First and foremost, the fact that it took place in our home city, home state where I grew up. When I received my Olympic medal during the ceremonies, it was special just seeing all of the local people who came, friends and fans holding up signs, people who knew my story. Just having home field advantage with friends and family made it that much more special to me."

How would you describe the feeling of being at the Olympics as an athlete?
"Just imagine your wildest dream, your most amazing goal that you have ever wanted to accomplish, and making that goal a reality. It is something that is so far out there and something you never thought you would reach. Yet you worked so hard for it and sacrificed so much and finally having that dream come true and things working out even better than you’ve dreamed about."

How has being an Olympic athlete changed your life?
"There are so many different things that it changed in my life. The reality is a lot of things that one of my coaches told me. Once you make it to that level and accomplish that goal, so many opportunities will open up to you. Not only different opportunities in life and work and business relationships, but an opportunity for me to tell my story of all the things I had to overcome, and working with youth groups, church groups and businesses all across the country. It just gave me opportunities to do something I enjoy and I’m passionate for."

What are you doing now? (Job, Family, etc.)
"I’ve done a lot of inspiration and motivational keynote speaking throughout my career, and we’re just in the process of taking that to another level where I’m looking to do that more as a career path. Along with that, since my retirement in 2010, I’ve worked a lot in business and marketing. I’ve had a lot of opportunities, but I’ve decided to take it a completely different direction with my background where I’ve helped with nonprofits, charity groups, stuff like that, I will be focusing on pursuing another part of my career. For example, I was on the phone with the CEO of Volunteers of America to see if I could do more work with them on a regular basis—Red Cross, Big Brothers Big Sisters—I want to make an impact every single day. I’m transitioning away from the world of sales and business and it’s more about something I can truly have a passion for. It’s the human service side. At the end of the day, where do you get the most satisfaction? For me, it’s when I get the opportunity to help someone else. We are currently doing a live documentary. This little homegrown boy from Utah is the first athlete Olympian chosen to do a live documentary with the international Olympic committee. It’s called ‘Against All Odds.’"

Karl Tilleman
Associated Press

Olympics: 1984 Los Angeles; 1988 Seoul
Event: Basketball (Team Canada)

What is your favorite memory from the Olympics?
"My favorite memory of playing in the Olympics was competing against Michael Jordan. Such Incredible experiences playing against him!"

How would you describe the feeling of being at the Olympics as an athlete?
"The feeling I had as an athlete at the Olympic Games (1984 and 1988 Summer Games) was euphoric. It was breathtakingly beautiful because it was a big dream coming true. The 1st Olympic Games experience (in L.A.) was just before my mission (in the L.A. Area-California Arcadia Spanish-speaking mission). My second Olympic Games experience was after my mission. It was an incredible feeling to see how the Lord helped me so much after my mission."

How has being an Olympic athlete changed your life?
"The Olympics (and preparing for them) changed my life in many ways. For example, I realized that everyone can and should chase their dreams! Also, I discovered that by trying to be the best in the world with a group of individuals whom I grew to be very close, like family, was extraordinarily rewarding."

What are you doing now? (Job, Family, etc.)
"I now live in Phoenix, Arizona with my wife of 30 years, Holly B. Walker Tilleman. We have been blessed with five children, Karl B., Dan, Mary, Mike and Sarah and four granddaughters. I am a Partner and the head of the Complex Litigation Department at the law firm, Steptoe and Johnson. I am an Area Seventy for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the North America Southwest Area."

Rulon Gardner
Associated Press

Olympics: 2000 Sydney; 2004 Athens
Event: Greco-Roman wrestling
Medals: Gold 2000; Bronze 2004

What is your favorite memory from the Olympics?
"My favorite memory from the Olympics was walking off of the mat after beating Karelin, and being relieved that I won the match on the mat."

How would you describe the feeling of being at the Olympics as an athlete?
"Some people get to a point where they can’t function, but for me when I got there I thought, ‘Ok I’ve trained, I’ve gone all the way to the Olympics, I’ve put my time and effort into it, now I just need to go out and compete.’ When you feel pressure, don’t think about the pressure that the Olympics is bringing, step back and remember why and what got you to the Olympics and the character that got you there. I had to be a three-time world and Olympic silver medalist just to make the team, so it was a big accomplishment just making the team."

What are you doing now? (Job, Family, etc.)
"To some people, the Olympics is the only thing in their life that matters. I retired in 2004 because I wanted to do so much more that just be a wrestler, I wanted to be everything: I want to be successful, I want to go through every emotion a person could, because I truly love and appreciate adversity, and I truly appreciate opportunity, and one way or another, if you never take the chance in life, you’ll never know what you can accomplish. I’m married and actually I’m getting ready to move back to Utah. ... My wife and I are happily married. We don’t have kids yet and we are still hoping to have kids and a family. It’s truly special. Being a boy from Wyoming who wasn’t supposed to even make the Olympic team, then ultimately wearing the gold in 2000 and getting the bronze in 2004 after some adversity that I went through, the Olympics was such a huge part of my development as a person, but also teaching me how to deal with the rest of my life and appreciate it."

James Parker
Deseret News Archive

Olympics: 2004 Athens
Event: Track and field

What is your favorite memory from the Olympics?
"By far my favorite memory was walking out onto the track before my event. Just going into the stadium—the noise, people didn’t even know who I was, but they were cheering for me because I was wearing the U.S.A. uniform. It was very emotional and very cool."

How would you describe the feeling of being at the Olympics as an athlete?
"When you make the team, you don’t quite believe it. It’s kind of surreal, and because it’s a lifelong dream, it’s something you watch other people do on TV. Growing up in an Olympic sport like track and field, you meet some former Olympians who have become your idols. When you’re there you’re like ‘wow I really did this. Life is going to be different.’ It’s a humbling accomplishment. You’ve made one of the hardest teams to make in the world. It’s a special feeling and to this day I still don’t fully appreciate it. I guess I just saw it as another track meet and I was just blessed."

How has being an Olympic athlete changed your life?
"It has exposed me to people I probably wouldn’t have met. Otherwise. In my profession now, I’m a chiropractic physician, It brings a lot of credibility to who I am, what I do and to my knowledge base. It has allowed me to share my knowledge. It has given me credibility in my coaching as I’ve continued to coach and in my professional endeavors too, because I deal with a lot of active people. Also, I’ve been able to get on a few U.S.A. track and field teams as a medical provider because of that. It has been really fun to give back to where I was."

What are you doing now? (Job, Family, etc.)
"I have six kids who play sports, work hard at school and do music talents and things like that. We live in Kaysville, Utah, just bought a new house, and we are doing great. Everyone is healthy and strong. I’m doing a lot more important things now."