7 Olympians with College Degrees | Top Universities

7 Olympians with College Degrees

By Mathilde Frot

Updated March 16, 2021 Updated March 16, 2021

If you’ve been following the Rio Olympics, then you probably know just how little room there is for bravado in an Olympic stadium. Competing against the world’s best, Olympic athletes break world records and push back the limits of sport. What’s less well known is that many athletes also have college degrees to add to their long lists of achievements (thus proving that they possess both brains and brawn). Read on to find out where some of world’s more impressive athletes went to uni!

1. Ibtihaj Muhammad

Nationality: American

Sport: Fencing

Olympic achievement: Ibtihaj Muhammad’s team won a bronze medal in 2016 at the Rio Olympics, beating the Italian team 45-30.

Academic record: Ibtihaj Muhammad graduated from Duke University in 2007 with a degree in international relations and African, African-American Studies.

2. Katherine Grainger

Nationality: British  

Sport: Rowing

Olympic achievement: The UK’s most decorated female Olympian, Katherine Grainger has no less than four Olympic silvers and one gold – most recently including a silver in the women’s double sculls race at the 2016 Olympics.

Academic record: The Glasgow-born Olympic athlete has a string of impressive qualifications under her belt – a law degree from Edinburgh University, an MPhil in medical law and medical ethics from Glasgow University and PhD in the sentencing of homicide from King’s College London

3. Venus Williams

Nationality: American

Sport: Tennis

Olympic achievement: Venus Williams has won a total of four Olympic gold medals. This year, she won a silver medal in the mixed doubles final, losing out on the gold to Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Jack Sock.

Academic record: The tennis star earned a BSc in Business Administration from Indiana University East in 2015, fulfilling her lifelong ‘dream to have a business degree’ and become ‘a better leader, a better planner’.

4. Luc Abalo

Nationality: French

Sport: Handball

Olympic achievement: Luc Abalo won gold medals at the Beijing Olympics in 2008 and the London Olympics in 2012, and so far in Rio he’s through to the semi-finals of the men’s handball tournament.

Academic record: The handball player enrolled in a preparatory course at the School of Art and Design LISAA (l’Institut Supérieur des Arts Appliqués) in 2004, but changed career path altogether when he found himself snapped up by l’Equipe de France.

5. Apolo Anton Ohno

Nationality: American

Sport: Short track speed skating

Olympic achievement: The short track speed skater has won a total of eight Olympic medals – two gold, two silver and four bronze. He is the most decorated American athlete to take part in the Winter Olympics.

Academic record: Born to a Japanese father and an American mother, Apolo Anton Ohno studied business at the University of Colorado.

6. Victoria Pendleton

Nationality: British

Sport: Track cyclist

Olympic achievement: The cycling champion won gold and silver medals at the London Olympics in 2012, as well as a gold medal in the 2008 Beijing Olympics. While she isn’t competing in Rio, she is participating as a commentator for the BBC.

Academic record: Graduating in 2002, the cycling superstar holds a degree in sport and exercise science from the University of Northumbria.

7. Michelle Kwan

Nationality: American

Sport: Figure skater

Olympic achievement: The most decorated figure skater in the US, Michelle Kwan won silver and bronze medals at the 1997-8 Nagano and 2001-2 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics.

Academic record: Michelle Kwan graduated from the University of Denver in 2009 with a bachelor’s degree in international studies and political science, and earned a master’s in international relations from Tufts University in 2011.

Want to add another Olympian to our list? Share your own favorite Olympians (and their colleges) with us on Twitter, Facebook or in the comments below.

This article was originally published in August 2016 . It was last updated in March 2021

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Written by

I'm originally French but I grew up in Casablanca, Kuala Lumpur and Geneva. When I'm not writing for QS, you'll usually find me sipping espresso(s) with a good paperback.


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