Top celebrity winter Olympians of all time

James Buckley Jr.

The Olympics Effect: A Lasting Legacy

US gold medallist Lindsey Vonn kisses her medal during the medal ceremony for the Women's Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics Alpine skiing Downhill event at Whistler Medal plaza venue on February 17, 2010.
Emmanuel Dunand | AFP | Getty Images

In the famous animated TV show "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer," Yukon Cornelius searched the ice and snow for silver and gold. His trusty nose always knew when he'd struck pay dirt. Since the Winter Olympics began in 1924, athletes from these games have learned that gold can indeed come from snow and ice.

Here's a look at some of the athletes who have enjoyed continuing fame and commercial success thanks to the winter games. The old prospector would be proud of them.

—By James Buckley Jr., Special to CNBC.com

Sonja Henie, figure skating

American actor John Payne (1912 - 1989) attends to the leg of Norwegian ice-skater and actress Sonja Henie (1912 - 1969) in a scene from 'Sun Valley Serenade'.
Hulton Archive | Getty Images

Gold Medals: 1928, 1932, 1936

The glamorous and ambitious Norwegian beauty started it all. She took her three golds (and 10 straight world championships) to Hollywood, where she became a huge film star. She was also the first Olympic champion to create the traveling ice shows that many future skating stars would use to extend their Olympic success.


Dick Button, figure skating

Dick Button in action practicing for the men's singles figure skating championship at the 1948 Winter Olympics at St. Moritz in Switzerland.
Allsport Hulton | Archive | Getty Images

Gold Medals: 1948, 1952

The first American to win gold in figure skating, Button parlayed his Olympic success into becoming probably the most visible person in his sport. After touring with Ice Capades and others, he turned to TV work and was a fixture at every major international event for decades. Millions of Americans learned about Salchows, camels and Lutzes from Dick Button.


Billy Kidd, Alpine skiing

Billy Kidd, former USA Olympian and now the Director of Skiing at Steamboat, oversees the 34th Annual Cowboy Downhill Stampede on January 22, 2008 in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. Pro Rodeo Cowboys competing at the National Western Stockshow in Denver came to Steamboat Springs to compete in the 34th Annual Cowboy Downhill Stampede.
Getty Images

Silver Medal: 1964 (slalom)

Success after the Games doesn't always mean getting your face on TV. In the case of Kidd, the gunslinger-named athlete who was the first American to medal in skiing, he used his Olympic success to create a decades-long success story inside the skiing world.

From his base at Steamboat Springs, Colo., Kidd has stayed in the spotlight and on the slopes as a spokesman for the resort, an endorser of ski products and a snowbound legend.

Peggy Fleming, figure skating

US figure skater Peggy Fleming practices 05 February 1968 in Grenoble (French Alps). Fleming won the gold medal in the women's figure skating competition 11 February at the Winter Olympic Games.
Staff | AFP | Getty Images

Gold Medal: 1968

Fleming was part of a string of "America's sweethearts" who won Olympic gold. Her All-American looks and personality helped her land a continuing role in the marketplace. It began with TV specials that led to numerous guest roles, usually as herself. In the 1980s she was the face of Trident gum.

Today she is a motivational speaker and successful businesswoman famous as much for being herself as for her illustrious skating career.

Mike Eruzione, ice hockey

American hockey player Mike Eruzione #21 of Team USA shakes hands with the Russian team during an 1980 exhibition game against the Soviet Union on February 9, 1980 at the Madison Square Garden in New York, New York.
Bruce Bennett | Studios | Getty Images

Gold Medal: 1980

The captain of the "Miracle on Ice" team that defeated the Soviet Union in what most polls called the greatest sports moment of the 20th century, Eruzione has never stopped talking about that game. Though he has also worked in broadcasting and is now director of special outreach for his alma mater, Boston University, he is a powerful motivational speaker that relies on his Olympic story to make thousands of lucrative presentations.

Finding gold in the ice doesn't always mean hawking someone else's product.

Katarina Witt, figure skating

East German figure skater Katarina Witt smiles as she displays her gold medal 27 February 1988 at the Olympic Saddledome in Calgary.
Daniel Janin | AFP | Getty Images

Gold Medals: 1984, 1988

Not only Americans cash in on Olympic gold, of course. Though she skated for Communist East Germany, the stunning Katarina Witt found big success in the U.S. She kicked it off with a very successful ice-show tour and later won an Emmy for her acting (and skating) in the TV movie "Carmen on Ice."

Her beauty led to numerous print and TV ads in the U.S. and Germany, capped off with a layout in Playboy that flew off the shelves. She turned to acting and continues to be a regular face on German TV and movies.

Shaun White, snowboarding

Shaun White practices in the half pipe during the 2010 U.S. Snowboarding Grand Prix on January 7, 2010 at Mammoth Mountain ski resort in Mammoth Lakes, California.
Getty Images

Gold Medals: 2006, 2010 (snowboard halfpipe)

With the loss of skier Lindsey Vonn to injury, White probably will be the "face" of the U.S. team at Sochi. It's a position he's used to, having leaped to the top ranks of popular winter stars with a breakout gold at the 2006 Games. The endorsements started piling on then and haven't stopped. His 2010 gold kept the train rolling.

Today he juggles deals with Target, Red Bull, Oakley and GoPro, among others, while performing with his rock band and designing ski and snowboard clothes. Few Winter Games athletes have enjoyed as much success off the snow as this "Flying Tomato"-turned-conglomerate.

Apolo Anton Ohno, short-track speedskating

Gold medalist US Apollo Ohno performs during the men's 500m race of the short track competition at the 2006 Winter Olympics, 25 February 2006 at the Palavela in Turin.
Franck Fife | AFP | Getty Images

Gold Medals: 2002 (1500 m), 2006 (500 m), plus 2 silvers and 4 bronzes

Handsome, successful and blessed with a memorable name, Ohno became one of the most decorated American male Olympians ever. He has turned that into a multimedia career, working with companies like Subway, McDonald's, General Electric and Coca-Cola. TV viewers might also know him as the winner of the fourth season of "Dancing with the Stars." He'll be part of NBC's broadcast team in Sochi, too.


Lindsey Vonn, Alpine skiing

Downhill skier Lindsey Vonn
Franck Fife | AFP | Getty Images

Gold Medal: 2010 (downhill, plus bronze in Super G)

A knee injury has slowed Vonn's hopes of continuing what had been one of the most successful winter sports stories in U.S. history—she'll miss the action in Sochi. After becoming the first U.S. woman to win the World Cup in 2008 (she repeated in 2009 and 2010), she captured Olympic gold in the downhill in Vancouver in 2010. Her cover-girl looks and outgoing personality caught the eye of sponsors, and she's been showered with deals, from Under Armour and Head to Oakley and Rolex.

She's made headlines for her eye-catching appearance in the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition, as well as her relationship with golfer Tiger Woods. Even without the spotlight of the Sochi Games, Vonn plans to continue to enjoy golden success off the slopes.