Life after the Olympics
Updated: Jan 31
As we watch and celebrate the Beijing 2022 Olympic Games, we can’t help but wonder, “what does life look like for these athletes after the Olympics?” You might assume that these players will continue on with their sport or end up in a sports-related profession such as coaching or broadcasting, but the reality is, most of these athletes will start a career outside of sports.
We caught up with several employees who competed in the Olympic Games and have subsequently had successful careers with Stryker. Read on to learn more about their life after the Olympics.
Steve Lewis, Seoul 1988 Games, and Barcelona 1992 Games
Steve represented the United States in Track & Field in the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul, South Korea, and the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona, Spain. He is an incredibly accomplished athlete who won multiple Olympic medals including:
Gold Medal in 400-meters at Seoul 1988 Olympics
Gold Medal in 4 X 400-meter relay at Seoul 1988 Olympics
Silver Medal in 400-meters at Barcelona 1992 Olympics
Gold Medal in 4 X 400-meter relay at Barcelona 1992 Olympics
Steve retired from Track and Field in 1997 and began a career in sales. He joined Stryker in 2002 and is currently an Account Executive for Stryker’s Instruments division where he continues to achieve amazing results. We sat down with Steve to learn more about his experience at the Olympics and how he transitioned from a world-class athlete to a high-achieving sales rep.
What is your favorite memory from the Olympics?
My favorite memory from the Olympics was the time spent in the Olympic village. In the 1988 Games, I lived in the athlete’s village for the entire 2 weeks of my running competition. The village was a self-contained mini-city; a heavily secured compound that housed some of the world’s elite athletes. There were over two dozen multiple-story buildings that accommodated the athletes from each country.
Even though each national team had separate living quarters, we shared common walls and outdoor spaces. This was the ultimate melting pot of race, gender, and culture, sprinkled with mutual respect and admiration. We were a community of highly competitive, talented individuals sharing the common goal of achieving the Olympic dream.
Without a doubt, the primary purpose of my trip to Seoul, Korea was to compete well and to try and win an Olympic medal. However, if I focused 100% of my energy on that task alone, I most definitely would’ve fallen short of my goal. Even world-class athletes need to take a break and alleviate their minds off the pressures of competition. If you weren’t sitting around playing cards or joking with your teammates, you could head up to the community activity area and play video games, watch TV, or access one of the computers.
Whenever I was in the village, I usually preferred to fly solo. Instead of hanging out a lot, I would listen to my music and take walks around the compound. The best time to do this was at night. I would walk by the housing areas of the different national teams trying to imagine what they were talking about as they spoke in their native tongue and how they must feel being a part of this incredible moment. Taking these nightly strolls became a ritual for me in between each of my rounds of competition. They were about as therapeutic as the massages I received after my races.
Describe your transition into life after sports.
Transitioning into life after sports was somewhat of a challenge. In general, most athletes never leave the sport on their terms. Usually, they are forced out due to some sort of injury or sickness. More often, it’s because there’s a stronger, faster, and more talented athlete waiting in the wing.
In my case, an injury took me out. After falling down the stairs during an earthquake, I needed back surgery. I had an anterior spinal fusion performed where titanium screws were implanted at L5-S1. Once the surgeon sewed that final stitch in my lower abdomen, it marked the end of my professional running career.
Since I could no longer compete in sport for a living, I needed to find something else to satisfy that urge to perform, that itch to excel. More importantly, I needed that paycheck to pay my bills. I decided a job in sales might be the perfect fit. After working for a couple of companies, I stumbled upon an opportunity to join Stryker. It’s been a perfect fit.
What do you do at Stryker?
I’ve been working for Stryker since 2002 in a sales role in the Los Angeles and Long Beach, California area. For most of my career, I sold Micro and Heavy Duty Powertools and the Neptune Waste Management System. As the company evolved, so has my role. Currently, I’m part of the Surgical Technologies Division, selling SurgiCount, Invuity lighted products, and Smoke Evacuation.
What characteristic of being an Olympian has transferred over the most while working at Stryker?
The Olympian characteristic that has carried over into my Stryker role is being goal-oriented. I am extremely task-driven and I like to set targets, small and big to keep me motivated and on track.
Is there anything else you’d like to share?
Working at Stryker has been an awesome journey for me and my family. I’ve met so many wonderful people within the organization and have had the opportunity to provide great innovative and life-changing products to my customers.
Alyssa Anderson, London 2012 Games
Alyssa competed in Swimming in the 2012 Olympic Games in London, United Kingdom where she swam for the winning U.S. team in the women's 4x200-meter freestyle relay and earned a gold medal!
Her sister, Haley, also competed in the 2012 Olympic Games and took home a silver medal in the 10-kilometer open water marathon. “Watching my sister win a Silver Medal is my favorite memory from the Olympics,” Alyssa says.
Alyssa joined Stryker in 2015 where she began a career in sales. Today, she is a Sales Rep for Stryker’s Orthopaedic Instruments division in Santa Monica, California.
Alyssa describes her transition after sports as challenging. “Life after sport is something that is definitely not talked about enough at the elite level. But I'm so thankful for the role Stryker has played in giving me the competition and challenge I have always craved.
My best friend and mentor at work is Steve Lewis, a fellow Olympian. It's always fun to walk into an account with my USA and Stryker teammate for life!”
Caroline “KK” Clark, Rio 2016 Games
Caroline, also known as “KK,” competed in Water Polo in the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where she and her team earned a gold medal! After the Games, she went on to compete in Australia’s National Water Polo League where she led her team to its best finish in program history.
In 2017, KK retired from her Water Polo career and entered the workforce as a Marketing Associate. She worked for Entellus Medical, which was acquired by Stryker in 2018. Shortly after the acquisition, she entered Stryker’s salesforce as an Associate Sales Rep and is currently a Sales Rep for Stryker’s Endoscopy division in the San Francisco, California area.
KK describes her transition from Water Polo to medical device sales as “challenging,” but says “finding like-minded people who are competitive at Stryker feels like finding a new "team"!
Jillian Williams, Tokyo 2020 Games
Jillian competed as a member of the U.S. Sitting Volleyball team in the 2020 Paralympics Games in Tokyo, Japan, where she and her team earned a gold medal.
Jillian’s journey started while playing college volleyball when she began feeling pain in her left knee. “I thought it was my meniscus and I self-diagnosed myself the entire season.” Eventually, Jillian got an MRI and learned what the real issue was — Ewing's sarcoma, a type of bone cancer, along with a fracture.
Jillian’s doctor provided a few treatment options and Jillian chose the one that gave her the best chance of playing sports — her passion and motivation. It was called rotationplasty. Rotationplasty is an amputation in which the femur and the knee are removed, making room for the bottom half of the leg to rotate 180 degrees and be reattached with the foot facing backward.
After surgery, as Jillian faced long hours of physical therapy and cancer treatments, she started thinking about how she could be active again. Her mind kept going back to volleyball, so she decided to teach herself how to play sitting volleyball. “I started practicing by myself, and as I became stronger, I decided to record a video and send it to the U.S. national sitting volleyball team.” To Jillian’s surprise, she was asked to join the program and start training with the team after completing her treatments.
Around the time Jillian received the offer to join the Paralympic team, she also graduated college. She interviewed for a job at Stryker, promising to give 100% as a working athlete. “The hiring manager was completely supportive,” Jillian says.
It wasn’t long before Jillian discovered another passion and motivation – helping people. As a Mako Product Specialist, Jillian connects with patients and surgeons in a unique way. “I feel like I do my job 10 times better,” she says, crediting her personal experience. “Over the years, I have encountered more doctors than I ever wish to say. I like I’m able to empathize with surgeons and see why they chose orthopaedics as a specialty, to help patients like me. I love supporting doctors and their patients so much and having the best product on the market helps.”
For Jillian's full story, check out our blog post A winning spirit helps Paralympian and Stryker employee on the court and in the operating room.
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