From Geena Davis to Mario Lopez and Salma Hayek, All the Celebrities Who Once Had Olympic Aspirations

Other stars include Zara Phillips and Jason Statham

By McKenna Aiello Aug 02, 2016 5:00 PMTags
Salma Hayek, Geena Davis, Mario LopezGetty Images

While most celebrities pine for trophy cases filled with Oscars or Grammys, there's a small pool of extra talented stars who've also had gold medals on their radar. 

From archery to diving and even fencing, it seems as if almost every Olympic games over the years has witnessed at least one celeb with the athleticism and passion to make it to the podium in nearly every major sport. Though some former athletes fell just short of making it to the top and later refocused their skills on other dreams, it's safe to say the self discipline and determination they learned as competitors definitely carried over into their future careers. 

We've rounded up all the celebrities who almost made it to the Olympics below! There's sure to be a few surprises in the mix. 

2016 U.S. Olympic Portraits

Geena Davis: Ahead of the Sydney Summer Oympics in 2000, the Academy Award winner was one of 300 women competing for a spot on the U.S. archery team.

She barely missed qualifying for the games, but along the way proved she's a total pro when it comes to navigating her way around a bow and arrow.

At the height of her athletic career in 1999, Davis told the New York Times,''You're spending a lot of time alone with yourself practicing. You get to know yourself, how calm you can be, how long you can focus. You have to be very self motivated. You have to have faith in yourself and believe in your abilities. It was an area I had never delved into.''

In 2013, the actress put her archery skills to the test for a commercial shoot that actually featured Davis in a replica of her iconic A League Of Their Own uniform. 

Jamie McCarthy/FilmMagic

Jason Statham: Before making it big in Furious 7 and The Expendables, the British action star was a member of Britain's National Diving Squad for 12 years. He was first inspired to get in the pool while on vacation in Florida, telling Katie Couric, "There was a guy who used to do a high dive at noon every day from one of the hotels that we stayed in. And I went, 'You know what? When we get home, I'm gonna do that.'" 

Despite never earning a medal at the world's largest sporting event, Statham came incredibly close to competing in the Olympics, not once, but three times in 1988, 1992 and 1996. 

A natural athlete, the 49-year-old found his physical strength to be an asset when it came to booking roles in films. In fact, Jason does all his own stunts! 

A photo posted by Mario Lopez (@mariolopezextra) on

Mario Lopez: Who would've thought the Saved By the Bell alum once hoped to embark on a career in wrestling?!

Over the years Lopez has shared quite a few childhood photos from his sportier days, and in 1992 told People magazine, "I'd like to go to the Olympics." The star competed at the state level, where he became the seventh best wrestler in all of California at the 1991 tournament. 

As fate would have it, his acting career took off shortly after hanging up the singlet and the rest (as they say) is history. The celeb has managed to pass down his love for the sport to his little ones, as a recent Instagram video shows Mario tussling with his 2-year-old son Nico

Salma Hayek: Perhaps the youngest Olympic-bound celebrity on this list is the Mexican-born actress. Hayek showed real potential as a competitive gymnast, and was reportedly recruited to go to the Olympics when she was just a child. 

"They drafted me... to be part of the Olympic team! But I was 8 or 9 and my father said no because I would have had to go live in Mexico City in a boarding school for gymnasts, do six hours, eight hours a day of training, which for me was like paradise," the Frida star said in 2012, according to the New Zealand Herald.

Salma still reminisces about her days on the high beam, writing on Instagram, "I wish I could still do that but at least I have proof that once upon a time I was a #gymnast"

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Zara Phillips: Let's get one thing straight: Queen Elizabeth's grandchild is an extremely accomplished equestrian. At the 2012 London Olympic Games she took home a silver medal for England and carried her country's torch ahead of the games. 

But there's been three instances where the famed Royal has failed to make it all the way there, both in 2004, 2008 and most recently ahead of the 2016 Rio Olympics. Zara's beloved horse Toytown sustained two injuries that forced the athlete to withdraw from the Olympic team in Athens and Beijing. 

As for this year's games, although Phillips reached the required standards to compete, the British Equestrian Federation did not nominate her. A spokesperson for Phillips told The Telegraph, "Like anybody else, Zara really wanted to represent her country, but I'm sure she also wanted to make sure the best team goes to Rio." The outlet points to concerns over the health of the equestrian's horse, High Kingdom, as a major factor in their decision. 

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Bruce Dickinson: Is there anything this man hasn't done? He's the face of heavy metal band Iron Maiden, an avid pilot, novelist and in 2013 launched his own craft beer. But the most surprising past time Dickinson dabbles in has got to be his passion for fencing. 

Though he retired from the competitive scene at 23-years-old (as the seventh best fencer in Britain and top pick for the country's Olympic team, no less), the rocker admits his experience fencing has influenced him while playing to sell-out arenas. 

Three years ago, Bruce told a Norwegian newspaper, "I fence because I enjoy it and the by-product is that I end up getting in reasonably good shape. Actually fencing is very similar to the way I run around on stage. Or maybe I run around on stage like that because I fence. Either way it works for me."

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Esther Williams: This embodiment of old Hollywood glam first rose to notoriety as a record-breaking competitive swimmer. But when World War II broke out, Williams was unable to compete in the 1940 Olympics, which were scheduled to take place in Japan. 

In the aftermath of the games' cancellation, she joined a traveling swimming production where she later caught the attention of talent scouts. Long story short, Esther went on to become one of the 1940s and 50s' most well known actresses through her roles in Neptune's Daughter and Million Dollar Mermaid.

Years later, Williams' legacy still lives on. Scarlett Johansson is said to have found inspiration in Esther's real life story for her role as a singing, swimming actress in Hail, Caesar!

Kevin Mazur/WireImage

Bruce Dern: He's widely known for his Oscar-nominated roles in Nebraska and Coming Home, but the actor has received an equally as impressive amount of recognition for his running career. With roots in speed skating, Dern turned his attention towards track and field while in high school and college. 

Dern had his sights on competing at the 1956 Olympics in Australia, but fell seconds behind the half-mile world record holder at the time. In a 2014 interview with Runner's World, Dern maintained his humble attitude towards his accomplishments. 

"It wasn't a huge dream because I wasn't that good," he said of his Olympic aspirations. "I wasn't stupid. I didn't dream unrealistically. My dream was to be good enough to make the Olympic Trials, and I wasn't that year, and I didn't improve."

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