For more than two weeks this summer, American athletes competing in the Beijing Summer Olympics thrilled and charmed millions from coast to coast.
Now that they're back, lots of them are again going for the gold. Only this time, the gold will be in their pockets.
Who can blame gold medalists for trying to make the most of their post-Olympic celebrity? After all, those doors have already been opened for them.
Today Mark Spitz is an entrepreneur and spokesman for Botox and a pharmaceutical benefits management company called Medco. Back in 1972, he won seven gold medals in swimming, a record that was eclipsed a few weeks ago by phenom Michael Phelps. Spitz's achievement more than 30 years ago instantly made him a national icon.
Although he was already in dental school, he never returned, choosing instead to make the most of his newfound fame. Spitz accepted many of the post-Olympics deals that were immediately offered. But he still recalls the one that got away -- a $1 million offer to shave off his now signature mustache.
"A million bucks in 1972 is more than a million bucks today. The caveat to that is that the taxes were like 72 percent, so it was harder to keep the money," Spitz said.
But we become obsessed with our Olympians every few years, only to forget most of them not long after. And the average Olympian is so focused on winning an event that they're often ill-prepared for the morning after.
Even Bruce Jenner knows what an Olympic hangover feels like. The night after he won the Olympic decathlon in 1976, Jenner pondered his future in a Montreal hotel suite.
"I was devastated," he said. "What do I do tomorrow? My entire life had been revolving for the last 12 years of my life around this one moment. I didn't have a dinner reservation that night. I mean I planned for nothing after it was over with."
Adding to his sense of unease, he said, were those around him, who were now thinking that he was a different person.
"You're on this pedestal. I didn't change at all but everybody around you does change quite a bit," he said.
His first job was with ABC, joining legendary announcer Howard Cosell at the anything-but-Olympic "Battle of the Network Stars."
Now Jenner is a reality-TV fixture on "Keeping Up With the Kardashians" as the stepfather to a clan that includes vixen Kim Kardashian.
Of course, Jenner has had three decades' worth of TV and commercials, but it all started when he was about to sign a life-altering deal with Wheaties, just three months after winning the gold. Up until then, he had been living in a $143-a-month apartment and driving an old Volkswagen bug that cost him less than $200.
"We're sitting across the table and the guy hands me my copy and he goes congratulations, you're a millionaire," Jenner said.
One Olympic athlete who's still waiting for her million-dollar contract is Tonya Harding, ever notorious for the figure skating soap opera of 1994 when rival Nancy Kerrigan was attacked by a crony of Harding's then-husband. The media frenzy that ensued, through the Games and beyond, left Harding with an Olympic hangover that's 14 years long and counting.
"I was definitely not ready. When you're preparing for skating, you're there to be skating. And then to just get thrown into the media light like that and everyone pulling at you in every different direction, I still deal with that," Harding said.